Fear of the blank page

What is the scariest thing for a writer? The blank page. Especially if, like me, you’ve been through several months of ‘writer’s block’.  How do you get through the block and get writing again?

Here are some suggestions, in no particular order.

  1. Write rubbish: just accept that whatever you write may be appalling but write it anyway, knowing that you can change it later. Write the opening sentence of your next scene, even if it is pedestrian and hackneyed. Keep writing. At some point, I promise you, something clicks, your critical brain is turned off, your creative brain takes control and that magical flow starts.
  2. Get something published: probably the best cure for writer’s block is the proof that what you are writing is worth someone else’s time reading. Consider putting some effort into sending stuff you’ve already written to competitions or magazines or agents.  You may as well use the time you’re not writing to be productive in a different way.
  3. Write something different: work on the timeline for your novel, the family trees for your characters, draw a map of the location, decide on the film stars who will star in the movie version.
  4. Eavesdrop: go somewhere (a café, a train, a pub) and listen to people talking.  Get some ideas, scribble down expressions and idioms from real speech.
  5. Go for a long walk. Many writers find that they have their best ideas when they are doing something physical and mindless like washing up, walking, ironing. Whatever yours is:  do it.
  6. Delve into your characters: complete a few character interviews and rough out some speech patterns for them.
  7. Procrastinate until you can’t bear it any more: do the chores, scrub the kitchen floor, clean out the fridge, weed the garden, dig the vegetable patch.
  8. Tidy your desk! (I’m sure it’s a mess…)
  9. Read your old stuff and enjoy it.
  10. Remind yourself who you are writing for and how much they are going to love this story.
  11. Have a look at the self-published books on Amazon and see how bad some of them are. Critique them, mock them, imitate them.
  12. Do some writing exercises: there are lots on the net. The one I found useful recently was a small book called ‘642 things to write about’. I made myself do one every day for a month. It was hard-going, I had to think about them, I couldn’t just write something good straight off, but reminded me that I still have an imagination, even if it is taking a while to get going these days.
  13. Get drunk and free write. Something exciting may emerge from the drivel.
  14. Write something completely different. Get your writers’ group to challenge you to write in a completely different style or genre. Or try your hand at hexambic pentameters, flash fiction, haikus.
  15. Proof-read: always a good idea. Read your existing work out loud and give yourself a pound for every mistake you spot. Then spend the money on treating your writers’ group to dinner.

And what helped me most?  The excitement and validation of having a short story accepted by a magazine.  But it was a six months wait after sending the manuscript and getting an acceptance.  I’d given up!
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2 Responses to Fear of the blank page

  1. Steven says:

    Some nice ideas, thanks.

    My main strategy on such occasions is similar to your first suggestion, I write through it. That is, I push myself to write on, and see what I have later. Usually there’s something I can use. I also find writing to music helps. I’m not so sure about your last suggestion – that could be quite expensive for me! But I do get satisfaction through simple improvement of my work.

    And don’t forget: ‘write a blog post’. 🙂

    Congratulations on having your short story accepted for publication.

    Best cheer

    Steven

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