Updated: Oct 31, 2022
In Part 1 of this article, we looked at some of the psychological and physiological reasons why we become 'stuck,” unable to move forward with our writing, or change direction or even move back. Our minds are full of tricks. There is no end to the excuses we give ourselves for why we are not writing. And the funny thing is they all make sense at the time. That load of washing has to be done; we need to walk the dog; the library book is ready to be picked up; Suzy wants to meet us for coffee, and so on. We flit restlessly from one distraction to another, feeling guilty and inadequate because we are not writing.
It is possible to sabotage our own writing process subconsciously. We may have gained a great deal of knowledge, techniques and advice by attending writing courses, writing retreats, writing workshops, writers’ conferences, writers’ groups, reading books and reading copious blog articles on writing. We have built up a rich databank of the how, what, who, where and when of writing. But when you sit down to write, it is just you and the screen or pad in front of you. Before you begin, wipe your mind clear of your writing databank because it can block your creativity. You find yourself trying to factor in everything you know which will jam up your writing. Clear away the clutter and take control of your mindset. A simple meditation technique is often helpful:
“Close your eyes, breathe steadily in and out from your diaphragm and follow the
movement of each breath, in and out of your body, until you feel calm and centred. Allow
the chatter in your mind to subside gradually. When an intrusive thought comes into your
mind, notice it and brush it away. When you are ready, open your eyes, still doing the
conscious breathing. Are you feeling calm and clear?”
Once your mind is free of the clutter, there is still the blank page or screen in front of you. What follows are three practical techniques for “unblocking” the writer’s brain:
1. Move Away From your Writing Zone
Stumped and staring blankly at the screen, Jordan is determined to make his daily 800 word target. So far today, he has written 53 words and cannot get the next sentence down on the page. If he could only write that sentence! The more pressure he piles on to himself, the more his brain refuses to let him think and imagine and write. A couple more hours pass, and Jordan has become even more frustrated and irritated and is still stuck at 53 words.
Stop, shut down your laptop, close your writing pad. Don’t look at what you have written. Move away from your desk, computer and leave the room, closing the door behind you. Do something completely different, ideally something active. Make some banana bread, go for a brisk walk, arrange to have a coffee with a friend, do some gardening, or play silly games with your children or grandchildren. As you do these other activities, focus solely on them, notice and reject the intruding thoughts about your writing. How long should you stay away from your writing zone? I’d suggest at least one whole day and see how it goes. When you sit down to write again, you could start with one of the following two techniques.
2. Write the Most Boring Thing You Can Think Of
A letter writer to The Review section of “The Weekend Australian” on June 11-12, 2022 talked about how writer’s block struck when he was writing a book of short stories, “Nothing would form, and so I thought, ‘What is the most boring thing I can think of? … A man walking on the side of a hill! And I began to walk with him. I began to smell the grass, feel the crispness of the wind as it ruffled my trouser legs. I looked up and saw the view and the story began.”
In another example of the ‘write boring stuff’ technique, the writer E.L. Doctorow told the story how he didn’t have a single idea for a book so he started writing about the wall in front of him, then about the window and the garden, and the next thing he knew, he had written ‘Ragtime.” (‘Novel Voices,’ edited by J. Levasseur and K. Rabalais, 2003, pp 236-237)
3. Write About What You’re Going to Write
Stop straining to write the next scene in your book. Instead, write about what you are going to write (This technique is from 'Seven Drafts" e.book by Allison K. Williams, 2022, page 60):
“In the next scene, Pam and her mother will be in the kitchen having a cuppa and
a date scone, discussing how Bobby wants his Mum to sell the farm. As usual,
he will be playing on Mum’s sympathies and her love for him as her only son. He
will be telling her how he desperately needs capital to put into his business
otherwise it is going to fail. He will say, “Mum, I think it’s the best decision to sell;
for you too because out here on the farm, you could easily have a fall and there’s
no one to help. Mum, at your age, it’s not safe to stay living on the farm.” Pam will
interrupt and angrily accuse her brother, “You won’t be satisfied until ….”
And so it morphs from writing about what you will write into your actual writing of the story which, in my sample paragraph above, commences when the character Bobby says “Mum, I think it’s the best …. “
Your feedback on this article and suggestions for future articles are much appreciated. What are you writing? Maybe you've just finished a writing project and considering your publishing options.? Drop me a line on the form below - too easy!
Doing the write thing (and loving it!)