As a writer, I can speak from personal experience about the dilemma that is writer’s block. As you mature writer, you’ll probably become accustomed to this drought of creativity but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with; there is nothing worse when faced by impending deadlines and impatient clients than watching tumbleweed from your window, while frowning at the blinking cursor at the start of a blank Word document.
But don’t worry – this is normal and you are not alone. Here are some handy tips to overcome those frustrating episodes of writer’s block…
Once a day I go for a walk to reacquaint myself with the outside world and spend 20-30 minutes trying not to think about anything. Even if it’s just a stroll to the shops or a trip to the park, it is of paramount importance that you regularly intersperse your writing ritual with some fresh air and a mental time out.
Remember, writing is a mentally intensive and draining pursuit. This can only be maintained with healthy exercise and some time away from your desk! You never know, you may even stumble upon some inspiration in something you see or overhear on your cross-town travels.
If you are serious about being a writer then you must schedule accordingly. Most great writers, from Hemingway to Coetzee, had a strict timetable to which they worked. This is all the more important if you have to fit writing around your other duties.
Write a table up on a piece of paper or on your laptop, break down your day into hourly chunks, and give yourself some kind margins. Allocate a period of time each day to do some writing and try to stick to it. As time passes you will get to know what works for you best – personally, I always write better early in the morning or in the evening so I adapt my writing schedule to that.
I once spent a month solely working on a novel and nothing else. By the end, I had to stop myself jumping from my second storey window! Try to have more than one project on the go at any one time, or search online for writing prompts and exercises if work is sparse.
Variety is the spice of a writer’s life and too much time spent on one project can lead to stagnation and depression. When you get stuck on project B, come back to project A with a fresh set of eyes.
Writing is a liberating experience; you can do it anywhere. Sometimes I will sit in a café; at other times I’m in my garden on the grass, soaking up the sun. You are not doomed to sit at your desk until you’ve finished.
Move around and get a feel for what works best for you. A new scene and some people-watching can really invigorate and inspire new ideas.
We all dream of the perfect first line, but ultimately the water will not flow until you turn the tap on. So write – anything. Whatever comes into your mind, go from there. Commonly known as stream of consciousness, this can be a good way to just get the literary ball rolling.
What you write may be all drivel but it’s yours, and at least it’s a start. Once you’ve begun you will find that the words begin to flow easier and you’re no longer just staring vacantly at a blank screen.
There are many, many ways to become a better writer. In my experience, doing so comes from experimentation and creation. Continue to write, whatever it is and slowly over time you will find your cadence, style and best working environment. You are free to create dreams of your own creative and literary making – just don’t give yourself such a hard time.
Can you think of any other ways to help beat writer’s block? Share in the comments.
Featured images: License: Creative Commons image source
Michael Muttiah is a professional writer and writes for the GKBC Writers Academy.