Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Writer's Block

It is disputed whether this insidious condition exists at all. We have all experienced moments when the writing muscle appears to have gone on holiday and we must all have felt our writing is not up to scratch at times. Is a short break from writing considered to be ‘writer’s block’? Often writers torture themselves if they do not reach certain word count targets each day and feel they have failed. Some people say just write anything, whatever comes into your head. It can be thrown away, just as long as you write. Surely it’s better to have written something rather than nothing.
So what really stops us from writing? For Ruth it’s the thought of not being able to write something that satisfies her because it won’t be good enough. One solution is to write, but when you come to a difficult word, phrase or idea, leave it and come back later. Ruth often leaves a blank space for Mary to come up with the ideal word, sentence or paragraph. So the barrier is removed and the rest of the writing can flow. Frequently a fresh look solves the problem. But we always try to remember, ‘The best way to get something done is to begin’.
Mary nearly always finds it difficult to start writing because she knows that what comes out on the screen in front of her will not be what was in her head when she thought of the story. However, if something has a plan to it, it's much easier. It's important to remember that 'writing' isn't just about putting sentences and paragraphs together, it can also involve a development stage in which ideas are noted and then put into some sort of order.

Facing a blank page can be very off-putting. Therefore rather than finish a day’s work at the end of a chapter or scene, why not stop while ideas are flowing and make a note of them. This can make it easier to start the next day.
A change of environment can help too. For example if you usually sit at a computer, why not take a notebook out into the garden if it’s a lovely day and be inspired by your surroundings. Or, as has been said on this blogspot before, go to a coffee shop. Being close to people can be stimulating. Rest assured, writer’s block is a temporary blip which every writer experiences.


  1. I went to a really interesting course recently on this very subject and I'll be blogging about it at this week. The main thing I picked up from it though was that when faced with writers block, use anything to kick start some sort of writing of words on paper. Even if it's only to write down words you like the sound of or hate the sound of. Then, go on to exercises such as taking a picture, any picture, and choosing something in there to write about - maybe choose a person in the picture and write a character study of them. The idea was that you are oiling something that's rusty and the other was that writing comes from within. It was a motivational talk in that the person leading it got us to believe that what we had inside was worth putting on paper and it was enough, it didn't need to be perfect to be useful. It just needed to get us writing again. Sometimes, I will have a go at a short story if the longer novel I'm working on stalls. Failing that, I will choose a scene I can create, one that does have an identity even if it is in the middle or end of the story and I am at the beginning. That way, the log jam sometimes clears. Certainly having two of you writing must be a help because I doubt that both of you get stuck at the same time! Perhaps I can borrow one of you one day..... Cara

    1. That's very interesting, Cara.
      It is helpful working with another person. Today, I (Ruth) wrote some more of our latest novella, but when I couldn't write the next bit I sent it to Mary to continue.

  2. It is horrible when writing stutters to a stop. I had this earlier in the year when I wanted to try a longer novel than a PN but my ideas floundered. I had to throw away 20,000 words which just weren't working and then I mentally froze and couldn't think of anything I wanted to write at all! I honestly thought I wouldn't write again and I couldn't summons up any enthusiasm for it. It was horrible while it lasted but I'm glad to say that I am now engrossed in my latest WIP (8000 words and a good head of steam).

  3. It's fascinating to hear how the two of you work together. The idea of sending it to the other when you can't think of a word is amazing. I sit at my computer and put in a variety of words until one comes up that is suitable. I have a symbiosis with my computer. I sit in front a blank screen and start making a few notes and suddenly, I'm writing a story. It may not have legs to make into a novella but then, it breaks my log jam. I'm currently sitting with a log jam, largely because I haven't really had time to write. Visitors etc. Now I have two or possibly three days without anything happening so no excuses. Love Chrissie

  4. Carol - so pleased you're forging ahead again and have a good head of steam!!
    Chrissie - we feel very lucky to be working together. Our ideas are so similar. Also there is always a chance to insert an amusing comment or two to spur each other on.
    Happy writing!

  5. I find any writer's block I have is often just a "mental" block and the thought of not getting enough words for the day or quality words on paper. :) Within minutes of settling to write, I'm in the character's heads and the writing flows again. I think artists of any kind are perhaps often their own worst enemy. I know I'm my own worst stumbling block at times.