I always love it when writers share their tips on how they overcome writer’s block – especially when they joke that other professions (eg plumbers, dentists etc) don’t suffer blocks. They just rock up and get on with their jobs rather than waiting for the muse to strike.
In a recent Shortlist article with 20 tips from writers on writer’s block, writers recommend discipline, just getting on with it, imagining you’re writing for a friend or family member, and writing a first draft knowing that no one will see it.
The tip I’ve found from experience that can work extremely well comes from Charles Bukowski, who says: “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
Here’s a poem I wrote when I began to write up my MA dissertation and I sat in front of the screen, frozen, for about 20 minutes – knowing that what I was about to write really mattered, and I completely, utterly, absolutely had to get it right first time. That kind of pressure made me freeze. No piece of writing is right first time.
The Empty Screen
A feeling of dread snakes up my spine.
The hand of fear grips my guts.
Nausea sits in the back of my head.
My dizzy eyes look anywhere but
the punishing screen in front.
With that fear given to the poem, I no longer held the fear and I could face the blank screen and begin to fill it with an OK first draft that needed a lot of editing afterwards. Writing about writer’s block – in a poem, if you like, or as a piece of expressive writing – can shift the energy away from your terror and back into what you’re supposed to be doing: writing. Give it a go next time the dreaded writer’s block freezes you and let me know how you get on.