Three Great Tricks for Combating Writer’s Block
I would guess that every writer encounters writer’s block at some stage. Some are plagued by it throughout their careers. It could be caused by the pressure of writing that difficult second book, an imminent deadline, or sheer mental exhaustion. Here are my three favourite solutions for overcoming this dastardly condition.
1) Leave Home!
When I am at home, the smallest sound can prevent me from writing. Even total silence can be distracting. I will look around the room and think of every minor household task that I would normally show no interest in doing. “The tops of those cupboards,” I might say to myself, “are extremely dirty. I bet nobody has dusted them in years. I had better do that before I start writing.”
On the other hand, when I am on my own in a cafe, the laptop open on the table in front of me, nothing distracts me from the task at hand. The music system can play the worst music in the world at volumes guaranteed to produce deafness at a 100 paces, small children can have major meltdowns right by my feet, my head can become the midpoint in a plate-throwing contest, and a small earthquake can cause every single car siren in the neighborhood to start blaring; I will just keep writing.
2) Get Moving!
Any exercise is good for the imagination, but the best kind, from a writing point of view, is the kind of exercise you can do on your own, with the minimum of input from your conscious mind. Walk along a country path (avoid roads where cars will be an issue) or swim in a pool that isn’t too busy. While you are doing this, think about what you want to be writing. Do not force yourself to focus on plot or character development, just allow the story to float around in your mind. Eventually, ideas should surge into your head.
3) Just Write!
Do this writing exercise: Pick any character, preferably from the book or story you are working on, and place them in any random place or situation. Describe what the character is doing in that situation, however mundane. It could be as dull as “she made herself some coffee, putting several scoops of ground java into a cafetiere and adding some boiling water from the kettle. While she waited for the coffee to brew, she stood morosely against the counter for several moments before deciding that it would be nice to have a chocolate chip cookie as well. She opened the door of the cupboard and looked for the tin of chocolate chip cookies. There it was, where she had left it the last time. Using her nails, she prised the tin open….”
That is the kind of thing I mean. It can be as dull as you like. In some ways, the more mundane the better, because your imagination will then leap in like a literary superhero, hoping to rescue the situation with a bit of excitement. Just as you are thinking about what kind of biscuit would most suit your character’s personality, a nearby explosion will shake the foundations of the house, causing her coffee to spill and burn her fingers.
Safie Maken Finlay is a novelist and writer of things other than novels. She was born in London, England, and has an eclectic background, but she has lived most of her life in Ireland and considers it to be her home. She lives there now with her family in a house overlooking the mountains, surrounded by curious cows, goats who believe they are human, an inexplicable number of hens named after Star Wars characters, some bouncing saliva machines (or dogs, as they are sometimes called), and one slightly perplexed cat. Safie is the author of The Galian Spear, the first novel in a fantasy adventure series for children aged nine and over. She has also edited several published works and reviews books for the Swallows Nest Children’s Books Site. Safie is supposed to be writing two novels, but she is frequently found tweeting instead. If you notice her on Twitter, please tell her to switch off the Internet and go back to work. If you wish to find out more about Safie or her books, you are very welcome to visit her website: www.safiemakenfinlay.com