Getting past writing blocks

Posted: October 23, 2013 in writing
Tags: , , , , ,

Tenabreme, who is blogging over here to find inspiration for a thesis, asked for advice on how to keep writing when you’re finding it a struggle. And I thought, hey, I’ve faced that problem a dozen times in the past few months, that’s worthy of a blog post.

I’ll admit, the pride at being asked for writing advice by a total stranger may also have encouraged me – look Geppetto, I’m a real writer now!

So anyway, some things I’ve learned that help me keep writing:

Get an early start

I’m more productive if I just get up and write. This is a family trick passed down the generations, like my grandad’s old wood working tools. My Uncle John has those tools, and he also recommended that I get up and write for half an hour before anything else in the morning. I don’t usually manage that, but an early start does prevent my brain from putting up barriers to writing. I don’t get to feel daunted or distracted, and I’m fresh and rested. Achieving something at the start of the day makes me feel productive and energised for the rest of it.

My Grandad's tools - a working piece of family history

My Grandad’s tools – a working piece of family history

Eat the big toad first

I wrote a whole other post about this, so I’ll direct you to that rather than repeat myself.

Be careful about breaks

I used to reward myself for writing by taking a fifteen minute break. I also used to swear by the full hour-long lunch break. I’ve recently learned better. Taking a break from writing means I lose the flow, and I have to face the act of willpower that is going back to work. Maybe you need your breaks, especially if, like Tenabreme, you’re writing a thesis. But try going without them for a day or two, see how it works for you.

I do still take lunch breaks, because everyone needs food. But it’s always a battle of wills to turn off Dexter after I’ve finished my sandwich and get back to the keyboard.

Seriously. Dexter is freaking awesome.

If all else fails, write about how you’re struggling to write

Sometimes you just need to get past the blockage in your head. Circling round it like a jackal round a dying lion won’t help. So if all you can think about is how you’re struggling to write, then write about that. Write about how hard it is to get motivated, how frustrated you feel, why you’re struggling. Because you clearly care about that, so it’ll get you typing away, and it’ll get you passionate. It’ll vent that blockage from your head and let you move on to more productive work.

This works for struggling with your emotions too. That’s how I learned it – from a counsellor. Thank you to her, as she pretty much saved my sanity.

If you’re taking a break, take a proper break

I used to take my laptop on holiday. I was so attached to the idea of writing, I didn’t want to let it go. But that meant that I never really relaxed. I kept feeling like I should be working.

So when you go on holiday, leave the laptop at home. By all means, make notes in your notebooks. Read books that inspire you. But have a proper rest. You’ll come back refreshed, not ragged from battling every day with whether you should be writing.

What else?

Who else has some tips? Leave them in the comments below. Goodness knows I could do with more tricks.

And Tenabreme, good luck with that thesis.

Comments
  1. tenabreme says:

    This makes me feel a lot less alone, thanks so much. (FYI, I had my mini-meltdown yesterday, and wrote 1,500+ words in the evening. Phew!)

  2. skudssister says:

    I was at the theatre this weekend watching Sandi Toksvig’s live show. Very funny. One of the audience asked her if she gets writer’s block. She replied that she had three kids and a mortgage – she couldn’t afford writer’s block.
    I enjoy her writing – it is amusing and surprisingly informative – but I can see that there could be more of a pleasure (mixed with pain) in writing because you *need* to rather than to just pay the bills….(And, of course, paying the bills as well is just the jam on top?)

    • That attitude towards writer’s block is one I’ve heard from other professionals as well, and I suspect that the willingness to write even when you feel a bit blocked is part of what makes the pros.

      And I can just hear it in Sandi Taksvig’s voice as well – marvellous.

  3. […] to mull my thoughts over when the real world has become just way too overwhelming.  I’ve even gotten some advice on how to manage my writing challenges, and I feel that I’m getting closer everyday to summing up this year – which has been a rather […]

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