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Short story writing: writer's block, part 1

Many of us will come up against periods when we would like to be writing but just cannot do it - periods in which the difficulty seems much greater than the difficult patches we expect as a matter of course, and seems to go on for much longer. We may have no ideas at all, or ideas which fizzle out as soon as we try to develop them, or we may have become stuck in the middle of a piece of work and feel we cannot go on with it. There is no one type of writer's block, and no one solution, but I do think there are some useful things we can say about it.

The first is that it is important to make the effort to overcome writer's block. The longer we allow it to continue on one occasion the longer it is likely to persist on the next, and if we give in to it altogether there is a danger it might become permanent. 'Making the effort' might mean forcing ourselves to do something we don't want to do, but it does not necessarily have to be that way, and we need to recognise that there might be times when we exacerbate the problem by making too much effort, and that what we really need is a holiday. If we have recently finished a difficult piece of work, for example, we may simply be exhausted and need some time off to allow the batteries to recharge.

The second is to take into account that writing is emotional work as much as intellectual, and draws on the unconscious mind as much as the conscious. There are probably unconscious emotional forces at work in writer's block, and the method we employ to try and un-block ourselves should acknowledge this. The block may not be simply an absence of ideas about how to carry on, there may be a presence of feelings actively working against carrying on. We might be able to get our ideas flowing again if we can find out what those feelings are and give them a chance to express themselves.

The method of un-blocking we find effective on one occasion might be the complete opposite to the method which works on another. Sometimes we might find what works is to force ourselves to sit down and write, and keep on writing, no matter how painful it feels or how bad the writing seems until eventually the block gives way and we find our writing flowing again. At other times we might find the solution is to put writing completely out of our minds and enjoy doing things completely unconnected with writing for a week, or a month, or more. During the break we might think about whether we have come adrift from the reasons we started writing in the first place, and discover that we can reconnect with that original motivation.

The key to overcoming writer's block is to try. The idea of 'disrupting routines' which I mention in the article on Inspiration can help with writer's block, (perhaps writing itself had become too much of a routine?) but I would like to suggest a couple other ways of trying to get the creativity flowing again, in Writer's Block part 2.

Writer's block part 2 >

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