Friday, 16 October 2015

Writer's block - how to defeat it.

Writer's block. The scourge of writers everywhere.

I have met writers who've been been struck down with the curse for years, unable to write a single word, not even place a single character onto the page, simply sitting in front of the laptop or sheet of crisp white paper and just doing exactly that. Just sitting. Looking. Hoping. Pleading.

I've also met writers who claim never to have been affected by writer's block. And I believe them too. I look at their back catalogue and know, simply by counting the number of books they've produced, that they can't have been affected by it. There's a writer in the States who writes a book a month. Now, I'm not saying they're any good. They're formulaic, and you recognise the hooks are coming, long before they get their barbs into you, but the writer's output is incredible, their following immense and their income eye-watering.

How is it you can have these extremes of output? Are some people born unlucky, suffering paralysis of the creative parts of the mind whenever they sit down to write, or is there more to writer's block? In my opinion, writer's block is tied up with the mind, but only in that it's a state of mind.

We are animals. We get terrified whenever we face seemingly incalculable odds. Incalculable odds such as writing a better book than the one we've just done. Impressing friends, family and critics with our daring, inspiring prose.

Simply writing a book.

Writing a book is a huge task. Ninety thousand words, at least, all perfectly captured, rendered, ordered and put down on paper, to tell a story which grabs hold of the reader and drags them besotted and amazed to the very final page. It's a daunting prospect, one that creates fear in the writer.

Fear manifests in many ways. Usually it makes us turn tail and run the other way, which is why the fear of writing, or more precisely the fear of failure, causes us to clam up and not be able to write. Which in turn causes us to suffer from writer's block.

Therefore, in essence, the only way to beat writer's block is to write without fear. And to write without fear, you simply have to write, regardless of the quality, regardless of the message or where the words are taking you, you have to conquer your demons by doing the one thing they don't want you to do - get the words out.

In order to conquer your fear and write, you have to keep reminding yourself that firstly no one is going to read what you've written other than you unless you let them. So it doesn't matter how good the manuscript is, no one will judge you on it until you let them.

Secondly, no book in history has been written straight out in one go and then sent to print. Every book goes through an editorial process where it is written and rewritten many times over. Booker prize winning author Richard Flanagan wrote "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" seven times till he was happy with it. I wrote my current novel "The Fallen" nine times, and am expecting at least another rewrite yet. Therefore, you must keep reminding yourself that your manuscript is an evolving beast, with good bits, bad bits and terrible bits. But those bad and terrible bits you can deal with at your leisure at another time. For now, let them pass and keep writing. Don't let them hold you back.

To beat writer's block simply don't allow the blockage to happen. Write. Write freely, urgently, without hesitation to correct grammar or punctuation. Write and let the words flow out. Because once they start to flow, they will turn into a river, and then a pond and then a lake, and before you know it, you'll have a flood - which may well be the next bestseller.

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