Seven Simple Strategies to Cure Writers' Block Forever!

I've always been loath to tackle the subject of writer's block. A personal, largely superstitious thing - but still I get asked what writers should do about it - all the time!

So here goes:

1. Crisis, What Crisis?

First off, you need to deny that there is any such thing as writer's block. This debilitating condition can only hurt you when you give it the privilege of a concrete name. Take away its name and you begin to take away its power over you.

Tell yourself, there is no such thing as writer's block. There is writing and not-writing. Only writers have a name for something they're NOT doing.

Think about the absurdity of builder's block, or doctor's block, or pilot's block. Any kind of inability to write is similarly absurd.

Writing is like breathing - something you learned to do a long time ago without thinking. Stop thinking about it - and just do it!

2. Stop! In the Name of Love.

If you've run out of ideas or you're struggling over the next sentence, take a break.

Many writers agree that a short pace around the garden, or a quick stint at housework, taking a shower or partaking in a brief period of meditation can help to shift your mindset away from a block.

You need to interrupt mental stagnation by briefly doing something else. Again, you need to stop thinking about the writing and give your mind the space to develop another way in.

A short break will give you a new perspective. Don't think about the writing, focus on the ideas, then go back to your desk and put those thoughts on paper, or the screen.

3. Everybody Say, Word Up.

Play with words. Make a game of it. For instance, take two unrelated words from the dictionary and make a sentence out of them.

Make a list of cues to pin on your wall. My first kiss, my best train ride, the last time I saw Paris etc. When stuck, use your cues to kick start your mind. Don't write, simply notate your thoughts.

Describe anything in your room. Describe someone you know from memory. Anything to get images on the page.

Again, don't think about the words, think about the thing you're describing - the characteristics, the emotions evoked, the conclusions made - and put those impressions onto the screen.

The quality of the writing is unimportant. Getting your thoughts out is all that matters.

4. Twas a Dark and Stormy Night...

Every writer has been there before you. See how they made it through by taking a book and copying out a paragraph, word for word.

Edit it. Try rephrasing some of the syntax, the clauses, the dialogue. When you do this, you're in another writer's mind.

Not so different from your own, is it?

All of us writers live in the same place. Some of us - the more prolific - are just better adjusted to the environment. They see the reality within and behind the words. Don't let the words get in the way. They're not important. What is important is relating the thoughts and impressions that the words represent.

Get past the words, leapfrog them, to get to the images in your mind. Don't say you don't have any ideas because your brain is full to the brim of them - and the more you write, the more you'll realize the truth of this phenomenon.

5. Gah! You Cannot Be Serious.

There's nothing quite like reading something terrible to make you feel you could do better.

Choose a dire paperback, read and scoff, then get back to your desk.

Whatever you do, don't stop and think about writing. Thinking about writing is not the same as writing.

The only time I ever got blocked was around ten years ago when a writer friend told me a story of mine didn't make sense. It took me a whole year to realize that no amount of thinking was ever going to improve the story. I sat down then to fix it.

More writing and editing is the only way forward. Stop writing and you die a little, and your writing dies with you.

6. I'll Have What She's Having

If you can't raise the enthusiasm to write, fake it.

Habit is king when it comes to writing. The more you do it, the easier it gets - because you lose the inhibitions created by lack of practice.

Plus, when you spend ten minutes writing, even if you're not really enjoying it at first, then somehow the subconscious kicks in and begins to write for you.

You've got to bypass the logical rational mind - the critic - and go to the source of your creativity, the subconscious - that never-ending well of ideas that is always bursting for a means of expression.

From childhood we are taught to suppress out imagination. As writers, we need to consciously become kids again. Let your inner mind run free and make mischief.

7. Take This and Come Back in a Week

Here's the solution to writer's block that always works.

Write it out.

When you're blocked, tell the page, I'm blocked. Ask for guidance, in writing. Work through your block on the screen, typing one painful word after the other if necessary.

"Come on, brain, you've got to help me. What should I write now? Just one more line, that's all I need to get me back on track."

Don't stop until the block has passed. ONLY stop when you feel you could write more. Always leave a little extra writing in reserve for the next time. Tomorrow.

In general, whatever you do, don't wait for inspiration.

Not only does this approach not work, it's messing with your brain and giving it all the wrong messages about writing being some kind of special activity. It's not.

Writing should be automatic to you. Just something you do, like eating, breathing or sleeping.

Now, I hate to put a downer on stuff at this point but if none of the above seven strategies work, then maybe you need to give up.

Because, simply put, if you're not writing regularly, you're not really a writer - and maybe you never will be. So stop beating yourself up and shut down that avenue. Stop torturing yourself and go back to chopping wood for a living.

Does this idea scare you?

It should. Because at this point you have two choices.

Stop now, for good - or go write something!

Best of luck, my friend.

I know you can do it.

Keep writing!

(c) Rob Parnell

The Trouble with Writing

It's hard enough to actually get the words on paper - but after that you have to do the self promotion thing. That's when you find out that, rather than the world clamoring to read you work, you're just one of thousands upon tens of thousands of writers in exactly the same place.

Writing a book used to be the goal - that many splendorous achievement that marked you out as special. Now?

Join the queue.

Getting publishers interested in your book is - and always was I guess - a total uphill struggle. But it's getting worse.

The whole publishing industry seems set up to say 'no', before you've even had time to pitch your idea, hone your proposal or edit down your synopsis.

Publishers explain they already have a huge back catalogue of work they have yet to publish, that, really, they don't need to see your manuscript, even before they know what it's about.

But then you read that traditional publishing is on the way out anyway. Kindle apparently is taking over - and within a mere year or two the majority of books sold will be electronic.

Not sure if I believe that but even Governor Schwarzenegger has famously recently vowed to 'terminate' the written book.

There's always self publishing - but this is turning into a minefield and a nightmare combined for the average wannabe author.

There're many companies already on line whose sole aim seems to be to take your money, make you poorer and do nothing much to help you or your work.

Self publishing - I know because I do it - shouldn't cost you more than around $500 for 50 books. That's the reality. That's how much it actually costs. So why do others charge you around $5000 or $15000?

These companies use the fact that writers find it so hard to get published to fatten their wallets at your expense.

Talk about profiteering.

Need an agent?

Fugedaboudit.

Agents are besieged by writers' work they can't sell. Even when you get one - and we've had a few - our experience is that they find it just as hard (and sometimes harder) to get our work published as we do.

Think that having an agent gives you an edge in the publishing world?

Uh-uh.

Times ain't like that anymore.

And here again there are individuals who call themselves agents - who prey on writers desperation to be represented - and rip you blind before you can say, "Can you please read my book?"

It's enough to make you despair!

Fact is, you're most likely to sell books if you a) self publish them - by which I mean finding a cheap POD printer and doing it yourself and then b) going on a speaking tour of your local libraries and shops and physically selling your books out of the trunk of your car.

I know traditional publishers who suggest you do this this anyway - they call it a 'launch tour' - difference being they will take 90% of the cover price of your book. At least when you self publish you get to keep 50% or more.

I read an editor's blog recently that said in 2008-9, 99% of all books sold less than 200 copies each - and that includes the books sold by traditional publishers.

Makes you want to seriously reconsider your decision to be a writer, doesn't it?

But still we do it.

I write every day. I have four fiction books I want to get out there - when I'm done editing.

We have books published. Over a hundred between us - and the royalties are good but, of course, could be better.

This last couple of years our income from self published books has actually overtaken our income from publishers. This marks the dilemma we're facing.

Is it really worth hawking around the publisher's circuit anymore? After all, they can take up to a year - and sometimes longer - to reject a MS. That's way too long to make a writer wait in my view.

Far better to take the bull by the horns (don't you just hate cliches) and do it ourselves.

I think this is what the future holds for writers. We gotta do it ourselves. Build the following one reader at a time. Get ourselves out there and sell our books one at a time - and make a small profit from each one.

Take back control from an industry that is finding it increasingly hard to support us with the onslaught of new technology.

Refuse to get sucked in to those companies and individuals who prey on writer's dreams.

Make the decision.

Decide to take back control over our destinies - and let those big publishing companies know their days are numbered.

Thanks for letting me rant.

Keep writing!

(c) Rob Parnell