Bypassing ‘the block’


Writer’s block is horrendous. I’m suffering from it right now, so I think I’ll grab a coffee.

Sometimes simple solutions, like running as far away from the computer screen as possible, can work wonders. But often they don’t, or else you simply don’t have time.

When you’re in the middle of an exam, floundering in the library on deadline day, or struggling in the office, writer’s block inevitably creeps up. There’s no putting the work off – you have to do it – but there are a couple of tricks that can help to ease the strain:

Close your eyes. Ten seconds of darkness is refreshing, and it helps to detach you from your work, if only for a moment. Staring blankly at a screen is unhealthy for you and your writing. Ten seconds of calm can sooth your frustrations and allow you begin writing afresh.

Quickly proof read. Look back over your work to spot any mistakes or inconsistencies. Doing so allows you to make improvements to what you have already, but it also reminds you of your ideas, and of the structure and narrative flow of your work.

Keep active. Even without moving from your chair, there are plenty of exercises that you can do to remain comfortable. Simply flexing your shoulders or stretching out your hands can keep you feeling fresh, and ‘the block’ is often the result of feeling lethargic.

Sing. With “Les Misérables” hitting the big screen, this is the perfect time to express yourself through the medium of song. Allow the thoughts that you know are there, but can’t quite distil onto paper, to burst from your lips. Ignore the bemused stares from your fellow library-goers, blot out the onrushing invigilator, and scrawl down the ideas as they flow.

Leisurely pace. When you have time on your hands, curing writer’s block is a little easier. If you’re struggling for ideas for the next chapter of your novel, or simply haven’t been in the mood to write up the freelance news report you’ve been working on, there are plenty of things you can do to help:

Read. Find a writer, poet, or even a journalist, whose work inspires you. I use  Ted Hughes. Put your own work out of mind and spend an hour or two appreciating the quality in front of you. Doing so should get the ideas swilling, or at least inspire you to flip open your notepad and get the first sentence down – that’s always the hardest part.

Stare at people. Take a stroll through town and find someone interesting or unusual – someone who looks like he or she has a remarkable story to tell. Be subtle, so as not to attract police attention. Observe the person’s mannerisms, demeanour and actions, and make notes. Once home, write up your notes. You’ll realise that you’ve written the next “The Diary of a Nobody” and that ‘the block’ is cured.

Writer’s block is never fun, and there is, unfortunately, no magic cure*. If you’ve been staring at the screen for more than a minute you’re wasting your time. Experience some of the world, either firsthand, or through a great book, and when you get back to the page begin writing instantly – once you’ve got the first sentence down, the rest will come a whole lot easier.

* I lied. There is a magic cure. If you are representing a brand, and you can afford it, simply hire a copywriting agency like Stratton Craig (won’t work for essays).

Written for Razz by Gregory Hoare, Exeter graduate, now working as a copywriter for Stratton Craig.

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