Tuesday 9 April 2013

How To Rid Yourself of Writer's Block

Whether you are a budding journalist, an amateur writer or a professional columnist the day will come, if it hasn’t already, where you suffer from the dreaded writer’s block.  Ironically enough, last night I lay in bed thinking ‘What I am going to write about writer’s block? I have writer’s block about writer’s block!’  Hopefully I can help dispel the situation and offer a few ideas on how to progress without ripping your hair out.

Firstly, if you have no direction in which you want your article to go – write a list.  Write a list of subjects you are interested in or are knowledgeable about.  Writing is so much easier and enjoyable when you can take pleasure from what you are writing about.  When I am enjoying writing an article I can bang it out in under an hour – leaving much more time to watch endless re-runs of Come Dine With Me.

If you are writing about a chosen topic, and there’s no wriggling out of it, again I would suggest writing a list.  This list should be more of a contents page of such.  Hopefully you can derive a flow from a few bullet points to help get you started again.  I also think when suffering from writer’s block, some secondary research never goes amiss.  Not necessarily looking up about the subject you are writing about, but check up on related topics – these can often spark your brain with new ideas and get you back on track again.

When I’m out and about I always carry a notepad in case ideas come into my head.  My notepad of choice is highly unpractical; it came into my life in a Christmas cracker and measures about an inch squared.  I do not advise purchasing one of these, but it’s so cute and as one of my best friends always says “It’s a notepad for a giant!”  Even if these ideas that are flying around aren’t useful for what you’re writing now, they will most likely be of help at a later date.

Take a break.  Sit back, turn the kettle on, find the most calorific biscuit you can lay your hands on and walk away.  Turning it over and over in your mind will do nothing but drive you crazy.  If your deadline allows it, take a day or two away from writing and clear your head.  As a country girl living in the city, when I need a break I drive to the countryside and, fingers crossed if the Gods allow, find a field with some friendly horses to stroke over the gate.  You will be amazed how a refreshed mind and soul makes an astonishing difference when you sit back down to carry on.

By adding some element of routine to your writing it helps break down your time and allow you to reward yourself every 30 minutes for example.  The reward doesn’t have to be ground breaking, the routine could be getting a drink or ritually walking a lap of the room you’re in every second paragraph.  By adding physical structure to your writing time you can allow yourself writing breaks and opportunities to clear your mind – even if just for a few minutes.

Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall and The Mirror and the Light amongst many others, explains “If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”  

Article written for Proper Gander Magazine available online at:

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