Saturday, 2 April 2011

Writer's Block - It's a cramp

If you’ve never gone through a period of ‘writer’s block’ then consider yourself fortunate.   I think of it as a cramp in the creative part of the brain that won’t let go, and it causes extreme emotional pain.
            You sit and stare at the blank page and the ideas just don’t come.   A thread of panic uncoils from somewhere deep inside you and it serves no purpose except to magnify the problem.   The more you think, the less you produce and the greater the panic.
            You tell yourself you’ve been writing too much over the past years, burning the candle at both ends on many occasions, and you’re mentally exhausted.   You pay a visit to your local pharmacist and ask him to prescribe something for you that will give you a mental boost, something to revive the old brain cells, and you go home with your precious package believing that you’ve found a miracle cure.   You give yourself a couple of weeks, telling yourself that the medication needs time to take root, but as the weeks go by you find that nothing has changed except that you’re so wide awake now your head is spinning.   You can’t sleep at night your brain is so active, but the thoughts flit through it at the speed of a bullet ricocheting from wall to wall in a room the size of a pantry.   It leaves you mentally breathless and frustrated.
            There is another kind of writer’s block where you know what you want to say, but you can’t find the right words.   It takes hours to write a paragraph because whatever you write just doesn’t sound right, so you do it over and over again, writing it this way and that way until you’re finally so exhausted you just don’t give a damn what it sounds like anymore.   You put it away and decide to leave it for the next day, you’re exhausted, you need the break, but your mind is like a dog with a bone, it won’t let go.   You get back to it the next day and it’s the same thing over again.   It’s like tapping water out of a tank.   You know it’s full, but when you open the tap the water comes out one reluctant drop at a time.
            I’ve experienced both of the above and all I can say is that there’s no point in fretting.   It only makes it worse.   Let it go and do something else, something creative that doesn’t require you to use the written word.   I’ve always enjoyed photography; it’s another form of expressing oneself.
            There is something else as well.   Don’t be too hard on yourself where your work is concerned.   If you’re too critical you could become your own worst enemy.   You might end up thinking your work is inferior when it is quite the reverse.   The biggest stumbling block for any writer is the belief that their work isn’t good enough.   It’s fine to be a perfectionist, but don’t let it destroy the creative juices.


  1. I have lived with you to understand and know what you go through, but fortunatly you always get over these spells very quickly.

  2. The story line you looking for will probably turn up at the most unexpected time like when you driving in the car and have no pen and paper on hand. Or as you about to turn into the petrol station to fill up the car. But take heart, it will come, just be sure to have a pen and paper handy when it does or your dicta-phone!

  3. Hi Yvonne,
    Don't beat yourself up - it happens. It happens to me all the time. Something I have found helps is to write to a formula- I use poetry, particularly poetry forms i have never used before. The discipline and maybe because I have never done THAT before seems to make my brain kick it up a notch.

    Something that has really helped me lately is the blog - forcing myself to write something for that every day gives me a wide range of structures and subjects to choose from. And once it gets going...

    Get a book from whatever genre you are writing in and read - that sometimes helps.

    good luck I will be sending you good writing thoughs... :)

  4. Thanks for your comment, Jo. In the end it is just discipline that sees one through those difficult spells. It's great to know that there's someone out there who understands.