My last three blogs have focused on Writer’s Block, what it is, some of its causes, how it manifests in different ways at different times and also for each of us, and some suggestions of how it may be overcome.
Now it is time to consider how to get through the void that exists when Writer’s Block is sitting firmly on your muse. During this period it is most difficult, and yet imperative, that you keep writing on your agenda no matter what. If you don’t, there is a chance you will slip away from writing altogether. So the question isn’t whether or not to stick with it, but rather how you can.
Fortunately, there is a lot more to writing and being a writer than the act of writing. These other activities form the fabric of our lives that enables us to produce written work.
> It makes sense then, to pursue some of these writers’ activities during the hours you would spend actually writing if you weren’t negotiating the void…
Begin with word-related activities you enjoy… Read (especially the genre you write), do word-puzzles (nine-letter word puzzles, crosswords, word search, and so on), do word quizzes and play word games (scrabble, up-word, and similar). Check the internet for possibilities and concentrate on those that most attract you. The following link is a good place to start… https://www.merriam-webster.com/word-games
Learn new words… Perhaps set a goal of one word a day and keep a record for future reference. When I was a child, my grandmother suggested I read my little pocket dictionary at bedtime. ‘Just learn one word and its meaning each night and you’ll soon know a lot more words’, she said. This felt a lot like school work to me, but I did it anyway – not every night, but from time to time – and it was helpful. Try this link for an interesting and sometimes chuckle-worthy way to learn new words… https://www.facebook.com/GrandiloquentWords/
Stroll around bookshops… This will keep you up to date with new publications, give you insight into current trends and which publishers are publishing what, and a bevy of reading options. It may also have the same effect on you as it does on me – it’s not unusual for me to find myself in a bookshop reading the cover of a book and asking myself, Why am I not at my computer writing one of these? Then I rush home and work on my manuscript.
Spend time at the library… Here you will find a treasure trove that represents something of the history of our reading and writing culture across the decades. Browse the covers or sit in the corner to read, and take in the unmistakable odour of old books as they speak to you from the shelves.
Socialise with other writers… Stay in touch with your writing friends, go to book launches and public readings.
Read quotes from writers… Take notice of what these may stimulate in you and make notes for future reference.
Read writers’ blogs… Writers’ blogs are as varied as the writers themselves, so type any writer’s name into Google and see what you find.
Listen to writers’ podcasts about writing… The Better Reading website features podcast interviews with Australian and international authors…(http://www.betterreading.com.au/news/introducing-the-better-reading-podcast/). Jeff Goins (https://goinswriter.com/) also has some good podcasts, and he mentions other writers who you can also seek out… I don’t know Jeff, but I do enjoy his blogs and podcasts about writing and his journey as a writer.
Take every opportunity to enhance your knowledge about writing… Read literary magazines and books about writing, and listen to radio programs and watch television documentaries about writers and writing.
> When you’re ready to be a little more active in relation to writing, you might…
Re-vamp your writing space… Have a clean-up, re-organise your desk/writing room, indulge yourself with new writing tools or inspirational paraphernalia.
Watch for, and collect, ideas for when you’re able to write again… Ideas are everywhere; you just have to be alert to them.
Research something that you want to write… Break complex subjects into smaller bites and prioritise them.
Re-work earlier writing… As we grow as writers so does our writing style and writing ability, hence we can often improve earlier drafts. Anything we have written – poetry, short stories, essays, articles – may benefit from some rewriting.
Bring some of your writing into the public arena… Share what you’ve written with others; start close in with friends and move further afield as confidence grows. Positive feedback may even get you enthusiastic about writing again. You may also enter competitions and submit previously completed work for publication.
> When you’re ready to start putting words together again, ease in gently…
Write in small steps… Just one word or phrase at a time, a moment captured in a paragraph or poem (like in Anne’s story in my Writer’s Block blog series).
Do writing exercises… Start by re-doing writing exercises you’ve previously done, then move on to new exercises.
Try writing a different genre… If you’re a poet and poems seem far from your mind, try writing a short story instead. If you’re stuck in the middle of a novel or memoir, try writing a poem, short story or essay. Approaching your story a different way, may entice your muse to return to active duty.
Immerse yourself in deep journal work… Journal work is written without judgement and no one else will see it unless you show them. Here you can re-visit why you want to write and the kind of writer you are, explore self-talk messages and the possible reasons for your blockage and what the payoff might be from indulging procrastination. You may also record your dreams as a private way of practicing writing… and so on…
Re-visit your stated writing goals… Were you achieving what you had hoped up until you found yourself in the void? If now, why not? Are your goals putting unnecessary pressure on you? Do you need to dumb them down to suit a changing situation?
Re-orient to your current writing project… Read what you’ve written, look for flaws that may be the cause of your impasse, edit the last chapter you’ve written, make a list of the next scenes or points to be made… and see where this leads you…
> The shift from ‘I’m stuck and can’t write anything’ to ‘I can use this time to do some things that will enhance my work when I’m ready to write again’, will prevent you from wallowing in self-pity and get you back to writing without slipping into an even larger void. At some point, you will likely begin to write again… tentatively at first and then with the old confidence…
Not all of the above suggestions will suit every writer, but doing any of these activities while you’re in the space between writing and getting back to writing will help move you through the void. You will remain oriented to writing, without putting pressure on youself to produce.
This process will enable you to do something towards your writing every day, no matter how small. Writing will be on your agenda and in your headspace, and will ultimately lead to the ability to act on the inspiration and ideas you accumulate along the way.
Caution… Don’t fall into the trap of allowing these or any other writing-related activities to become alternatives to writing. It is easy to make excuses not to write, especially when you have been abandoned by your muse.
The goal is to stay with the written word in any way you can… until you’re able to move forward. Movement is critical, because it generates momentum and without momentum there is no progress. In reality, a writer hasn’t beaten Writer’s Block until they are putting words on paper again… even if, just one word or phrase at a time.
You never know where these morsels of writing will lead. They may never be used for anything besides a vehicle to propel you closer to producing written work again. Or they could end up as a line of poetry or the essence of a story. It is also possible that any of your jottings could become a piece of flash fiction, perhaps even a story on par with the famous… ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’, of Hemmingway fame and controversy.
Share your thoughts in the Comments section below…