Writer’s Block: is it really a question?

There has been a lot going on in my life this last few weeks, and I’ve let distraction become a habit. But, I have discovered something that may change the way I look at the dreaded Writer’s Block.

One busy day, sitting on crowded public transport, I heard someone say they used to write but had gotten Writer’s Block and stopped. Not just the project, but all together. I was stunned. It took me minute to realise I was in the early stages of doing almost the same. Except I was asking why.

That day, I decided that it wasn’t some sort of innate ability that separated people who beat Block and those who don’t, it was something else. I’d had Writer’s Block for nearly three months when that conversation happened. In fact, at the same time 12months ago, I was getting pretty close to the stage where I thought I would never write ever again. And then I wrote the first drafts of 3 books to end that year…

Which begs the question, what was different about me? The truth is, nothing. Or, rather, nothing but my understanding of Writer’s Block.

Writer’s Block is your brain telling you something. It’s a feeling made up of all the little bits of information you process without realising, and it’s pretty good at not telling you what’s going on. Writer’s Block is not a statement. Writer’s Block is a question: What is going on that makes it hard to write?

Next time you’re feeling a little Blocked, get out some paper and write down all the things that are getting in your way. Don’t analyse it until you’re all done, until all the worries and bothers are out on that paper where you can look at them. They don’t have to be story related, they can be life related. I have two lists, one story and one external. And all the things on those lists are real, valid things. Sure, they may sounds silly, but accepting what the issues are is the first step to making the changes necessary to get writing again.

Writing isn’t always simple, and a lot of the time even the best plots come unraveled as they’re written. The same thing that leads to those amazing moments of story clarity can also form Writer’s Block. Listen to both sides. Some days it’s easier to say ‘I can’t, I have Writer’s Block’, but I always feel a bit silly using that as an excuse. So I’ve let my Muse have a rant, and hopefully I can deal with the issue and get to the page quicker than if I waited for it to resolve itself. After all, I need to focus when I’m off doing non-writing things, and the only way to do that is to let myself know I’m doing something about Writer’s Block.

Bridget; the too-smart-for-her-own-good horse. Don’t worry, the scar on her nose happened when she was little, not recently. She is so clever I have to be on my toes to work with her, and not berating myself for not getting words done.

Bridget (2)


Distraction Habit

There is only one reason for the delay between this update and the last one, I got distracted. I would like to say it was a productive sort of distraction that happened because my muse grabbed hold of me and demanded that I write, but that’s not the case. In fact, this distraction was comprised of everything that’s important in my life except writing. And it led me to an interesting idea.
Motivation builds on itself, but it’s got to have somewhere to go.
I’ve decided that I need a new way of dealing with distraction, because the ‘get it out of the way first’ tack just hasn’t worked. I’ll organise myself for this job interview, then I’ll write. I just need to see what my sister thinks about this horse, then I’ll write. Turtle just needs fed, I’ll make a cup of tea, feed Turtle, then I’ll write. Guess what I never managed to get to? I do have job training, a new horse who’s going to be delivered to my sister soon, and a much less hungry turtle, but I haven’t put one word down on my novel.
As I write this, I’m sitting on the crowded peak hour morning train, and I wish I could stare at nothing but there are people blocking the view of windows. Which is a good thing, because over the last few weeks I’ve gotten into the habit if being distracted. And so I’m doing that thing I’ve been meaning to for weeks, writing a post for my blog. Once I’ve finished this, I am going to attempt to write some of the first chapter of my current work in progress, so it’s actually in progress. As I collect little bits of motivation, I need to put it somewhere so it can grow, develop mass, and make the easy choice doing productive things. It’s all well and good to make plans to do something, but distraction is insidious and some days it’s welcome. Which is why I’ve struggled with it so much lately. Today I want to break the habit, even for just a little bit. Every attempt helps.
Success is made up of all the little day to day choices.
That’s as true for horse training as for anything else, and so I’m going to attempt to make small, good, productive choices. The only person who can write my novel is me. The only person who can tell the story you want to tell is you. That’s it. No one else will ever give it the same emphasis or subtlety that you will. No one. And you’re the only one who can break the hold of distraction and get the story out there.
So onward, brave storyteller! Distraction plays the friend, but it will have no qualms poisoning your drink or stabbing you in the back.
Below is one of my newest distractions. Her name is Bridget, she’s amazing, and I’m going to work really hard at what I need to do so I can enjoy being distracted by her.

Author’s Note: This post has been left as originally written, somewhere between 7-8am on a Monday while on public transport. I felt  it was important to show that motivation and action don’t have to make sense, they just have to happen for something to start. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is let it be a mess, but it works. Hope everyone is well. 🙂

Hard slog this week

One of the hardest things about writing, for me, is that it makes me face my strengths and weaknesses without the benefit of ‘because’.

This week has been a really hard slog, and there is nothing I can say that does anything to make it any more effective. In fact, the last blog post ‘In the Village’ was written about four days before I got it onto the blog, which was two days after I wanted to get it into the Internet. This post is making its initial draft as I wait for another early morning appointment.

So, as I write this, I admit that I have let the world get away from me this week. And I admit that a good part of it is because I don’t have a strategy to deal with writing. Until a few days ago, I didn’t even realise I was letting myself off the hook in terms of writing. Now, as another exhausting day stretches before me, the morning unexpectedly cool for summer, I have to do something about it. I need to take my own advice and do something small.

That’s the thing about changing your approach to creativity, I guess, it’s hard to look at yourself and your process analytically. This is where resources might come in handy, and I will confess to having a yearning to dig out my rather extensive post-it-note collection. For me, I’ve found that the need for stationary is a good indication that I’m trying to organise myself to give me creative mental space. But I also know that I need to talk to people about the plot I’m working on, and the ones that are waiting in the wings. Just like I know that getting one small thing done or started will give me the first tiny bit of momentum, I know that there are little things I need to do to break hard down into doable pieces.

So I’ve made a time to have lunch with someone I know who can plot, and I’m going to start with the hardest hong about a new project. I’m going to open a new word document, name the thing, and stare blankly at it for a while before writing the dreaded first sentence. Start small. One word put after another makes a sentences. Start small.

Even the biggest castle was built a stone at a time.