Hello, guys! Today is my stop on Polly James’ blog tour for her latest novel, ‘Would Like to Meet’ and I have the pleasure to welcome lovely Polly to my blog with a brilliant guest piece. ‘Would Like to Meet’ was just released a few days ago and looks like a super fun and funny book. My copy is already waiting on my kindle and I can’t wait to start reading it. I’d like to say MASSIVE THANKS to amazing Helena from AvonUK and lovely Polly for the chance to be part of this blog tour. Read on for her post and make sure you follow the other tour hosts for more awesome content.
7 ways to overcome writer’s block, by Polly James – PART 1
The trouble with having no ideas is that you need ideas to beget ideas, if that’s not the most confusing sentence ever written. I’ve spent many hours staring hopelessly at a screen myself, but now I doubt that writer’s block really exists. (I know that’s another supremely confusing statement, especially when I’m supposed to be suggesting ways to deal with it, but bear with me.)
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve proved to myself time and time again that, if you have to write, then you can always find something to write about, even if that something seems completely bonkers at first glance.
The secret is to learn how to generate ideas while preventing yourself becoming overwhelmed by writer’s block, which may sound illogical when I’ve just questioned if it even exists – but that doesn’t matter, if you believe it does. While you remain convinced it’s affecting you, it’ll stop you writing even if it is just a figment of your imagination, so here are my tips for dealing with it, and for sparking ideas when you can’t think of any.
- Analyse the cause of your writer’s block.
Are you genuinely blocked, or just in a panic? In my case, I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that my ‘writer’s block’ is usually just a matter of perception, caused by the terror induced by a blank page.
I’m a worrier at the best of times, and almost any form of stress causes a rapid increase in adrenalin that impairs my ability to concentrate on anything – apart from the negative thoughts that usually trigger the panic in the first place. And very little scares me more than a blank page does.
Maybe it’ll help other writers if I share what usually happens once I sit down to write.
I turn on the computer, open a new document, then feel jittery almost as soon as I look at the blinking cursor at the top of that vast white page. That’s when the first unhelpful thought arises:
“What on earth am I going to write about? Oh, my God.”
After that, I stare at the page some more, then think much the same thought over and over again, with slight amendments to the swearing part. Within a few minutes, my concentration’s totally shot, and all I can manage is a litany of even more unhelpful thoughts.
“I can’t think of anything. My mind’s a BLANK!”
“I’ve got writer’s block, just like John Salinger. I’ll never write again.”
Obviously, I’d be far less of a loss to the literary establishment than Salinger was if I never wrote another word, but that never occurs to me at the time. Instead, I just carry on telling myself this absolute nonsense, until I’m tempted to give up writing altogether – and fake my own death while I’m at it.
I bet you’re way ahead of me by now, and have already spotted where I go wrong during scenarios like this: right at the beginning, when I first react to a blank page as if it were a major threat. After that happens, everything that follows is a classic case of the ‘fight or flight’ response, due to all the chemical changes that occur in the body once that response has been activated.
At that point, I can’t think creatively at all, other than to imagine every catastrophe that will befall me when I can’t fill this stupid bloody page. (Excuse the language. Stress makes me a bit sweary, too.) It’s a bit of crazy situation to find yourself in when your dream is to be a professional novelist, so if I hadn’t developed this set of techniques to deal with it, I doubt I’d ever have finished writing a single book.
Of course, I may just be a freak, but if anything I’ve described rings a bell with you, then my first tip is to carry on reading this and then to try some of the things that have worked for me. (Worked so far, I mean. I’m far too neurotic to risk tempting fate by getting cocky about my chances of never having to fake my own death to get out of a book contract some time in the future.)
- Tell yourself that writer’s block does not exist.
If someone pointed a gun at your head, (which I obviously hope they never will), and then they said they’d shoot you if you didn’t write, you can bet your arse you’d write. Anything, even if it was only gibberish.
- Don’t be dismissive of ideas that seem like gibberish.
One of the best examples of imaginary writer’s block occurred when I was writing my blog, “Mid-Wife Crisis”, under the pseudonym of Molly Bennett.
I’d set myself the lunatic task of writing a novel in blog posts, and then I made that already-stupid idea even more idiotic by committing to writing a scene-length blog post every single day for a whole year. I ended up working so many hours, seven days a week, that I rarely had time to leave the house or even to chat with my husband or my kids. (It was definitely the stupidest idea I’ve ever had, and that is really saying something.)
Anyway, one day my husband came home from work to find me in tears, and claiming that I now had the worst case of writer’s block I’d ever had. The deadline for publishing the day’s post was only about two hours away, and I hadn’t written a word during the eight hours I’d already spent staring at the screen that day. (The blog had an avid and influential readership by then, so missing a deadline mattered more than you might expect.)
I couldn’t think of a thing to write. Not one single thing.
“Tell me about something interesting that happened at work today,” I begged my husband.
“Nothing interesting happened at all,” he said. “I spent the whole day bored out of my mind.”
I may have glared at him at that point, which encouraged him to elaborate.
“Seriously, we had no customers, and the staff just talked about the most boring stuff you’ve ever heard,” he said. “I almost lost the will to live.”
He went to walk off to make himself a coffee, but I grabbed his arm to stop him going.
“WHAT boring stuff?” I said. “I’m desperate, don’t forget. What was the longest conversation you guys had about?”
“An ‘artisan’ scotch egg,” said my husband. He rolled his eyes, as if that statement had proved his point.
It hadn’t, much to his amazement, because I ended up getting numerous blog posts out of that Scotch egg, and a whole new plot-line, too. (The egg was given to Molly – the main character – by a colleague of her husband, a colleague Molly already suspected of having designs on him. When Molly developed food poisoning overnight, she thought her suspicions had been confirmed…)
Read part 2 of Polly’s post on One More Page blog.