One of the most common terms in a writer’s vocabulary is ‘writer’s block.’ This ubiquitous term encompasses a vast plethora of arguments which writers use to justify why they have not written a word, despite the numerous hours, headaches, and tears spent in front of the blank page.
My long time writing mentor, a brilliant writer we will call “L”, is of a philosophy with which I have most reluctantly found myself in agreement when it comes to this subject: writer’s block does not actually exist. Now, this is not to say that writing is easy or that there aren’t days where writers cannot find the time or words to craft their next chapter, scene, or even sentence. Instead, what “L” means is that there is no magic, invisible force preventing the writer from putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Instead, the writer is being “blocked” (if you will) by some very real, identifiable issues. Issues which, with time and practice, can be overcome.
Many possible solutions and suggestions exist in the idea of how to overcome the obstacles which might prevent one from writing. As with many other facets of life, each method is not a perfect fit, and it may not be included here. I offer only a partial list of what many professional writers recommend and have passed down to younger authors like myself. It is up to you, the individual writer, to discover what method works best for you on a personal level.
For myself, the most simplistic solution I can give is that writing is a matter of habit. The sooner an author gets into the habit of writing, the easier writing should become. Developing habitual writing requires a person to write every single day. Whether it is for fifteen minutes or several hours does not matter nearly as much as the act of writing itself.
This is a habit whose importance many professional authors stress. For example, at a recent speech given during the Dublin Writer’s Festival, bestselling author Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code) stated that while writing a book, he sets his alarm somewhere between 4 and 5 AM every morning, every day of the year. By doing this, Brown is able to ensure that he has time to write, undisturbed, for a least a few hours before other members of his household are even awake. He states this helps eliminate distractions and helps him to focus.
Not a morning person? (I know I am certainly not!) Perhaps try writing at night instead. Some of my best writing is done at the end of the day, when my other work is completed and I can use writing to help relax. The time of day, much like the amount of time, is far less relevant when compared to the importance of forming the habit of writing on a daily basis.
Now, once the issue of finding and setting aside the time to write has been established, there comes the issue of finding the words to put on the page. A common complaint is that, despite an author’s best efforts and their willingness to transcribe a character’s latest adventures, the character refuses to relate their tale to the author.
E.M. Forster once stated that characters, “arrive when evoked, but full of the spirit of mutiny.” Because of this, an author must often find ways to negotiate and connect with their characters in, at times, unusual ways. Personal favourites include 1) conducting an interview with the character in question 2) skipping ahead to a different scene or even 3) actually acting out the scene I am attempting to write (behind closed door with the curtains drawn with no audience… besides my cat). All of these methods may serve to help you find new ways to speak to characters when they become silent or uncooperative.
As I previously stated, these are just a few possibilities that may help the next time your characters aren’t in a talkative mood or the words simply aren’t flowing. Remember, like the majority of things in life, writing takes time, dedication, and often, lots and lots of practice.