Practical Tips To Combat Writer's Block.

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

A representation of writer's block by Leonid Pasternak (1862 – 1945)

What is a Writer’s Block?

To overcome writer’s block, first we should understand what writer's block actually is and who it affects?

In simple words, a condition associated with authors, it means when a writer’s creativity shuts down, and he or she loses the ability to produce something new and it’s not due to the lack of commitment or writing skills- is called 'writer's block.' ‘An inability to begin or continue writing other than a lack of basic skills or commitment,’ as Mark Rose defines in his book, Writer's Block: The Cognitive Dimension.

What can be more frustrating for a writer than losing the ability to think or create new prose or work? The condition varies from writer to writer, some high blockers may gain momentum near the deadline and still be able to finish their writing project, while others completely get away from it and never find words to put together. So, the question is, how does one defeat writer’s block and continue the productivity of the brain? I must say, as a writer, I never find anything difficult to overcome but the writer’s block. It can end a writer's career if not taken seriously. To find out how others handle this condition, I asked writers of a variety of genres to give their advice about this serious issue and help writers who may face such condition, especially in the present pandemic times.

This week I'm presenting two authors: The world-renowned author and creator of Harry Potter - J K Rowling, and Paula R C Readman- the author of The Funeral Birds. Let's see what they think about writing block:

J K Rowling

3 Bits of Hard-Won Advice

  • When you hit a writing block, try walking away for a bit. The best ideas like doing the chasing.

  • Good mental health means staying connected. Talking is important, especially now.

  • Never be flippant about Bitcoin on Twitter.

Photo Courtesy: J K Rowling

Well, personally I am not sure about the 3rd point, maybe it’s a personal challenge that Jo experiences as a writer during the lockdown. But there is no doubt we love her work and can learn a lot from her personal and professional experiences. Explaining her third point the author says, 'On point 3: my mentions are still full of people trying to get me to buy Bitcoin or to explain it to me. It’s very kind of them, but I swear, I now feel fully educated on the subject.'

Paula R. C. Readman

Author of The Funeral Birds published by Demain Publishings.

After leaving school with no qualifications, Paula worked in low-paying jobs until redundancy changed the direction of her life. She was encouraged by her loving husband who knew her hidden talent and believed she must write. Paula is a self-taught writer. Paula writes mainly about the darker side of life and has had a wide range of short stories and flash fiction.

In 2012, she was the overall winner in the Writing Magazine-Harrogate Crime Festival Short Story competition.

Paula's first full-length crime novel, Stone Angels will be published by Darkstroke Books this year.

Photo: Paula R C Readman

Let’s see what Paula thinks about the writing block:

'To me, writer's block is when ideas won’t come. When you stare at a blank screen or notepad. You have some idea of what you want to say, but just can’t find that opening line that will release the floodgates of concepts to carry your idea forward.’

So, how does Paula combat her writer’s block?

Normally I do one of two things:

  • I re-read stories that I’ve been unable to finish when I have plenty on my computer. Half-baked ideas for novels and short stories, never delete anything you consider to be rubbish. Sometimes these are project your brain hasn’t fully engaged with. I’ve found that just by adding a new slant or a different character it changes the direction of the story/novel. This opens your mind to fresh ideas.

  • If I can’t think of anything or my collection of incomplete stories aren’t what I need for a certain project, I reach for my collection of poetry books. Poetry is brilliant for stimulating brain cells. For me, poetry taps into all our emotions. There are poems for every occasion. What I do is read a poem until a line jumps out at me. All you need is a line that triggers an image in your mind. Then start asking yourself questions i.e. who says the line? Who are they saying it to? Why are they so sad? If it’s a happy positive line what’s created the happiness? And so you begin to create the story. Once the floodgates are open you no longer need the line from the poem. It was just the trigger.

My Tips

I am sure any writer can overcome the writing block by following the valuable advice from both authors. As a writer, many times I find it difficult to start a new project. I feel my brain shuts down halfway through, or just before concluding, my thoughts start playing by running away from the main theme. So what do I do to control my creativity and stay on track? Here are some tried and tested tips from me:

  • Avoid passive writing, or, if you can’t get started, try freewriting.

  • Never start premature editing.

  • Writers’ personal feelings— anger, anxiety, confusion and frustration— can be lethal for creativity. If that’s the case, try to calm down before sitting down to write; normally simple breathing techniques can help—paying close attention and breathing smoothly may also help.

  • Listening to favourite music, or by reading a favourite book.

  • Stepping away from any kind of distraction—whether its someone or something.

  • Try to write shorter sentences rather than long and complicated ones.

  • Rethink the idea, and see if it’s unclear, complex or needs further research.

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