Blank page, blank mind: Dealing with writer’s block

writers-block

Although I do write erotica and fictional pieces from time to time, much of my writing is factual, opinion pieces or promotional. It doesn’t make it any easier though. I still face the problem that every writer has experienced in their lifetime: writer’s block.

There is perhaps nothing that shakes your self-confidence as a writer so much as that blank document in front of you and absolutely no idea what you should put on it. You’re a writer; you should surely know at least where to begin. At times, the doubt and uncertainty can feel like such a monumental block that it doesn’t feel like you’ll ever conquer whichever piece of writing work you’re trying to accomplish. I can’t promise to remove your fears and writing block entirely, but I can share the activities that I have found to be of help when I find myself in this position. It’s more regularly than I would care to admit.

This article itself has presented more than a few occasions of blank-mindedness, over thinking and worrying about what I’m going to say. I’m not even taking part in NaNoWriMo; those of you that are have my utmost admiration!

Don’t try to write the finished piece in one sitting

It’s easy to pressure yourself to get a polished piece of perfection out in one go, or else it simply isn’t deemed ‘good enough’ to be sent to that publisher, posted on your site or submitted as a feature – or whatever your particular writing goal is. Perhaps you feel pressure from whichever authority has commissioned the writing, or the word count seems to mammoth to ever accomplish. I find it helps to throw ideas on to a piece of paper, or on a document on screen, to form the first rough draft of relevant notes. They can always be connected up and added to; that’s what pencils and erasers and the cut and paste functions are for.

Do something else

It’s no use sitting gazing at a blank document for hours on end if the words simply aren’t coming. It could be that a short break will revive your creative juices (I find a shower or a bite to eat helps on these occasions) but other times it will just be that today is not a writing day. Every day is a writing day, ideally, but we don’t live in an ideal world. It’s time we were big enough and brave enough to admit that we can’t be the best version of ourselves absolutely every single day. We all have down days, off days and days when our brains just don’t work as they should. Accept it and use the time to do something else, something positive, while your creativity restores in the background.

Read other people’s writing

I find it incredibly motivating and inspiring to read the talent created by other writers. Although their skills obviously surpass my own, reading their creative genius gives my inner writer a kick and spurs me on to try and create that particular imaginative or informative piece that awaits formation.

As well as nudging the muse, reading is in itself a distracting and calming activity. It can help take your mind off your own writing and lose yourself in someone else’s created world and characters. I often surface from a novel feeling mentally refreshed and ready to get back to my own keyboard.

Talk to other writers

There is a close knit community of writers, particularly erotic writers, who are very supportive of each other and will have no hesitation in providing a shoulder to cry on (even if those are digital shoulders and tears) or at least a listening ear about your writing woes. They will most likely have their own writer’s block anecdotes and tips about what they find helps when they’re in the same position.

Don’t write it

If a certain piece simply won’t make it’s way to the page, then there’s no use trying to force it. Perhaps it will happen in its own sweet time, or if the problem lies with a commissioned piece, maybe it simply isn’t stirring your inner muse. Instead of worrying through numerous sleepless nights, think how much more you could achieve if you simply let that one project slip aside. Ask yourself whether this piece of writing really is just proving a challenge or whether it’s an obstacle blocking your creative expression. It’s a difficult decision to make but sometimes its best to close one door to allow another to open.

I hope this article has given you a few handy pointers to see your way through the fog of writer’s block and help it lift as soon as possible. It’s an affliction which has affected all the writers I’ve spoken to at one time or another, so don’t feel like you’re the only one. If anyone has any amazing ideas and tips for combating writer’s block or other writing challenges, please comment on this post as we’d all love to learn more techniques.

Happy writing!

– Cara Sutra

9 COMMENTS

  1. Great piece, Cara! And, rather selfishly, I find it good to know that someone as prolific as you suffers from writer’s block occasionally too! Not in a mean way, just that it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who stares at the screen kicking myself for not finding the right words.

    My best writer’s block tip is usually to start in the middle. If I’m staring at a blank page, I usually have a general idea for what I want to actually say, it’s just I don’t know how to kick it off. So I’ll start with the second point I want to make, or the third, or even the conclusion, and then write the rest when I’ve got into the flow of things. Usually the first few bits I write end up being crap, but it’s much easier to edit down from something when you’ve at least got the vague ideas on the page than to try and push yourself to get something perfect the first time. I still cringe at a lot of the stuff I write, but sometimes it’s important to tell your inner editor to sod off, and embrace the part that just gets words down – no matter how inadequate – and then give yourself time to play around with them later. Hope that’s helpful for some people – I know everyone works in different ways but that tends to work fairly well for me!

    • Thanks GOTN – Don’t worry, I know what you mean! YOu seem to effortlessly come up with brilliant pieces all the time and I wonder how you do it! Nice to know we’re all in the same boat, even if it’s a source of frustration for all of us. Great tip there too… I must start in the middle much more and work backwards. I wonder if you always write in the same place or can write on the go? I tend to prefer total quiet to write in, and I write better at the desk although I can write from the sofa or bed too. Always with a proper springy keyboard though – can’t do with flat ones on devices or chiclet keys!
      Cara xxx

      • Ah, I definitely see what you mean about the keyboards – some are much harder to write on than others. I’ve only just got used to writing on a Macbook, with its skinny keys and sort of weird layout. I definitely can’t type well on tablets, although I have been known to occasionally compose blogposts on my phone. It’s a pain in the arse but worth it if I have an idea when I’m pissed that I’d forget otherwise!

        I’ve had a go at trying to work in e.g. coffee shops and stuff, but in general it’s much easier to write at home – I have a bit of a comfort zone and when I’m in it I can bash stuff out quite quickly. Do you find time of day makes a difference? It’s about 11:30 right now and I’ve been working since 7 ish, and now is the time when I start flagging – so so much more stuff gets done in the morning and then in the avo my mind just goes a bit blank and starts wandering. Definitely the worst time for writer’s block for me!

  2. Great tips Cara – and Girl on the Net.

    I’ve been struggling with the dreaded block for most of 2014 – I have written a novel a year for the past 6 years – but this year – I’ve struggled to produce 3 or 4 short stories… I even fear that I’ve said all I have to say (yikes) so I’ve had to find creativity in other ways. I thoroughly agree – if you’re in an encouraging and sympathetic community – such as the erotic one (fab links there) it really helps. Especially when you find out you’re not alone! I wouldn’t have even written those shorts had it not been for the encouragement of others.

    Thank you – mwoah x x x

  3. I suffer from writers block quite often. Sometimes it is highly frustrating. The best tip I came across, that helped me with my writers block, was to write down the questions, “What, when why, where and how”. I then try to answer them. So, starting with what; what is the message I am trying to get across? What are the key points to mention? What will this article provide my readers? What answers am I trying to give? (and so on). I focus on the specific topic and answer these questions, either mentally or actually written down (to jog my memory as I go) and this often helps me keep on track, or get across the message I had hoped to get across. It’s not always easy though. When I am really struggling (to the point I am getting frustrated) I will walk away and look at it with fresh eyes at a later date.

  4. Ooh, that’s a great tip – thanks GW! I get bogged down in detail far too much and end up waffling, so I’ll give this a go next time I need to write something more focused!

  5. If i find myself blocked i generally dump the keyboard and go back to pen and paper. There is something about pen and paper that makes me feel more connected to my work. I consider this a first and often scruffy first draft and after that transferring to the keyboard is much easier for me.
    Awesome piece as always Cara.

  6. I find that reading often helps me. Once I start getting exposure to other people’s ideas, mine will start to flow again.

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