Sunday 31 March 2013

Writer's Block

No, Joey, you can not just finish the story with "rocks fall, everyone dies" because you're blocked. It happens to us all. Every writer there is will tell you that at times, they get blocked. I recently found a great T-shirt that I plan to cycle into my "work" clothes that said; "Writer's Block - when your imaginary friends stop talking to you" and I don't think I can put it any better.

I know that some days I will get up and I know exactly what I want to do and how I'm going to do it. If I don't get distracted (see this post) then it's entirely possible that the words will flow from me like a leaky tap and the only thing that will stop me is the need to eat, sleep and take care of other matters. Even then, I have been known to eat while I work and forgo sleep because the inspiration is a plenty! I wrote my second book BLACKOUT just like that. It originally had ten very long chapters and it took me ten days to write. Yes, it took longer to edit and then get published, but I didn't suffer from writer's block then. I knew the story, I knew the characters and the inspiration kept whispering in my ear.

Unfortunately, inspiration is a fickle creature and sometimes I do wonder if it just plan ole hates me. I am a planner when it comes to my writing. I have chapter notes. I have character notes. I have a plan of every chapter and how I want it to go. However, it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes Tara will decide that no, she does not want to do that and I can piss off if I think I'm going to make her. Or Kaolin will be extra geeky and decide that it's just not her. Sure, my other characters all do similar things but to avoid spoilers I'll stick to the series ones.

So, we all know my routine, I'll sit at my desk on a random day that I haven't been distracted by shiny gifs on Tumblr and I'll tell myself I'm going to write. And I don't. Now, it's not being distracted that does it. It's just plain old being BLOCKED! I don't really know how to describe it to someone who hasn't experienced it (and I'm sure the majority of you have, as either writer's or some other creative outlet.) If I was pushed, I would say if feels like the moment my fingers touch the keys, my brain suddenly pulls the plug on the inspiration bath and it all goes down the drain before I can stop it.

I know a lot of writers who will suffer with it for days, weeks, even months sometimes - and I count myself in with those - and then suddenly...BAM! The inspiration bath is all filled up and ready to go and we're writing again like there is no tomorrow. The problem is that although there are great websites that tells us to do this or that to get unblocked - here's one & here's another - sometimes you have tried all the tricks and there is just no overcoming it. People tell you to write something, ANYTHING to try and get through the block and to be honest that's one of the reasons I've been writing these pieces to help me through my own block.

Still, as a writer it is something you have to deal with. Hell, as anyone who does something creative - artist, dancer, photographer etc. - it's something you have to deal with. So, how do you move forward? To be honest, a number of things have worked for me. Here's a list of some of them:

1. Writing anything you like - no need for a subject, no need for a filter. Just write whatever is on your mind. I do this with posts like this, I also have a LJ and Tumblr for when I just want to write and it not matter so much.

2. Reading works you enjoy - I'm not suggesting that you read a book and use the plot device they have used, but sometimes for me reading a book I enjoy by an author I love can help me. It can show me that I'm not alone in the fact that I'm stuck. EVERYONE gets stuck sometimes.

3. Resist the urge to delete & totally rewrite - I've done this sometimes and let me tell you, it can work, but I find the majority of the time I totally start a chapter from scratch, I end up in the same place. And it's not always a better chapter either. You need to judge whether you're blocked because it happens or if you have blocked yourself into a corner. If that's the case then sometimes you need to do a little extra research or if need be, rewrite. BUT be sure you know where you're going. Keep a back up of the original piece in case you decide you hate the new one.

4. Step away for a while- I know that makes it sound like a new way of distracting yourself, but sometimes stepping away helps deal with the frustration of it all. I know that I have taken a step back and then gone back and I can end the chapter and eventually the book. I even once put the book off my in progress pile and went back to it years later. It's now one of my published works and I feel it's better for it.

5. Talk it through with someone
- I am lucky that the majority of my close friends have read enough of my books that when I sit there and say "HELP!" they are willing to talk it through with me. Many a chapter has been finished due to this.

So, those are the tricks I employ. They may work for you, they may not. The big thing here is that you won't be blocked forever. You won't be unable to ever find a way out. It's in you somewhere and you just have to have the patience and foresight to tease it out gently. Or with pliers if it really won't come out, but I recommend you asking someone else to do that for you.

Most of all though, you should enjoy what you do. Writer's block is a hazard of the profession, we all get it, we all hate it. Don't give up on something you love just because you can't finish it right now. Take a breather and remember that it's within you somewhere to finish this chapter.

Good luck and remember no chapter should end with "rocks fall, everyone dies" - unless there has just been a rock slide or something in which case, go for it!


  1. For one who suffers badly from 'Writers Block' I sympathise - but your suggestions are helpful and I'll read them again - and again!
    Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the comment. I found that since starting these writings (and getting a "writer's block" tee) I've been managing to write more. So, I speak from experience when I say they work! Though it could just be the writer's block tee acting as my good luck charm!
    Good Luck to you too!