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Writers' Block and How to Beat It

Updated on December 15, 2019
The Land Down Under
The Land Down Under

Ego Malfunction

According to Merriam –Webster, Writers’ Block is - a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.

Apparently this blockage can last for weeks or years. In some cases it has forced a writer to abandon his career. (Pardon my temerity, but if a writer has been forced to abandon his career because of writers’ block, could it be that said writer has made a poor choice of careers?)

According to John MacNab, Writers’ Block is a psychological synonym for psychological procrastination.

‘Writers’ Block’ sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Luckily there is no such thing as ‘Coach Driver’s Block’ which prevents the driver from proceeding with the journey, or ‘Airline Pilots’ Block’, preventing the pilot from proceeding with the flight.

‘Writers’ Block’ is a highfalutin description for your brain and fingers seizing up. We’ve all been there; your in the zone and your fingers are flying over the keyboard when, from out of the blue, your character isn’t the one you envisaged; you’ve lost your stream of thought, or you’ve forgotten the whole point of the article.

You’ve heard of wardrobe malfunction? You’re having an ego malfunction.

The evil laptop
The evil laptop

Do not stop writing

When you use the expression, ‘writers block’, people automatically assume that you have physically stopped writing. Even if you have stopped putting pen to paper, or your fingers have frozen on the keyboard, you haven’t stopped writing. Mentally, writers never stop writing. When it happens to me, and I look blankly at the screen, I always remember the advice of a Blogging Buddy.

Write now, worry later. Write now, polish later. Editing - start anywhere.

The point of this little ditty is simple; Even if your character, stream of thought, or article’s purpose have temporarily vanished - you can still write. Go back and polish some earlier chapters. Go back and edit some earlier writing, or keep writing absolute garbage until your mind and fingers become re-acquainted.

But do not stop writing.

Don’t give up and decide to make beekeeping your new hobby or career just because you’ll have some honey to show for it at the end of the year, and not the migraines and bloodshot eyes you have just now.

I had writer’s block/procrastination near the end of December. I was on the 3rd chapter of my e-book, when I lost the place. The idea for the novel had been swirling about in my mind for over two years, and to me it is an ingenious concept. All of a sudden I didn’t know where to go, and I was considering just leaving it on the 3rd chapter and convincing myself that I couldn’t possibly do it. That way, I could always slip into the conversation the fact that I was writing a book, and maybe even believe it myself.

Present from Santa
Present from Santa

The Rosie Project

I so looked forward to the Christmas holidays. The others in the family looked forward to presents, booze and turkey. I looked forward to a perfect excuse for not writing without that guilty feeling. When it came to New Year resolutions, I was careful not to make any. When I was asked what my resolution was, I avoided the question by turning it towards the questioner and listening intently to their answers. When the question inevitably swung back towards me, I had a sudden bladder problem that couldn’t wait.

One of my Christmas presents was a touch screen KOBO, an advance on my older Kindle. It wasn’t something I’d asked Santa for, but I accepted it gracefully and because it was a present, I actually looked up the instruction manual and found out how to work it. As I was also given a $25 gift card as a part of the present, I downloaded two $4.99 books.

My usual reading material is in the Lee Child, Clive Cussler category, but there were none in that grouping. Instead I chose two books which appeared to be humorous.

The Rosie Project by New Zealand born Graeme Simsion, and The 100 Year old Man who climbed out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson. I convinced myself that I had to read the books, as it wouldn’t be polite not to – and it gave me an infallible excuse not to write.

The Rosie Project was enchanting; it was the most refreshing book I’d read in years. It was intriguing, romantic, humorous and innovative. If you are suffering from an outbreak of self doubt and ego malfunction, I recommend that you read The Rosie Project.

It takes a Village to Raise a Child

As you read The Rosie Project, you will become more and more despondent.

Your assumption will be that because the book cost only $4.99 and is an e-book that it is the writer’s first book, and if this is the quality of a first novel, you are wasting your time and your life, pretending to write yours. Never, ever, could you write a book to this standard. It is a truly not-put-downable book, and you are liable to finish it at 2.30am.

When you waken up the next morning, take time to read the author’s acknowledgements. Most acknowledgements thank a couple of people. These acknowledgements go on for 4 pages. And the first sentence may make you even more despondent. It reads -

‘The Rosie Project was written quickly,’ but read on and your despondency will fade away, as you recognise the irony.

The author Graeme Simsion acknowledged all the help he was given in writing his first novel. He was helped in his writing by his PhD wife, who was also a writer. He also thanked the team at his editors and publishers. Apart from that, The Rosie Project began as a screenplay, and an original draft defining the characters was published in 2007. Apparently the first draft was completed in 2008, and even then the author was trying to figure out whether to make it a drama or a comedy.

Not only did the author have writing friends, editors and publishers at his beck and call, he had help from two film producers and 2 comedians. The screenplay was given a reading by talented actors, who helped to cut out unnecessary dialogue. The Australian Writers Guild helped, and he was also in a hard working writers group. The novel won the Victoria Premier’s literary award, for the best unpublished novel for 2012.

The Rosie Project may be his first novel, but he has previously published 2 books and several papers about data modelling, whatever that is. He was 50 when he decided to become a writer, and the novel had taken 6 years from concept to fruition.

You are reminded of the saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ In this case, the saying should read, ‘It takes a continent to write a novel.’

The Rosie Project had an affect on me. It proved to me that a small matter of Writer’s Block, made no difference to Graeme Simsion. He believed in his work so much that he fought through adversity for six years to get his work published - which gives me a margin of another four years.

A writer's cup of cold coffee
A writer's cup of cold coffee

What do you have in Common?

After you’ve closed the KOBO, ponder awhile. Do you and Mr. Simsion have anything in common? No? But if it meant making $1.8million - did I forget to mention that the international rights have been sold for $1.8 million, and Sony have taken an option on the screenplay - you could be persuaded to have everything in common.

You could marry a PhD writer if necessary, even if your wife objected to a ménage-a -trios. If needed, you could cultivate a friendship with an editor and publisher, and begin searching for film producers and directors. Joining a writers' group would be easier, and as for comedians and actors, there are plenty of those in the office. As for moving to Australia, you'll start learning Aussie immediately.

Relax - you already have something in common with Graeme Simsion - the ability to write creatively. Mr Simsion could be you in a few years time. He didn’t give up throughout the 6 years. He was stubborn and determined to the end. He has shown what can be achieved by hard graft and belief - despite the occasional Writers' Block.

So tell your writers’ block to take a hike; open up that laptop and get writing.

As for the character you are having trouble with? Remember that you created that character; you can just as easily destroy it.


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