Writer’s block – surely a writer’s worst nightmare.
The blank piece of paper or the white, spotless screen stares back at you, your fingers are poised, you stare and the white expanse mocks you as your mind is as blank as the screen. Too often I find myself researching a topic meticulously, mulling over the issues and teasing out its implications while constantly putting off the actual writing process. The blank page seems to create its own inertia. And sometimes the ideas just freeze.
Is there any writer that hasn't experienced this? At least once?
My most vivid memory of writer’s block was in the middle of Old Testament exam at Bible College. It had been a stressful night with little sleep due to an unexpected midnight clash with someone close and dear to me. Not now, I thought, I have an exam tomorrow. During perusal time, I marked the questions I thought I had prepared the best, jotting down some ideas and then on the first question I wrote too much – I knew I was spending too much time, but I kept on writing twice as long as I should. When I came to the second question my mind went blank though I knew the answer well. No matter how much I bludgeoned, pleaded with it, my brain could come up with nothing, zero, zip. The page stared back at me smugly and I began to panic. I sent up a quick arrow prayer, took some deep breaths and swept that question aside and went on to the next. Suddenly the ideas began to flow again and the white emptiness was filled with my increasingly crazy handwriting.
Writer’s block – I confess that up until 4 hours ago that was not what I was going to write about. From the time I wrote Saints, Seekers and Sleepers in December last year, I fully intended to write a follow on piece. I have done some research, made some notes, mulled over ideas. I had a good idea and basic outline of what I wanted to write – but travel, family commitments, study deadlines etc has made this a busy couple of months. Last week I submitted my 3000 word major assignment (On Slaying Education Dragons) for the unit I’m studying (phew) which left the weekly post due on Tuesday and this blog, due today. I finished the post on Monday with time to spare, ready to tackle the blog on Tuesday – only to wake up with a grade 8 migraine which was still pounding my head and nauseating me this morning. The pain has begun to subside this evening but my brain could not, would not think. As I tried to pull my thoughts together, I prayed– Lord, please give me the words to type, the ideas to explore – as I metaphorically speaking stared at a mind numbing blank page. Writer’s Block.
Why not write on Writer’s block?
So, God willing, I will write my follow-on piece – but maybe in April when, hopefully, my mind is less in a migrainous hang-over and in the meantime I have a few thoughts on what do when writer’s block or its ugly twin, procrastination (aided and abetted by Facebook) rears its sardonic head and stares you in the face. And I would love to hear of your strategies too of how you deal with this blank faced monster.
Here are some of the strategies I find helpful:
- Taking time to pray, giving the idea or concept to God, asking for inspiration and direction.
- Writing an outline with main topics and sub points and breaking down the task into smaller units – concentrating on a smaller achievable goal one step at a time.
- Starting to write without worrying too much what comes out or about getting a perfect introductory sentence or about being precisely on topic. I can go back and review, fine tune and trim later but I can’t edit a blank page.
- It may help me to stretch, take a break, relax, and go for a walk or to play some upbeat music.
- Do a short warm up writing exercise or (with my novels or longer pieces) reread what I have already written.
- If one section is giving me writers block, I can move to another section and come back to the one giving trouble later. (Hint – that’s what I’m doing at the moment.)
- Having a dedicated space to write in – I often write best when I get away from the house – with all the chores staring at me – and find a spot in cafe or library.
- Writing regularly and often.
- Nip the negative self-talk in the bud – and believe that I can do it.
So here we are – with a page nicely filled. Just as with my Old Testament exam – I didn’t get the best mark I’ve ever earned, but I more than passed. And this may not be the most brilliant of posts but I have a hunch it is one that will resonate with many of you. With some divine nudging and a little inspiration the writing paralysis is overcome and Writer’s Block slinks away defeated.
What about you – what works best for you?
Lives in Brisbane with her family, writes fantasy, blogs and other things.