Writer's Block ? Is that Old Bogey Man hiding under your Bed????

Posted on October 13, 2013 at 7:30 PM

By Glenys O'Connell @GlenysOConnell


Remember when you were a little kid, and you were afraid to get out of bed in case the monster that lived under there grabbed you? I’m sure you do – you’re a writer, and writers are born with over active imaginations. Your childhood was probably peopled by characters both human and fantastical who were as real to you as if they actually existed. And some of them were probably genuinely scary. Like Writer’s Block.


And you were probably genuinely scared, just like that heart pounding, no-one-can-save-me-now feeling you get when you sit and stare at the blank screen, absolutely sure the Writer’s Block monster is going to grab you and drag you down to….well, you probably had your own ideas of the scary place those monsters took little kids to.

BUT – the whole point of this article is that Writer’s Block is exactly like the monster under your bed – it’s scary but really, really it simply doesn’t exist. And yes, you’re scared, you’re really, really scared. But the source of your fear isn’t real.

Now, do you feel silly?

Well, don’t. You’re not the only one to break out in a sweat, convinced you’ll never write again. And, as a psychotherapist, I can tell you I’ve had clients afraid of stranger things than Writer’s Block – and their demons have seemed every bit as real and inevitable to them as your Block seems to you.

Want to know how I can speak so definitely? Well, it’s not some alchemy born of training as a psychologist, I can tell you that. Even though that kind of training encourages students to poke and prod at all the monsters in our heads, learning just what particular button to press to make them disappear in a puff of psychic relief, that’s not where I learned the secret about Writer’s Block.

No, I learned it from successive news editors at newspapers where I worked for years. News editors – now there is a really scary monster and believe me, they do exist, and their teeth and fangs are real…..

And when the deadline looms and your editor yells across the newsroom: “I want 500 words and a sidebar on that (fill in your own blank!) for the front page!” No reporter who wants to live long enough to get a lunchtime, paper’s-to-bed-beer is ever going to say: “Oh, Mr. News Editor, I’m sorry but my Muse has left me and I’ve got Writer’s Block, so you’ll have to publish with a blank space on page one. Maybe people can use it for a grocery list…”

Yeah, right. And maybe that reporter can join the ranks of the unemployable.

So, what to do about those times when you can’t write? Well, first of all, drop this idea of Writer’s Block. Ever noticed that, when the words of the beast appear in writer’s journals and articles, it’s always capitalized? We’re scaring ourselves, is what we’re doing. Creating monsters to excuse the fact that we’re simply not doing our jobs. And there are a number of reasons why.

Fear is probably the most common. Let’s face it, being a writer is a dream most of us have nurtured for a long, long time. And we can go about saying that we’re writers, we’re going to write a book/article/screenplay, whatever and people will look suitably impressed or insultingly bored, whatever. And eventually, they’ll ask, like, when is this going to be published?

And that’s the scary thing at the root of most so-called blocks. Because eventually, if we ever finish our work in progress, we’re going to have to send it out into the big bad world. A world that may reject it. What if we’ll not make it? What if people laugh? What if our stories are old and hackneyed and boring and…..what if we’ve no talent?

Well, the sad news is that you won’t know until you grab that monster by the nose and wring out your story, painful word by painful word, until it’s there in all its glory. Then you’ll send it into the world, and start on the next one. And the next. And someday, if you hone your craft, you’ll be published. And I hate to burst that glow of hope, but then you’ll face Writer’s Block’s big brother – SecondBookitis. The paralysis that grabs writers of a newly published first book and convinces them that they can’t perform the same trick again. Welcome to the real world, baby.

Another reason, why you can’t seem to make your fingers fly across those keys is that there is actually something wrong with your story. There’s a clash between what you’re writing and what your brain feels is right. Sometimes if can be as simple as an implausible scene. Someone in your story is being asked to step out of character, and refusing to do so. You’ve got an unlikely situation, and it’s simply not working, no matter how wonderful it may have seemed when you dreamed it up.

Go back into your WIP. Read what you have. Research, research, research. Maybe there’s something there that you’ve got by wishful thinking, not by checking facts. Think about it. Take long walks and consider your story– your cardiovascular system and your dog will love you for it. And somewhere around all this, the answers will pop into your head. The plot will right itself, the characters act as they should, and all’s right with your imaginary world.

But dwelling on the idea of Writers’ Block will only reinforce your righteous conviction that something is stopping you from writing.

Something is. You.

There are a few tricks around writers block. One often recommended it to simply sit and write – anything at all. Gibberish. And eventually it will morph into something meaningful. That no doubt does work for some people. All it does for me is give me a few pages of depressingly useless nonsense and a headache, but it’s worth a try. It could work for you.

My own favourite is to always end my writing sessions at a point where it’s easy to pick up and carry on. Some writers stop mid sentence, or mid page, mid-chapter. I always stop at the end of a chapter (yes, I write short chapters!) but with a cliffhanger ending that segues smoothly into the next chapter. Those days I use a novel planner notebook with an outline and small outlines for each chapter. Okay, I don’t keep strictly to the outlines, and something I've scheduled to happen in chapter seven might not occur right then – or even at all – but it means I know where I’m going. And when I sit down and start writing, the first thing I do (well, after playing several games of solitaire and checking email) is to read the chapter from my previous writing session. I allow my Infernal Internal Editor(I.I.E – say it aloud and extend the E!) the opportunity to do his thing (I just know my IIE is a male – only a male could be THAT nitpicky!) following the guidelines of the outline, I head off merrily down the path that flows directly from that chapter, marked out in the outline for the next chapter.

Maybe wouldn’t work for everyone, but if you’ve reached the stage of thinking you’re blocked, well, it’s worth trying anything rather than suffer.

One thing you can be sure of is that the only way to rid yourself of the pain of all those words and ideas dammed up in your head is to put them down on paper. Get the work done. Pour out that story. Tell what's in your heart. Polish it and primp it and send it off like a mother sending a child to school for the first time. Weep a little. Be scared for you know all the dangers that lurk out in the big world that threaten your baby. But that baby needs to be out there – and you know it.

So just get on with it. You’ll feel better for it, you know.

Now, all together, loudly: There is no such thing as Writer’s Block.

We’re writers, and we will write.

We will hone our skills – and that involves writing, writing, writing. And that’s just what we’ll do….

Writers’ Block – phooey!

This Excerpt is Taken from Naked Writing:The No Frills Way to Write Your Book! You Can Read Chapter One by Clicking the First Chapters Button At The Top of This Page.


Categories: Writing Skills

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