Dealing With Writer's Block
Updated: Apr 19
Just those two words were once enough to have me staring at a blank page, anxiety welling up inside. I used to think I'd never be able to get to the next paragraph, mind about finish my book. Over the years though I've developed ways of never facing the dreaded writer's block again. Now, I can flow without a single worry and as a result, I believe I've become a better writer through adopting a few key points into my working day.
Sometimes the thought of writing can be daunting, however once the page is open, I often find I flow without thinking and before I know it, I have no idea where all the time has gone. I never put pressure on myself nor do I give myself time targets. Of course, a book needs to be completed within a certain amount of time so I can keep the consistency of my writing up, but pressure is the biggest killer I find. The first draft is the most fun. I just write. I have a few bullet points compiled so I can plan where the plot is going, but I keep them in the back of mind and just get down all that's in my head without stopping to look back on what I've done so far. The second and subsequent drafts are there for reading through and editing.
If I feel like writing for two hours or ten, then so be it, and if I don't feel like writing at all one day, then I won't, simple as that. But I try to write as often as possible and I don't let fear stand in my way.
I read when I'm not writing. On average I read two books a week; be it Kindle, on my phone, a hardback or paperback. Simply relaxing into another story takes my mind away from my own story and before I know it, I can't wait to get back to work. Plus, it gives me the additional bonus of studying structure, dialogue and prose.
I have a notepad on my phone which I always carry around with me. The second something pops into my head, it goes straight down. It may lead to nothing, but more often than not, the smallest thoughts can fill endless pages. Plus, I can be quite forgetful. My English teacher at school once told me, 'A short pencil is better than a long memory.'
Grammar and Spelling
Of course grammar and spelling are essential, but I don't get too hung up with them on my first draft. That comes along in my later drafts. The important thing is to put all those words down and worry about the rest later.
Don't Think, Just Write
I try not to think too much when I'm writing. The second I begin to analyse, overthink or concentrate too much I often blank out and come to a screeching halt. Instead, I let my fingers do the talking and just flow and write and write and write.
Incoherent rambling is a wonderful thing. Letting the crazy out of me really helps at times of blank woe. I would write anything, no matter the subject, and I'd soon crack through the wall that was holding me back. I'd be comfortable enough to write the silliest things and laugh at the results. Happiness allows the mind to relax the most. Also, I’ve never pent anything up. If someone or a particular situation is playing on my mind, I take it out on the white screen.
Out and About
A nice bit of fresh air and a walk is great to clear the mind, or a change of scenery to take me away from the scary white page. It might not always have worked, but it has often made me feel better.
A little meditation goes a long way. You don't have to become a Buddhist monk, but sitting in a quiet place with some 'me' time always helps. Focusing on my breathing and emptying my mind takes a little discipline, but the results are endless.
You’ve Either Got It or You Haven’t
I've read in certain places that you've either got it or you haven't when it comes to writing. I personally think this is a little unfair on new writers, because we all have to start somewhere. That's like saying you can either drive or you can't on your first driving lesson. I think there’s a writer in us all. It's all about overcoming those barriers that might stop us from reaching our true potential.
I admire great writers, but we’re all unique individuals and therefore it is important to realise that one will have his or her own voice. I don't allow myself to get too hung up on the greatness of others.
Books that have assisted me with my writing in the past:
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker