Before I started writing this blog post, I had a blank page.
Well, a completely white WordPress editor screen to be precise. But as you can see, it’s not blank, totally white and devoid of words anymore.
How did I start? I read. My day always begins with reading over breakfast. News, blogs, social media, emails and sometimes even a real newspaper.
Yes, an old-fashioned one made of paper that doesn’t need electricity to read.
Later in the morning, between my coffee and tartine, I stumbled upon this quote on social media on my iPad, with my sticky marmalade tipped finger.
There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write. ~Terry Pratchett
Funny little quote, I thought. But then it set me to wondering about this whole writer’s block thing.
What is it? Do I suffer from it? When does it happen? Why does it happen? What do I do about it?
Is there such a thing as writer’s block cure?
Then I had a passing thought. I don’t think I have ever written anything deep and meaningful about this subject before.
Time to rectify that and hit my new creative writing project.
What is Writer’s Block?
I can’t speak for all writers, but for me, it is almost always a symptom of episodes of abject laziness.
You know – the I can’t really be bothered type of mood. I’ll do it tomorrow. There’s no rush to put words together anyway.
It is rarely a result of a lack of ideas or creative problems that I feel stuck. It’s just having an empty head that doesn’t want to go to work.
Do I suffer from it?
Possibly and no. Mostly, no. Except if I decide to write a book. But only during the first page.
When does it happen?
It’s unusual for me not to want to write. But there are obviously times when it becomes difficult.
Perhaps if I am feeling a bit off colour or worse, suffering from the flu or a cold or if I am in a seriously grumpy mood. Yes, that can happen, even to someone who is as jovial as me, most days.
It often strikes after dinner, however. Well, after the red wine and cheese, and then more wine to be precise.
Why does it happen?
For me, it happens because I get lazy and find reasons or excuses to do something else other than to start writing.
For someone else, it might be that being a perfectionist causes creative problems, or that even fear can result in being creatively blocked.
It could also be caused by the time not being right. You desperately want to write another chapter, but it’s eleven-thirty at night.
The in-laws have just left after an overly long boring dinner. The kids are finally in bed. It’s all quiet at long last. But you usually write in the early evening.
That situation can be called writer’s block. But really, it’s clearly not your writing time, and you are too tired for anything close to hard work.
What do I do about it?
Here comes the serious advice section of this article.
How to overcome writer s block, which I don’t believe in, in an impressive 17 point bullet list.
General tips to overcome writer’s block
1. The number one cure has been stated hundreds of time for any type of creative work. Go outside and take a long walk.
If you are fortunate enough to have a dog, this is an easy rule because you have to do it at least three times a day anyway.
2. A rumbling stomach is a distraction for creative processes. Eat well and have a balanced diet. If you feel hungry, stop writing and take a short munchie break.
3. Go for a run or a swim. Don’t be a couch potato. Keeping fit and healthy is vital to the writing process.
4. Have a writing schedule and stick to it, every day. Add your daily writing time to your agenda. It doesn’t have to be all day. One or two hours is enough.
But of course, you can increase the amount of time if you feel that your creative juices are really flowing.
5. Find your quiet place. It’s not easy unless you are a hermit. Do a deal with your family and reserve your quiet place and time to write.
6. Turn off the distractions. For many writers, a computer is your writing machine, but it does so many other things.
Turn off the wifi, close all the browsers and write. Concentrate on your creative flow, your writing software or word processor and not on a flow of Facebook messages.
7. One bad habit that many writers suffer from is writing in their head.
The ideas, words, sentences and paragraphs emerge so easily when you are resting, about to go to sleep or bored to death in a doctor’s waiting room. And then it is all forgotten.
Never write in your head. Write it down. Use your phone, a notebook or write on your palm or arm.
8. The writing process always starts with one small idea. This applies to fiction writing, short stories as well as content and article writing. Keep a written list of all your little ideas and thoughts.
A notebook is a valuable writing tool to refer back to when you run into small writing blocks. I once wrote a novel from a thought that had been on my ideas list for over two years.
9. For content writers who are often on a strict schedule, the need to write something is pressing. The writing part is not usually a problem, but finding what to write about can be.
The Internet is a great resource. You can check what other bloggers are writing about and steal some ideas. You can also use an online ideas generator.
10. If you think you have suffered from writer’s block when you are writing a novel, there is an easy solution. Ask yourself this question. What would my character absolutely hate to happen right now?
11. Another easy thought tool when writing fiction is to open something. Open a door or open a drawer. Or make something explode!
12. Never, never, never turn on the television while you are writing.
13. If you wait for the Muse to come calling, you could be in for a long wait. Waiting for the Muse is not highly productive.
Did you know that the word derives from Middle English and from Old French muser which roughly means to meditate or waste time?
Or that the nine Muses were all goddesses and the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne?
I wrote a book about Cleito, but I don’t think she rated as a muse to me because I wrote the book quite quickly.
14. If you are stuck for words, read. Reading gives you ideas to write about. Almost every subject I have ever written about germinated from reading.
15. Do you write about people?
A great cure for writer’s block is to get new ideas to write about how people behave, react, look or interact.
Sit at a bus stop or train station for an hour. Don’t forget to take notes. Perhaps no photos though or you’ll find the police might start asking you questions.
16. Pack up your laptop or arm yourself with your iPad and go. Write somewhere different from time to time.
Try a cafe, a park or even your garden or balcony and start free writing for half an hour.
17. Don’t believe in writer’s block. It was invented by people who couldn’t write. Sit down and write because you are a writer. That’s what writers do.
You would never hear a dentist say, “oh I just can’t get into the mood to extract teeth today.”
My wrap up on writer’s block.
I don’t believe in it at all.
Well, except for when I have to write my author bio or book description. Then I become a reborn true believer in writer’s block once again and all the advice above is worthless.
Apart from that though, there are times when a writer sits down to write, and the words don’t flow. But there is never a total blockage that stops letters appearing on a page.
Like in any profession or occupation, some days are better than others. The key for a writer is to take advantage of the better days and to find ways to still be productive on the not so good days.
For me, the write strategy is simply to do something. Activity beats idleness, and determination defeats procrastination.
But yes, there are those lazy days occasionally when you just can’t be bothered. That’s okay. Enjoy them when you can, and then, get back to writing with renewed enthusiasm.
Footnote: Why did I choose to write a 17 point list?
I like odd numbers and especially seventeen because no one ever uses it. I had more ideas to write about, but I wasn’t so keen on 18, 19 and 20 ideas so I saved them for another time.