Friday, 1 March 2013

Get Your Block Off (writer's block)

On Monday I realised that I’ve fallen off the writing curve. I’d done a jiggle and a jangle somewhere, and careered straight off. I love writing, but I just haven’t been doing any of it lately. I’ve been concentrating on working to pay my rent and marketing, leaving little time for my hobby. For all intents and purposes, my writing does fall under ‘hobby’ as it does not pay any of my bills (maybe just the cat food!). Over the last two years, inspired by other writers in the FB groups, I’ve been writing like a demon, always knowing that the phantom Block Dude was hot on my heels. I once had a big writer’s block or rather a book-finishing block, which lasted an awfully long ten years (not including the decade or so before that one book).

Anyway, since Christmas, between working, writing some articles for the fabulous blog hop I did with David Brown (another excuse to thank the bloggers – yay!) and the odd poem, the only fiction I’ve written is a whopping 2,000 words, unless you count my shopping list, but I guess that’s non-fiction. Those 2,000 little words happened last week. It wasn’t much, but I was off the block. But since then a big fat zero. What’s a girl to do? Has this happened to you and what did you do?

Okay, I’m on a mission. Here are my ideas to try to break this obstacle in my writing path –

1. Write something every day – for me it will be a poem every day.
I find writing poetry easier in that mine are bits of flash, written fast. Sometimes they’re okay, sometimes they’re a bit crap, but it’s me getting words down on paper and I love it. So, today I set up ‘A poem a day’ on my blog. I’ll see how long I keep it up, but I aim to write something every day, just to get my brain racing. The Indie Exchange was running a five-minute flash writing exercise on Fridays and that was brilliant for me, so hopefully this will give me a butt kick. Or rather a brain shake.

2. Focus on one story.
I realised that part of the problem was that I can’t choose what to write. In my head I’ve been switching between ideas for the fantasy that I’ve been struggling to finish since 2009 (a-ha), the next Kiwi Series book, another children’s book about mice, an adult mystery and another adult book with romance and an unravelling kind of plot. I have to think about a thing and get it formed in my head, so the scenes are going, before I can put anything down on paper, but with so many plots switching back and forth, I can’t focus on one, and they’ve become muddled. So I’ve forced myself to write some notes on each idea in a notebook, so I don’t forget them, and focus on just one. I’ve chosen the fantasy because I’ve written 15,000 words of it and I seriously should finish it.

3. Read! Read! And read!
I haven’t been reading much lately, so the next thing is to read more books! I used to find that the more I read, the more I wanted to write. Most of my reading was done while commuting to work on the train, but since working from home, I’ve lost that time. I realise I need to work this into my day in the same way as I used to when I was working in an office.

4. The notebook.
I’m going to try to write something new in my notebook every day. And I promise to take it everywhere, except the shower. But, doh, I get poems in the shower... Splash.

5. Structure my day.
I realise I need to divide up my day a bit better. Since working from home, I lack the structure of a normal working day and how it is divided up. I feel bad if I am not marketing, especially as my books are not selling at the moment, so instead of panicking and spending too much time on social networks, I’m going to divide up my day, so I have a certain amount of time spent marketing, socialising, tweeting, helping others and writing. I realised I’ve also got behind on posting things on my blog, such as interviews with other authors, so that will come under this list.

6. Enter competitions.
I’m going to do this because it will make me feel better about my writing. It will make me feel like I’m doing something proactive to get my books ‘out there’, even if they’re not selling. Maybe someone somewhere might say yay. Or piggies may go fly, fly...

7. Wake up and stay fresh.
I will spend less time snoozing and get up earlier. I find that yoga in the morning gets my brain working and I feel more energetic, so that’s going into my writing mission. Plus porridge – the magic mood food, which seems to give me energy. Okay, I may be talking drivel there...

8. Get out and be inspired.
I also plan to spend more time going out and seeing new things, rather than just holing myself up with my laptop for much of the time. I work from home, so it’s easy to become a bit of a hermit. Not that I’m feeling crabby, but you know... Looking at new things and seeing people is inspiring and good for the mood. Seeing new things gets your imagination working. All of these things freshen us up and make us want to be creative.

9. Get creative = think creatively.
Do other creative things when I’m not writing – dancing, yoga, painting or drawing, and taking photos. Or just daydreaming!

10. Don’t panic and think NaNo.
Not panic that the block may set in again, but just go with the flow. NaNoWriMo showed me that you can write 50,000 words in a month. So I’m going to try to get my NaNo head on and remember that it’s possible to defeat a block.

11. Make time for myself.
When I do have work come in, I will divide up my day as if I was going to an office, so that I still have time for myself and my hobbies. I have done days of 9am til 11pm, but I realise that’s probably not healthy and also a killer to any creativity!

So, that’s my mission for 2013.

For you guys, well, let me just say...  get writing everyone. Just write about anything. If not, get out and look at things. Have fun, see people, watch a film, look at a painting or go for a wander in the woods... the simplest things get our imaginations flowing... yay! I hope!

To finish off, here are some quotes from famous writers on The Block...

“Writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all.” 
Charles Bukowski

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.” 
Terry Pratchett

“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” 
Barbara Kingsolver

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”  
Anaïs Nin

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” 
E.L. Doctorow

“Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”  
Sylvia Plath

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” 
Nathaniel Hawthorne

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” 
Mary Heaton Vorse

“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” William Faulkner

“Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?” 
Kurt Vonnegut

 “What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat’. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay, okay, I’ll come’.” 
Maya Angelou

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it, you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” 
Ernest Hemingway

And my favourite, from Steve Martin...

“Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol. Sure, a writer can get stuck for a while, but when that happens to a real author – say, a Socrates or a Rodman – he goes out and gets an ‘as told to’. The alternative is to hire yourself out as an ‘as heard from’, thus taking all the credit. The other trick I use when I have a momentary stoppage is virtually foolproof, and I'm happy to pass it along. Go to an already published novel and find a sentence that you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your manuscript. Usually, that sentence will lead you to another sentence, and pretty soon your own ideas will start to flow. If they don’t, copy down the next sentence in the novel. You can safely use up to three sentences of someone else's work – unless you're friends, then two. The odds of being found out are very slim, and even if you are there’s usually no jail time.”


  1. Great advice, Vickie! Thanks for sharing how to remove those 'writing' obstacles. Love Steve Martin's advice! He's one, wild and crazy guy!

  2. Would recommend writing a blog post per day, every day. Absolute minimum word count for each post 150 words.

  3. A fantastic post here, very helpful tips. Hope you don't mind that I shared it on my blog as a link. Keep doing the good stuff!! Thumbs Up.


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