November Q&A: Write Despite Writer’s Block
Every single one of us has experienced writers’ block at some stage – and it can be incredibly detrimental to progress as well as to motivation. You asked us how best to combat it; we called on Debbie Young, self-published author and Editor of the Independent Authors’ Advice Centre (as well as one of our regular contributors) to advise writers on navigating one of the most frustrating of creative obstacles.
‘The best way to ensure you write every day is to turn your writing into a habit…
The Right Time
Write at the same time every day. Ring-fence that time; don’t let it be squeezed out by other tasks. Start with a realistic amount of time, e.g. half an hour and increase it later if you can. Try to write when your creative brain is at its best. Experiment to find out when that is. Everyone is different.
If you go out to work, try shoehorning in some writing time around your employment routine:
• Commuting by public transport provides two time-slots every weekday to scribble on your notepad or laptop.
• Driving to work can double as writing time with a hands-free dictation machine.
• Alternatively, at lunchtimes or straight after work, head to a quiet café or nearby library to get those words off your chest.
All three of these approaches allow you to go home with a clear conscience, knowing you’ve achieved your daily writing goal for that day.
Make a public commitment to your regular daily writing time. “When you state a creative intention, you are much more likely to fulfil it,” says Orna Ross, director of the Alliance of Independent Authors and a teacher of creativism. Encourage family, friends or colleagues to ask after your progress. Acknowledge your progress and reward yourself with a star chart – it really works!
The Right Words
Don’t worry about word count. A fixed period of time is much easier to control. Don’t edit your work as you go along, just get your words down on the page. The editing comes later, using a different part of your brain.
Break your writing project down into manageable daily parts, planning ahead to decide on the task of the day. It is less daunting if you focus on writing a scene or a chapter a day rather than trying to complete a whole book.
The Right Flow
If you still feel you have writer’s block, maybe you are trying to write the wrong thing. Is the project or topic itself stopping your progress? If so, set it aside and write something else in which you don’t have the same emotional investment. Pick a prompt:
• Choose a headline for a newspaper and write a backstory.
• Turn on the radio and write something about the first sentence you hear.
• Observe a fellow commuter and write a scene from the day he’s just had.
Once you’ve acquired a daily writing habit, your words will begin to flow and your confidence will grow. You’ll be less anxious and self-conscious, more focused and purposeful. With the right planning, you’ll be drafting a novel in no time, ready for editing and polishing into publishable shape. Good luck – and keep writing!’
Commissioning Editor of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Advice Centre: www.selfpublishingadvice.org
Author of fiction and non-fiction: www.authordebbieyoung.com