writer's block

Staring at a blank sheet of paper or at an empty computer screen is daunting and for new and inexperienced writers this can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. But don’t worry you are in good company. Many professional writers have days when they don’t feel inspired or motivated but rather than complaining of writer’s block they just find a way around this and get on with their writing. And so can you if you follow these nine simple tips.

Writer’s block – is it just a load of nonsense?

The author Philip Pullman is a little less tolerant of writers who complain of writer’s block. “Writer’s block… a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that excuse not to do any work that day?

This is the view of someone who makes a living from writing and the so the incentive or need to write is far greater than someone who is doing it for fun or as a hobby. But Philip Pullman does make a good point. The only way to get something done is to do it and writing is no exception. But, as most of use do have times when we really can’t get started, here are some tips to help you get past that blank page.

Make a regular time to write

If you show up at the same time everyday you will gradually get into the habit of writing at this time. Choose a time of day when you feel the most motivated and when you have the fewest interruptions.

Remove any distractions

If you are distracted by a cluttered desk or work space, tidy it up. Switch off your phone and the internet or any other devices that might distract you. If you are at home forget about any household chores – they can all wait. Find a secluded spot where you can work without distraction. If that’s not possible, ask other people around you to give you some space so as you can get on with your writing without any interruptions. If you are a late night person or very early morning person you could try writing when everyone else is asleep.

Plan ahead

Start each writing session with a plan of action or a list of things you want to write about that day. The list doesn’t need to be long – it may only include one item – but it will help you to focus your mind and be more productive. Don’t worry if you don’t finish or your writing isn’t perfect, the main thing is to get something written.

Write anything

If you really can’t think of anything to write about, just scribble down some mundane and boring stuff like what you did the previous evening or what the weather is like. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. Simply write freely. This may be all you need to get your creativity flowing.

Set a deadline

Deadlines, self imposed or not, are a great way of focusing the mind and getting things done. There is no time for writer’s block when you have to meet a deadline.

Go and do something else

If you continue to stare at a blank screen take a break. Make a cup of coffee, go for a walk, bake a cake, paint a picture, mow the lawn – anything that takes your mind off writing. It’s surprising how ideas pop into your head when you are doing something else.

Pretend you are telling your story to friend

When you tell someone your story you tend to focus on the most interesting bits and fill in any necessary details as you go along. Although this isn’t usually the way you would write, this process is excellent for assimilating your ideas and thoughts. Make sure to record everything you say.

Always carry a notebook or voice recorder

Every time you have an idea write it down or record it. In addition to the good old-fashioned notebook there are a number of options for recording your ideas – digital recorders, specialised software tools (for example, the recording facility in Evernote), the recording facility on your phone or computer etc.. The next time you sit down to write but find you are suffering from an acute onset of writer’s block, you can can look back through your notes or listen to your recording for inspiration.

 

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Writer’s block – 9 tips on how to get beyond the blank page
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On Monday 24th August 2020 at 19.00 I will be hosting an online workshop called "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time". It's aimed at writers of nonfiction in any genre and includes tips on how to write a book or narrative piece by piece (bite by bite). To get free access to the workshop go to TurningReadersIntoWriters.