It’s not just writers in general who suffer from the dreaded ‘writer’s block’ from time to time. Even school children writing essays or those whose mind goes blank when faced with writing a shopping list will get it. Even people can suddenly feel overwhelmed when faced with filling in forms, or even something as simple as writing an email.
No, it’s not just writers who suffer from it, but for a writer, finding yourself cursed with this ‘condition’ feels more like a malady, after all your life hangs on the words you write. I find writers block akin to penile erectile dysfunction, it becomes worse the more you stress over it and the more you think about it. And just like penile erectile dysfunction, if you gear yourself up to act, to give it a try only to fail putting words onto paper, the result can set you back further-frustrated with your own performance and a loss of confidence in your abilities. In short you feel less than what you should be.
So how do you deal with it? Everyone’s different, but when it comes to the ‘block’ there are two important issues you need to deal with-not one. The first is obvious, to find away to get the words and ideas flowing again, and the second is how you should react to the ‘block’. And it is this latter point you need to deal with first.
When you worry about something, when you can’t control the way you think and feel about something to the point you let it affect your life and your mood, you are sending a very strong message to your mind, you are in fact telling your mind ‘This is how I deal with Writers Block’!
The mind is like predictive text, it remembers this reaction and saves it on its hard disc, or in psychological terms saves it in the subconscious, ready to serve the same reaction when faced with the same problem at a later date. It has in fact become a HABIT. So when faced with writers block you need to create a new reaction, a positive reaction that helps and serves your purpose, not hinder it. And the only way I have found that works for me is to say: F***k it! Seriously you need to tell yourself it’s nothing and not care. You simply need to forget about it. Have faith in the knowledge that sooner or later the words and ideas will come and understand there is something wrong with your thinking or more probably something on your mind that is affecting your writing, not your writing ability.
A great way to take your mind off writers block is to read. I tend to trawl Goodreads when I find myself in a writing slump and look for interesting books with good reviews to read. If I’m reading something I get lost in, sooner or later, the words will have evoked the writer in me once again, and I’ve come away from it refreshed.
How to get the Ideas and Words Flowing Again?
For me, a structured day and writing routine is the key to ideas and words. I always work to a word count regardless of how badly I’ve written, anything can be edited later, and I always leave off where I know I can pick up the next day. As soon as I sit at my desk the following day, I need only write where I picked up the day before. It’s that simple.
I probably have more quirks than I like to admit, for instance when I’m writing fiction, I do myself a ‘play list’. On Microsoft media player, I compile a playlist of songs and music, something that puts me in the mood of the piece I’m writing – If it’s a deep piece, filled with emotion, I tend to go for something from Ludivco Einaudi, if it’s an upbeat piece or a magazine feature, Fatboy Slim or something similar tends to get me in that mood. In fact each short story I have written has its own corresponding play-list.
But everyone is different and what works for one writer may not necessarily work for another. So what other tools can you use to overcome ‘writers block’?
- Read as much as you can, but keep your mind on what your reading, don’t let it go wondering off;
- Make yourself a writing routine, a structure of your writing day and stick to it. If you abandon the structure, even once because you could not be bothered or were feeling lazy, you are creating a habit.
- If nothing is coming to you, just write, write about anything, your day, the weather, a TV programme, anything. More importantly, you are telling your mind to find words and you are writing them down, this is a good habit and sooner or later, your brain will be serving you up words automatically on everything that passes your mind and more importantly you are practising your craft.
- Write a passage on someone you see one day in the street, someone innocuous. Write how they looked, what they were wearing, what feelings they evoke in you, who you think they are and where they live and what life they lead. Do they harbour untold desires and feelings that they have been unable to express. This is a pretty good writing exercise to kick off your imagination, and maybe something from what you have written will have sowed a seed for a future bestseller.
But more importantly, don’t stress yourself out worrying about writers block, you’ll only make it worse. Just make sure you write every day, anything, no matter how daft or unimportant the piece you write. You are in fact practicing, exercising you writing muscle, instilling a habit that will serve you the rest of your life. Just as gymnastics and sprinters practice even if they are not competing, they still need to practice their sport all the time to improve, in order that one day they will become the best they can be.