Here’s a fact for you: writer’s block doesn’t exist. It’s simply something fabricated by writers who want something to blame when things aren’t going very well. When so-called ‘writer’s block’ is so easily overcome, there’s really no need to use this invisible entity as a scapegoat.
Just over a year ago, I’d received an invitation to interview for an English Literature and Creative Writing degree. I was all set with my portfolio and my bag of nerves. Then I got the biggest put-down of my life. My interviewer had one word and one word only for the portfolio that I had spent hours over: unsettling. And not in a good way. That was when my faith in writer’s block began. I didn’t write anything for months, and the thought of letting anyone else read my work ever again made me cringe.
Twelve months later? I’m enjoying my degree, I’ve had articles published at several websites, and I’m getting very positive feedback in my seminars about my short stories and poetry. I used to believe in writer’s block, but I’ve seen the light. Now it’s your turn.
So how can I get writing again?
Monotony is anti-creative. Changing your routine, your scenery, or even your notebook on a regular basis will help prevent your brain from getting stuck in an anti-creative rut. Try going for a walk every day and have regular breaks. It will encourage your brain to think about something different whilst still being sub-consciously alert for ideas to spark your writing again.
Another essential for your writing spark is the writer’s journal. You might groan at the thought of having to write something down in it every day (I know I do), but getting into the habit of writing down observations, bits of overheard conversation, or even just what you had for breakfast will generate ideas. If you’re struggling to stick to it, set yourself a short period of time every day when you write down a sentence or two about your day in your journal.
Dealing with the blank page enemy
You’ve been for a walk, you’ve been keeping a journal for weeks but you still haven’t been able to put pen to paper and you’re ready to throw all this advice back in my face. But wait one more minute, and try these writing exercises.
My personal favourite is free writing. Choose a memory, set yourself a period of time free from distraction, and write down everything you possibly can about it. Don’t bother about grammar or punctuation; just get the words down. What can you hear, see and smell?
Once you’ve done as much as you can, put it away for a week. When you go back to it, highlight particular words and phrases that stick out to you. It might take a few tries, but you should end up with the beginnings of a poem, a character, or even a whole story.
Another good one to try is ekphrasis. It’s a posh name for something very simple: find an image that interests you and describe it. If there’s a person or people in the image, ask yourself who they are and what they’re doing. Set it to one side and come back to it a week later. You’ll probably find a story staring you in the face.
So that’s why writer’s block is a myth. Next time you’re confronted with a blank page, just remind yourself that the inability to write because of a malevolent barrier known as ‘writer’s block’ is an illusion. You’re a writer. Nothing can stop that.
Poetry and short story writer Julia enjoys table tennis and playing her electric guitar at full volume as ways to clear her mind when she is having trouble putting pen to paper. She writes for her student newspaper.
Featured image by: Vince Kusters