Author Terry Pratchett famously wrote: ‘There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.’ But of the 1,904 women writers who took part in the survey, four out of five admitted writer’s block was a very real problem to them, ranging from occasional to ‘a constant battle’.
The Mslexiaarticle offers a variety of methods for combatting writer’s block, ranked by popularity for respondents:
- Positive feedback from someone I trust
- Reading great writing
- Unavoidable writing deadline
- Attending a writing group
- A change of scenery
- Contact with a writing buddy
- Daily writing practice
- Regular physical exercise
- A regular time to write
- The most common reason
I was one of the participants in this survey, and I admit that I fall into the category of those who rarely struggle with writer’s block (one in five). I don’t think, though, that is because I’m especially lucky or brilliant at writing fluently. I think, over the years, I’ve simply devised my own personal cure for writer’s block that I use at the first sign of trouble.
My own strategy list is as follows:
- Let go of fear. Forty per cent of respondents to the Mslexia survey cited lack of confidence in writing ability as a factor in their blocks. You can’t write if you think you can’t write. You can’t write if you’re worrying about what people will think when they read it: your readers, your publisher. To write well, you have to go into a vulnerable place inside; you can’t do so if in that vulnerable place you’re open to being hurt. If you can find a way to appreciate your writing, instead of fearing it, you’ve cured 99 per cent of writer’s block right there.
- Only write what you love. If you’re not really enjoying your writing, you won’t want to write. If you’re stuck with a poem or a short story or a chapter, is it the writing itself that needs to change – the angle, the narrative, the style?
- Be your own Sister Francis. I was educated at a French convent school, and the nuns who taught me were far from lax. Writing requires a good deal of motivation, commitment and hard work. Just as Sister Francis would stand over me at school, telling me sternly to get on with my sums or my composition, my inner writing coach – teacher – director commands me to just get on with it. Sometimes, as I did in my youth, I bristle against the firm hand; but deep down I know that I need it.
- Make a routine, and stick to it. Guard your writing time jealously and create habits that signal to you that it’s time to write: door closed, desk tidy, coffee brewed, deep breath… off you go.
- Just write.If the words won’t come, give up trying to find those specific words and write other ones. When I do this, I invariably find that the deviation I’ve taken leads me to somewhere unexpected, and exciting. Dare to deviate!
What do you think? Is writer’s block a problem for you? What strategies do you use to get past it? Please do share if you have a moment.