I am delighted to introduce this guest post from author S.D. Robertson on how to beat writer’s block. So, without further ado…
Most authors have suffered from writer’s block at some point.
So what is it and why does it happen?
In my experience, it’s never been quite the same as it tends to get portrayed in TV shows or movies, when writers find themselves unable to produce anything at all. In these deliberately dramatic fictional scenarios, the mere act of sitting down in front of a computer keyboard can be enough to spark items being hurled across the room in frustration.
What I’ve been through is more subtle, but still very unhelpful. For me it’s never been that complete inability to produce new work, but rather a loss of confidence in my capacity to create something decent.
In other words, I can still physically write, but when I do so, I’m constantly unhappy with what’s being produced. I feel indecisive about my plot and characters; I find myself not wanting to write, for fear of these things continuing or getting worse.
Then procrastination kicks in, so I find myself doing all kinds of things instead of writing: fixing computers, rearranging my bookshelves, cleaning the car, you name it.
It’s around this point that I’ve always managed to get myself back on track so far. Maybe if I hadn’t, I would have eventually reached the stage of not being able to write anything at all. I hope never to find out.
In my case, deadlines are a great motivator. As a former newspaper journalist, it’s been drummed into me that you never miss a deadline. So if I’m feeling blocked, I often remind myself of the date by which I have to deliver my manuscript.
This can be enough to get me writing again. However, it doesn’t help with the loss of self-confidence, which I see as the underlying cause of the block.
Getting that back is harder, but I find it helpful to think about how long it took me to become a published author and all the obstacles I overcame to get here.
I remind myself that it’s my dream job; sometimes I even read back a few of the lovely comments I’ve received from readers who’ve enjoyed my work.
Regular short breaks from the computer screen, preferably involving fresh air, are often helpful in terms of putting things into perspective.
I find that listening to instrumental music (lyrics are too distracting) can be a good way to get back ‘into the zone’.
Writing in a different location to normal can also prove useful.
But most importantly, I actually write. I sit down behind my computer and type one word after another until they start to add up. I try to resist looking back or overanalysing what I’ve just written. I concentrate on looking forward.
Basically, I write myself out of the block, keeping on going until things return to normal and then breathing a sigh of relief.
Self-doubt is par for the course when you’re someone who creates things for a living, baring your soul and holding yourself up to public scrutiny. But it’s something you have to manage.
Writer’s block comes from within – and so does the ability to beat it. Convincing yourself that you can do so is the first big hurdle. Trust me, once you’re over that, you’re well on your way to normal service being resumed.
Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his job as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming an author and to spend more time with his wife and daughter. His third novel, Stand By Me (Avon, £7.99), is a heart-warming story about the power of friendship. It was published on 11 January 2018.
I’d like to thank Avon – especially Sabah Khan, and S.D. Robertson for giving me the opportunity to bring this post to you.