So, a difficult piece of writing has sapped your energy, leaving you incapable of putting any more of those pesky words on a largely blank page. What do you do? Quite simply, walk away. Avoid that awful fatigue that sets in when you just can’t write. It’s pointless to battle through it. It feels like swatting your way through a pool of treacle. Once you realise that things aren’t flowing, it’s better to call it quits for a little while, refresh, then come back, rather than sit there getting all hacked off and crosspatch: that’s not going to inspire the best copy. At best, you’ll get grumpy copy, and no one wants to read that.
We’ve all been there. Anyone who creates knows what it’s like. And it really isn’t nice. It can feel like a bit of a failure, but actually it’s the resting point before a huge rush of brand new inspiration. Every time! Maybe it’s time to embrace the block for what it heralds. You just have to know how to ride it out and face it.
Here are six ideas that might help you to deal with the very transitory block:
1. Get out for a walk.
A bit of a cliché, perhaps, but it really does work. In fact, going anywhere where you’re physically not able to be tempted to sit at the keyboard until something arrives on the draft page is great. I like to run. I listen to my music, and I run, and I daydream. The ideas, not just about writing, but about fashion, art, problems, they all flow again simply by being distracted. By the time I would get back, my mind has had such a break from it all that I’m ready to start again. All those endorphins are good for the creative lethargy, too. You’ll be buzzing like you had ten coffees.
2. Write a few half sentences – you don’t have to complete each one yet, it isn’t published!
Get those half-cooked ideas down on the page in gibberish, in half-sentences, in note form, anything. Total brain-spill. Who’s to know what warblings are sitting in your drafts folder? It’s all private until you hit publish. It’s your notebook, and you can say what you like in there. Feeling like you should be writing in whole sentences and producing the finished article from the get-go is not only unrealistic, but it’s death to creativity.
3. Is it actually finished?
Are you feeling like you can’t write any more because it doesn’t actually need it, but you haven’t the confidence to decide that? One of my favourite artists, Tara Leaver, wrote a brilliant piece on how to know when a painting is finished. I see big similarities in her battle with this that a writer, or any creator, goes through when deciding ‘it is done?’.
4. Find a picture in a magazine and describe it in 50 words or more.
I think this is a creative writing class type of exercise. Go and find any image you can from a magazine, and then write about it, descriptively, in 50 words. Now, 50 words isn’t an awful lot, so you’ll have to start being creative about what you say. It’ll get you thinking about something very specific, which is a good antidote to the vagueness of a post that’s not happening because you don’t know yet what to say. Having an actual thing to describe unblocks you: you have something to refer to. Another similar tip comes from Susie McBeth, who runs the brilliant website Nerd Like You. She says,
I get writer’s block sometimes, too, and when I do, I do a five-minute exercise where I pick three random words from a book, put them at the top of the page and write for five minutes straight a little story or nonsense that includes all three words. Works a treat!
Basically, give yourself something very focused and specific to write about in order to just get going again. Like an artist might doodle or make any marks on a canvas just to get something out there, rather than sit and stare frustratedly at nothing.
5. Have several features and regular series on the go – spin those plates!
The good thing about being a blogger is that you can do regular posts. I have BlogWise, I Spy, Groom Style, WOW Anniversaries, and A Little Bit of What You Fancy. These give you a set template for content, and you know where you are with how they need to go. They’re a good form of regularity and familiarity for not only you as the writer, but also for your readers. Work on one of these posts if you’re not up for freestyling that day – it is scary how the deadlines for these come up and get you, anyway, so it’s good to keep on top of these ones so as not to let your readers down. And if they’re practical for helping you write, that’s brilliant. I also line up lots of individual features at the same time so that I’m never waiting for material from my featured vendors and photographers, and nor am I getting stuck for new ideas in an instant. Don’t blog panicked. If I can’t write on one thing that day, I have a range of others I can tackle. My brain likes to spin plates and it likes variety.
6. And now for something completely different…
Similar to the getting out for a walk or a run tip, you could do something else of a creative vibe that isn’t writing. Me, I do an Etsy treasury or a Pinterest scout. I find that a break from words is best to help the freeze. I like visuals and an escape from the pressure of being wordy when I just can’t do it. I often find that by doing this, I’ve opened up a million new ideas for posts, and I feel all excited about blogging about them. You could maybe go and cook some fancy recipe that would take you all day long, elicit some swearing from the kitchen, but that would be amazing to eat and completely occupy you in a non-writing way, and get you out of the fug. You could pop off to the cinema for the day and see something with subtitles, or try all your clothes on to see what crazy outfits appear, or tackle the housework. That last one is sure to get you writing again, if only to avoid the housework…perhaps that’s just me.
I hope these have helped. Whatever happens, you’ll find your own method of beating the block. Take heart in the fact that you’re not alone. Writing can be flipping difficult. So says Neil Gaiman:
Interestingly, I found this post a bit of a tricky one to write. I came back to it over and over again, month after month. What was wrong with it? I couldn’t tell. Today, I twigged that the pictures I’d chosen to go into it weren’t right, so I changed them, and that actually helped. It helped me to see the words again. Never underestimate the positioning and relevance of a great picture in amongst your words. The ones I had before weren’t saying anything at all, and once changed, I could write again. It’s sometimes the unexpected things that can stop your flow…
Here are some great pieces talking about the same thing…