Sunday, April 18, 2010

Working around the block

I’m suffering writer’s block. It doesn’t happen often. Usually, I sit down at the computer and turn on the autopilot. But not today. Today, I have managed not to write several things: a press release, a house story, an email to a friend. Instead, I have managed to create that thing most beloved of all writers - a blank page.

This is actually an improvement on Friday, when I managed not to write three press releases, a house story, an email to a friend, a pitch to an editor and an outline for a feature story.

Big day, Friday.

The only reason today’s list is shorter is that I rewrote my To Do list and put all the other stuff on Monday’s list. When I will hopefully sit down at my computer and turn on the autopilot.

Big day, tomorrow.

It’s not that I’m not trying. Just that the words aren’t coming out right. It’s all fits and starts before they sputter to a halt (picture me banging head on keyboard at this point).

The good news is that I know why I’m struggling. Last week was a big week of endings. I finished off a whole heap of stuff that’s been weighing me down for ages. A rewrite, a new proposal, three finance features…stuff that had been keeping me busy mentally. When it all finished at once, my brain decided to drop down a gear or two. And, unfortunately, went directly into a stall. Possibly even reverse.

I’m not sure how it works for you, but I’m best when I’m busy. When things are humming along, throwing another task, job or 100,000 words into the mix causes barely a blip. Take things down a notch or two, however, and that extra task becomes a big problem.

So I’m waiting it out. Already I’ll be waking up tomorrow morning with a HUGE list of things to do. Hopefully, there’ll be an email or two, adding to my stress levels. At which point, the adrenaline should kick in, the brain should crank up and, voila, all systems will be go.

Either that, or I’ll be so overwhelmed as to be paralysed by the enormity of it all and take to my bed with a book. I’d call that a win-win situation, wouldn’t you?

{image: Anton Gvozdikov}


  1. I hear you! I had a piece due this week and I really wanted it done last week. Couldn't start the first paragraph, the words wouldn't fly out of my fingertips. In the end, wrote it about 3 times, different ways, finally I ended up with two versions. Sent it off this morning.

    One more piece and a few more recipes to go.. and then there's THIS weeks' work! Twitter doesn't help sometimes :P

  2. I hear you on being paralysed when there is way too much to accomplish. Good luck tomorrow.

  3. I think that's "my problem." I'm not busy enough. Like you, I can juggle a million things serenely but when it is only 990,000 then I just. can't. do. them. at. all.
    So I'm off to make a super long list.
    All the best with your projects. You have been very generous with your time and advice to me. Appreciated more than you know xxx

  4. I have lots of excuses for my writers block - and, truthfully, some of them are valid. But that doesn't make it any less annoying. I have this strange thing about feeling a fraud calling myself a writer when I am unable (unwilling?) to write. ;) Hope your (auto)pilot returns ready to knock out some serious quality word count! :)

  5. Oh, the brain stall. Hate it when that happens. I, too, work better when I'm completely overwhelmed and have drafts due left and right. I'm supposed to be working now, but I think I'll take to my bed with a book ... and I'm blaming it on you! =>

  6. I hear you. When it happen with me I just write out my plans - just like in the old days at uni. Simply plotting out what paragraph or piece of info needs to go where helps. Then I'll visit some favourite websites or blogs whose style of writing I admire to inspire me. Finally, I'll throw on some really loud music and decide to just get the basic info down - going back and recrafting it later on. If not, a nice long walk, a sit down with a mag, or a nap - because if it's really not coming it's because your brain really needs a nice little rest. Good luck!

  7. It's pretty impressive when writer's block can turn into a funny blog in spite of itself! I will be back! molly

  8. Hey, we've all been there it seems. I read 140 characters of wisdom yesterday from one of the Tweeps on Twitter. The advice was to 'ditch the To Do list' and replace it with the '5 things I WILL do' list each day. I thought that was scarily realistic - might even give it a go. Hang in there. A lovely book to distract you I read recently - nothing to do with writer's block at all but just thought I'd throw it in here for a distraction - I LOVED Brooklyn by Colm Toibin - highly recommend it. Just finished the Guernsey Literary Society and Potato Peel Pie Society - it was an easy, warm and entertaining and relaxing read.

  9. So far all I've managed to do is to procrastinate for an hour. I have, however, opened a brand new blank page to stare at. Wish me luck!

  10. Good luck!

    I always find slagging off my husband on the internet helps me get over The Block.

    Hope your muse is singing sweetly when you really need it to.

  11. Yep, it's a fine balance between being busy (I love being busy too) and being overwhelmed. You know what I say when I feel like this? Just start somewhere! Dosen't matter where, just start somewhere.

    I hope you feel super-inspired today. Pitty it's 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration hey.

  12. Al, Thoughts from someone who makes a great art director for a writer...
    I usually start by writing down key words or thoughts that may form different paragraphs. This way I can start writing some sentences, be they pathetic as.

  13. Writergrrl recommended your blog to me :) I believe that sometimes the best thing you can do for your writing is to not write. The pause in between busyness, lets your mind rest and recharge, and it brings a new freshness and inspiration to your words. Gaynor :)

  14. Hi everyone - thanks so much for the writerly support. Have completed my two most pressing tasks! Yay! Perhaps was just suffering from school holiday-itis...

  15. I read somewhere once that you're supposed to tackle the most difficult thing on your to-do list first rather than putting it off. Never could do that. It's true what you say though - the more busy I am, the more I get done. But the novel somehow always stays on the backburner. Glad you're getting over the block.

  16. Yep. I hear you.

    I'm a big procrastinator. Right now, I'm procrastinating stacking the dishwasher. I'm also procrastinating writing the P&F page for the school newsletter this week. I've had two weeks off, and have enjoyed the break.

    I've started with 'Welcome to Term 2 one and all!'

    That's it.

    Think that'll cut it?

    Good luck. At least you got another great blog post out!!!



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