My husband gets writers' block every time he has to write a greeting card.
The minute we were married, he considered himself relieved of the job of writing personal messages on cards to his mother, sister and aunties.
And whenever I do my ritual purges of cupboards and drawers, I come across long overdue birthday and anniversary cards for 'my darling wife' and 'mummy' which are still blank inside.
I think his is a special case.
Most of the time people stall on their writing tasks because they are anxious, distracted, don't have all the information they need or aren't clear on the nature of the task or their audience. So the remedies vary depending on what the issue is that has you staring at a an empty screen or a blank piece of paper.
Life is too short to let writers' block hold you up.
These are my best 10 tips for writers' block and getting on with the job.
- Take a break from writing. Go for a walk, call up a friend, have a shower. Anything totally different to give your mind a chance to untie itself of all the anxious knots it's got into.
- Do another writing task. Write an email to that friend living overseas, blog post, or some other piece of writing which needs to be done.
- Treat yourself. Put on some music which inspires or relaxes you, and keep your favourite little snack nearby. I find that music, art or poetry inspire me and get me in the mood for writing again.
- Distracted because there's something else you'd rather be doing? Or you had an argument with someone yesterday and now you can't concentrate? Do what you need to do and get it out of your system. Then make sure you come back to the desk again.
- Don't try and be perfect on the first draft. Don't worry it seems not good enough, you get to edit and perfect it later.
- Try brainstorming. Just write down the ideas which present themselves yourself to you, then flesh out the outline later.
- For bigger jobs decide to write a set number of words every time you sit down to write. When I have a 800 word article to write, I like to write 1000 words fast and then take my time trimming and tightening it up.
- Do something else on your to do list. If you can't write anything, you can at least get something else done which will free up some time later for when you're able to write again.
- Be clear in your mind what it is you want to write about, who will read it, and how you want them to feel.
- Talk to someone who can help you think it through out loud, like your academic supervisor, co-worker or fellow writer.
This is not on the list, because it's risky, but it works for some people and some kinds of writing tasks: Leave it until the last minute. A deadline is a terrific motivator.
What do you to get yourself going again when you've stalled on a writing task?