How to deal with writer’s block
One of the most common pitfalls when it comes to writing a book, or any form of writing for that matter, (with the exception of writing a shopping list, which is quite straightforward if you know what you want) is dealing with writer’s block. Writer’s block has the power to stop any author in their tracks, no matter how experienced, talented or creative they are. I’ve certainly suffered from it in the past, to the extent where the writing of my first book Time Rep was put on hold for three years until I found a way to progress the story, so I thought it might be useful for other writers out there if I offered some hints and tips as to how to deal with it. Now, I’m not promising any silver bullets here (which wouldn’t work anyway since writer’s block is a mental condition, and as such not that bothered about being shot at), but these techniques have worked for me in the past, so they may work for you too.
But first, what is writer’s block? Wikipedia defines it as “a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity.” I define it as a condition that emerges when you sit down in front of your computer to do some writing, only to find that after seven hours all you’ve got to show for it is this:
Look familiar? I think we’ve all experienced something like this, haven’t we? But fear not! Dr. Ward* is here to offer you five simple ways to overcome writer’s block and continue with your work. Let’s begin, shall we?
1) Remember you are not alone.
You’ve got friends, right? Use them. If you’re halfway through your story and you’re stuck, get them to read it and give you their thoughts. Sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes will pick up on something you’ve missed, or come up with an idea you would never have considered. Also, don’t be too proud about having to come up with the whole story yourself. Whilst writing Note to Self, I was stuck halfway through the story for many months before my girlfriend suggested a different direction for it to go in. I listened to what she had to say, and within a few days I was writing at full steam again. Do bear in mind though that some friends have no idea what they are talking about, so just ignore them.
2) Don’t be too hard on yourself
We all want our writing to be as perfect as possible, demonstrating how amazing we are with our use of language. Sometimes though, authors become so obsessed with getting it right first time, they put roadblocks up for themorgg – (sorry, the cat just jumped on my lap…) Where was I? Ah yes – sometimes, authors put roadblocks up for themselves, unwilling to progress untiff (now the cat is licking my hand as I type, which is very distracting…) What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t have to be right first time. If a particular section is holding things up, write it as best you can and move on. You can always correct it later, just as I haven’t done with this point.
3) Beware of over-writing
This links back to the last point really. Some authors will finish a chapter, then write it again, and again, and again, and again. And no matter how many times they go over it, they’ll never be satisfied. I find it’s best to just write something once. Then it is fresh, and you can move onto the next bit. The more you focus on one particular section of your writing, the more you become bored with it, and less stimulated by your work overall, which allows for writer’s block to set in.
4) Have a break!
I was having trouble thinking of how to start this point, so I stopped writing, went for a walk, had a cup of tea, and came back a couple of hours later. Unfortunately I still have no idea how to start writing about why taking a break now again can re-invigorate your writing, so that didn’t work. Normally it does though, so do that.
5) Be prepared to ditch what you’ve written.
This is probably the most important point, which I will illustrate using a bad metaphor that I’m thinking of deleting because it’s not that good: Imagine you are driving to a party. You’ve memorised the route and are confident about the directions. But at some point, you accidentally take a wrong turn, and after a few miles you are lost. What would you do? Most people would turn the car around and drive back to a point in the route they recognised, then head off in the correct direction. But there will always be those who don’t want to admit the route they have taken is wrong, and will keep driving forwards, hoping that the party will miraculously appear around the next corner. It’s the same with writing. At some point, you may have to be brave and admit that the direction you’ve taken your story in isn’t working. Retreat back to where you knew what you were doing and head off the right direction.
That’s all for now – if you are someone who frequently suffers from writer’s block, then I hope these pointers have helped in a small way. Until next time!
* I do actually have a doctorate, in making up qualifications for myself