Giorgia Cowan addresses the common affliction of writers’ block and searches for ways to overcome it.
You’re on a date. You have been trying to get a date with this person for weeks and it’s going well, great even. Conversation is flowing smoother than the gravy on your dinner plate. You talk about the art of making perfectly smooth gravy and actually manage to make it sound interesting. Then without apparent reason you’re quiet. Your date looks at you and waits. You try to think of something interesting to say but instead your tongue dries up and lies in your mouth like a dead rodent. You pick up your fork and shovel the last pieces of broccoli into your mouth to excuse the silence – then resort to doing the same with the parsley garnish. You say something awkward like ‘boy I’m thirsty’ and order a large, strong, drink. The only thing flowing now is alcohol and the sweat down your back as your date checks the time.
Little produces the same combined sense of frustration, fear, and failure for a writer than suddenly running out of ideas. The anguish that comes with having no words of wit or wisdom worth committing to a hard-drive – let alone a hardback – is demoralising. You berate yourself and question whether you should be in this ‘profession’ at all. Writers, after all, write.
The subject of writers’ block is often met with eye-rolling incredulity – as though the writer is just being lazy. Alternatively, it is sometimes treated with enough serious consideration to call it a ‘condition’ and conduct research into its causes. One way or another, all writers will experience it at some point and want to know, desperately, how to overcome it. When discussing the issue with writers a few possible cures come up regularly enough to be worth sharing.
To start simply and obviously, writers block is in the mind. Pressure can incapacitate you and make a passing problem worse. It’s okay to stop reprimanding yourself, take time out, and start again with a clearer head. In addition to this, writing is almost exclusively a solitary pursuit. It’s no surprise if sitting alone, in the same room, in silence, day after day, doesn’t fill you with inspiration or enthusiasm. Get out and get stimulated in any way you can. See the outside world and talk to different people. Find some way to get out of your own head.
After you have metaphorically splashed your face with cold water the most often given advice is that which at first seems too absurdly unhelpful to consider: just write – anything. Open a book of creative writing exercises and do one. Do another. Write about anything and keep doing it. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing or if you think it’s not going anywhere. Some writers find some of their best work amidst these seemingly trivial projects. No matter how often you come up with rodent tongue the solution given most often is almost obnoxiously simple: just keep writing.