Writer’s block is something that affects us all and, when I posted a comment on twitter about my own affliction with it, I was inundated with a flurry of advice; all of it kind, supportive and helpful. For this reason, I have decided to share with you my own experience and some of the advice that other people were kind enough to offer.
I’m not sure if writer’s block is always the by-product of something else or if it can simply descend out of the blue for no reason at all. In my own case it was triggered by the realisation that I had made a mistake that is basically going to shape my life for at least the next few months. It’s not the first time I have made a mistake and it won’t be the last but it knocked me for six and left me doubting my own thought process. If I could do something as stupid as this then how could any ideas that I might have about writing possibly contain any merit? This combined with the sheer exhaustion of working in a stressful environment meant that any creativity was pretty much snuffed out.
The strange thing is though, not being able to write opened my eyes to the fact that writing had started to consume my life. I had set myself such ambitious targets, my life was defined by work and writing. Most people advised that, if I couldn’t work on my novel, I should just write anything; keep the channels of creativity open by any means possible. For a while, this is what I did, focusing on regular blog posts until even that felt like too much. Writing was starting to feel like just another pressure. It was like having two jobs.
It was around this time that Mila A. Ballentine sent me the link to a lovely post about her own writer’s block (check out www.milaballentine.blogspot for lots of useful writing advice). In it, she whimsically writes of her creativity as if it is a long lost lover and she is yearning for his return. Something about that post really struck a nerve and I decided to cut myself some slack and get back to living.
The first thing I reclaimed was my love of reading. Despite a kindle literally bursting with exciting sounding novels just waiting to be read, I hadn’t been able to find the time. I would read for a little while before going to sleep but, any large periods of time
spent doing anything other than writing had started to make me feel guilty, as if I was letting myself down. Clearing the deck of writing meant that I could devote as much time as I wanted to simply enjoying what other writers had written. In the past few weeks I have read voraciously and loved every minute of it. I have also spent hours watching films, both at the cinema and on DVD, losing myself in stories both familiar and new. As with reading, immersing myself in the stories of others has brought me back to my own. Responding to the creativity of others, it seems, was the jolt that my system needed.
The truth then is clear to see. We don’t live in a bubble and if we start to function as if we do then we become insulated and flat. All of my best ideas have been born out of people watching and yet, when we are tired and stressed, engaging with other people can feel like a chore. The physical aspect of writing tends to be a very personal and individual act but the offering up of what we have written is sharing and inclusive. How then can we hope to connect with readers if we are not part of the world?
I don’t claim to be some sort of expert on writer’s block but my advice to you, if you are currently in its grip, is to reach out to others. I have read so many blog posts from others suffering the same plight and all of them have been comforting and
reassuring. The wealth of advice that I have received from other writers has been both generously given and gratefully accepted. Reading the works of other writers, both indie and professionally published, has imbued me with the desire to keep trying. For me writing has to be about pleasure and self-fulfilment. The moment it ceased to be enjoyable was when the creative switch turned to ‘off’.
I will leave you then with the advice of Mila A. Ballentine; embrace your life and you will reclaim your writing muse. Maybe if you have a case of writer’s block, like me, you just need to take a break from writing. Before you know it, your story will be clamouring to be heard, eager to please you after being neglected for so long.