Everyone reading this (all three of you) who has ever tried to write anything will have suffered at one time or another from writer’s block. You sit down at your desk, or wherever you write, filled with enthusiasm and as soon as you stare at the blank piece of paper, or the screen before you, every single idea inside your head refuses to come out. You know what you want to say but you’re buggered if you can think of a way to say it.
It’s like a kind of literary impotence. Frustrating, upsetting, disappointing and infuriating (by the way, I’m speaking from extensive research here never having suffered from impotence naturally, never, not me guv). I have on the other hand suffered from Writer’s block and still do every single time I sit down at my bloody computer. When I first started writing I didn’t seem to have that problem of Writer’s Block, I was so filled with the desire to tell my stories I just sat down and typed (yes, on an old manual portable typewriter) for five or six hours a day and things seemed to flow without a problem. However, when the dreaded Writer’s Block did strike I often cured it by hurling the typewriter across the room (which got to be a bit expensive) and certainly isn’t to be recommended with an expensive laptop or even worse desktop.
Before writing Victims, way back in the ‘80s, I suffered from this more acutely than at any other time in my life. For three months or more I could not write a single word. I wasn’t sure what to say, how to say it or what the hell was going on. The best thing was just to stay away from my desk. As time progressed I found that the less I thought about writing, the more the ideas came. Even when I wanted to write I stopped myself until the day I’d designated as the one when I’d begin again. Sure enough it worked. Victims was completed in about two months (Some reading this are probably wishing I’d still got writer’s block if they didn’t like the book…)!
Stay away from your desk
I still find that’s the best way to cure this irritating condition even now. If you can’t write then don’t stare at the screen for hours on end (I’ve done that). Get up and walk about, have a cup of tea, go out. Anything to get away from the thing you’re supposed to be working on. I tend to wander along to the local cinema in a desperate attempt to clear Writer’s Blocks now. That’s one of the reasons I spend so much bloody time in the pictures. However, I guarantee that it’ll be better when you come back to it.
There are other ways to cure this complaint by the way (or so I’ve been told). One of them is to just write anything down. Get a blank piece of paper and just scribble some notes, some observations, some memories but anything that basically requires you to use words in a constructive manner. The idea is that it will somehow magically kick start your brain into creativity and you’ll immediately return to your own work and produce several chapters that are of Nobel prize winning quality. It may well work for others reading this but I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work for me. Like each writer has their own way of working I suppose each one has their own way of blundering through that work. I’m just telling you what works or doesn’t work for me. Kicking things and shouting at the computer is more effective for yours truly. I have even been known to head butt my own desk on occasion but probably the less said about that the better.
Work to deadline
The best and most effective cure for Writer’s block is actually pressure. If you’ve got a deadline approaching then it’s easier to work (or at least that’s what I’ve always found). The fact that there’s usually some money due on delivery of the manuscript helps! Some people work better under pressure while others just crumble. I was always so far ahead of my publishing deadlines that I’d usually finished about a quarter of the next book too before one was due for delivery but that was simply because I used to work so fast in my heyday when enthusiasm was the main driving force. All of you who write now, especially those who haven’t been doing it for very long, will be infected with that kind of almost religious fervour and need to share your ideas. Only as you get old and cynical will you start suffering from Writer’s Block. Trust me, it happens to us all. It’s how you react to it that counts.
You can walk away
Being brutally honest about the matter, unless you’re contracted to a publisher who is demanding your book or article or story is delivered by a certain date then you can always walk away from the troublesome piece of work indefinitely. Writing is one of the few activities where you can actually do this. Where you can dump a piece of work purely because it’s not going the way you want it to or because you’ve lost interest. In fact, Writer’s Block may be your brains way of telling you that what you’re doing is a waste of time. If a novel doesn’t flow then it might not be because you’ve got Writer’s Block, it might just be because you haven’t planned it correctly. If you’ve got pages and pages of notes, a cast list, a synopsis and Christ knows what else to work from and you’ve done your research then chances are you won’t get Writer’s Block at all. You’ll get days when the stuff you write is a struggle and you hate what you’ve committed to paper but at least you’ll get something done. I used to set myself a target of 3,000 words a day and there was barely a day I didn’t hit that target and more. That was mainly because all of my books were prepared for months in advance (hard to believe I know) and when the day came to just sit down and write I was ready.
I’ve just realised this piece is starting to sound like something from a self-help journal so apologies for that. For that reason I’m going off to have a cup of tea. Maybe I’ve got Writer’s Block.