Are you unable to finish that novel but don’t know why? If you suffer from Writer’s Block, here are five ways to deal with it.
What is Writer’s Block?
I have to come clean: before I was writing my latest (7th) novel, due out later this autumn, I didn’t even believe in Writer’s Block. I agreed with Joanna Penn, who in her self-publishing advice podcast recently quoted a famous author (I forget who, sorry Joanna).
Truck drivers don’t get ‘Driver’s Block’. So why should authors be any different?
According to my tried and tested method, I’d planned out the new novel, which I knew would be the last The Nordic Heart Romance Series, quite some time ago. I’d done my research and I knew how I wanted to end the series. I was very happy with the plot before I started writing. But suddenly, about a third of the way through, I knew the plot just wasn’t working.
Usually, when this kind of thing happens, I happily go off and explore other plots twists. I dream about the characters or think up new scenes and events on the bus or on the tube, or while walking the terrier. But this time, I just didn’t want to do it. I just couldn’t get back to writing the novel. In other words, I was suffering from the (in)famous Writer’s Block.
But I got over it. Here’s how I did it.
In order to get back to writing, I decided to go to every bookish event going. Mainly because I was bored! But talking to other writers really helped. Luckily my Block started over the Christmas period, so I had a lot of drinks parties and other networking events to attend. But when you talk to other authors remember to be honest; if you admit to being blocked, you’ll be amazed how many other authors will share with you their own stories. Some of them, who know you well, will even be able to come with some insightful comments. One of my writing friends suggested that I might not be able to finish the book because I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters. I hadn’t thought of that.
2. Learn a new skill
To do some more networking, and to take my mind off the Block, I took a seminar in How to Make a Living (and a Life) from Writing with Orna Ross and Joanna Penn. During this excellent day, I realized I had a terrible relationship with money, and guessed this might be the root of my problems with writing – and with my confidence. To explore this relationship further, I read ‘You are a Badass at Making Money’ by Jen Sincero. Wow, did this book make me think! I recommend you read it, even if you think you and money are all OK.
But it wasn’t until I did a Truth Works session on public speaking with fellow DrivenWoman Emma Stroud that something clicked. I’ve always thought that I am a pretty awful speaker, which is why I usually spend a lot of time practicing beforehand; I write my presentations well ahead of time, I hide behind Power Point images and generally get into a terrible state at book readings or public speaking events. But during the improvisation session with Emma, I suddenly realized I was actually quite good at talking on my feet. Who would have thought?
In addition to Jen Sincero’s excellent book, I also read The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters. In this brilliant book, Peters explores the Chimp inside all of us. He gives us an incredibly powerful mind management model that can help you become a happy, confident, healthier and more successful person. Prof Steve Peters explains the struggle that takes place within your mind and then shows how to apply this understanding to every area of your life.
With the exercises, I began to understand how the Chimp inside of me was working to sabotage my dreams, my writing goals and generally created havoc in my life. I began to apply The Chimp Paradox principles and saw that I was able to do what I wanted to do, rather than listen to the Chimp inside of me.
Do read this book even if (like me) you thought you were a well-balanced person with very few hang-ups … 😉
When I was doing my MA in Creative Writing, one of our tutors told us to use research as a tool when you are unable to write for some reason or other. My book is set in the 1990’s, so I began researching the music, fashions, and news of the era. Some of this I had already done, but walking through Soho in London I found a shop selling old women’s magazines (now sadly closed). I bought a couple from 1990 and 1992, the era of my book, and leafing through these I got a possible idea for the plot.
Researching through photo archives of the time also gave me this picture of the late Lady Diana with one of my husband’s (the original Englishman) Captains. I got the idea of adding to the book a Royal submarine visit by the Princess, something which eventually through more research gave me a whole new and much more dramatic plot line. (Which I’m keeping a secret for now).
5. Apply your behind to the chair
Someone, perhaps it was Ernest Hemingway, once famously said that
The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
Whoever said it, this is excellent advice and this is – truthfully – what eventually got me to finish the manuscript. The most common advice given to writers for a successful career, and something I also tell my mentees, is to write, write and write some more. How can you sell your books for a living if you have only a few products out in the marketplace? You are a writer after all, so go on and write!
Over to You
Have you suffered from Writer’s Block? Comment below and start the conversation.
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Miisa Mink says
Thank you for sharing. I love the quote “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair” — applies to everything, not just writing. And so does your advice and book recommendations! Thank you for mentioning DrivenWoman!
Helena Halme says
It’s my pleasure, I’ve got so much out of DrivenWoman, it’s worthy of a post of its own.
That saying has been attributed to so many people, but I’d like to think it was Hemingway who said it! And yes, it can be applied to almost anything in life – just get on with it.