“Writer’s Block” – The uninvited break

“I don’t believe in writers block particularly. I think you can feel you’re getting writer’s block and then you call it writer’s block and you’re in trouble. So I refuse to call it writer’s block. I call it ‘time for tea’ instead.”
[Graham Coxon, via morjames]

You’d be forgiven for thinking that “writer’s block” is some sort of disease, given the amount of coverage and advice it gets.

photo by amypalko

photo by amypalko

Faced with a 2,000 word essay, your words need to be important, hard-hitting, scholarly, impressive…

You want those words to be right, so you don’t write any old stuff.  You ponder the possibilities and dismiss most ideas as non-starters.  After hours of doing this, you’re no closer to completing the essay.

Thinking too much about the right words can stop you in your tracks.  You’re allowed to write whatever you want while nobody is looking.  The nonsense you start producing now won’t be the final essay you hand in for marking.

So write nonsense.  Talk rubbish.  Get words down on the page and see where it takes you.

James Dunn recently mentioned writer’s block “coming in waves, as inspiration wavers, usually through little mental stimulation or nothing of note occurring”.  James isn’t alone.  It’s hard to be inspired all the time.

Thursday Bram makes this point, saying that she can pump out 500 words in 30 minutes with no problem, but that doesn’t mean an eight-hour day of writing should produce 8,000 words.  She has managed this feat and even written a 12,000 word e-book in a day:

“But every time I’ve made a push at writing so many words, I’m absolutely useless for two or even three days afterward. There are certainly elements of exhaustion: writing that much leaves me feeling physically wrung out and like I just hiked up a mountain. I may not have run a marathon, but I’ve definitely exerted myself.

“The other reason that I need so much recovery time is that I feel like I’ve burned up whatever it is that lets me put together sentences in a generally pleasing fashion. My writing simply sucks after one of my all-day writing sessions.” [Thursday Bram]

Some people find it a struggle to even begin, let alone pumping out 500 words in 30 minutes.  It’s not burn-up, because the match hasn’t even been lit.

As writer’s block is psychological, there is no solution to fit all shapes and sizes.  Blocks can manifest themselves in many ways, such as:

  • General tiredness
  • Personal problems
  • Burn out
  • Lacking inspiration
  • Seeking perfection ‘out of the box’
  • Pressure to produce something ‘better than last time’
  • Uncertain what is required
  • Not enough research to provide much discussion
  • Distractions
  • Lacking belief in your own ability and/or comparing yourself to others

Just look at famous writers and artists.  Nobody is immune from writer’s block, no matter how talented they may be at their craft.

If you’re truly stuck, try writing random words.  Write a shopping list and then write about writing the shopping list.  Write about why you can’t write.  Type out a paragraph from a book and look at the words on the screen.  The screen isn’t blank any more…is that less intimidating?  Increase the font size on screen and let the text take up more space.  Use handwriting instead of the keyboard, and vice versa.  Try something…anything different.

If you really don’t want to suffer from writer’s block, don’t accept the break exists.  On the flipside, do accept that you need a break sometimes.  I don’t want to hear that you’ve gone bonkers…