Tag: writing

Sometimes writer’s block wears a disguise

Sometimes writer’s block wears a disguise

After I finished my PhD in Creative Writing I went through a prolonged period of writer’s block. I couldn’t write anything. I couldn’t even read. I felt no desire to put words on a page. There were no stories bouncing around inside my head. Ideas no longer blossomed in the middle of the night. It was like driving along a highway. Everything was banal and unchanging: there was no beauty and no joy. But I didn’t realise I had writer’s block. I told myself I was burned out. A PhD is an exhausting marathon. I’ve been lucky, I guess: before this the ideas were always reliably there, even if I didn’t have time to catch them. So I thought I was someone who didn’t get writer’s block. I didn’t recognise it.

Only now, when the ideas and words are flowing again, have I seen it for what it was. And I’ve realised I didn’t recognise it because it didn’t look like a ‘thing’, a solid, rectangular block sitting in the middle of the road to creativity. Instead it was a pocketful of excuses: recurrent ideas and anxieties that robbed me of my confidence and my sense of myself as a writer. Now that I’ve grabbed these whispers and dragged them screaming into the light of hindsight I can see that together they form a seething shape that looks suspiciously like a block. So I thought I’d share a few in case they’re hiding in your pockets and cupboards too. That way you’ll recognise them when you find them.

The Voice of Writer’s Block

“I don’t have anything to say…” – true, it’s all been said before. And if you look around, someone else is probably saying it right now. But they are not you and they not saying it from your experience and perspective. So just say it and someone is going to appreciate your unique perspective.

“I’m too busy with my real job” – okay, it’s important to earn money, but sometimes we prioritise by accident, not by design. I realised I was prioritising my own writing to the bottom of the pile even when I could have made space for it. Sometimes ‘too busy’ hides a sense that what other people want from you is more important than what you want for yourself.  The solution is to prioritise consciously and place greater value on what you want to do.

“My cat/dog/child/cactus needs me” – yep, they probably do. But how much? I’m guessing not 24/7.  Now’s a great time to teach them a little bit of independence.

“I’m not a real writer” – no matter where you are on the climb up Writer Mountain, there’s always someone ahead of you. Someone who hasn’t got a publisher thinks the person who has is the ‘real writer’. Someone who has only one book thinks the person with three is. And so it goes on. If you put pen to page, you’re a real writer. Forget comparing yourself. Just write!

“But none of this helps me overcome writer’s block,” I hear you say. “It just makes me argue with myself.” So what did I do once I recognised these voices and saw them for what they were? Well, that’s a whole other blog post.

The secret to being a writer

The secret to being a writer

For a long time this wasn’t a secret that was made readily available to people. It was a deep, hidden truth that was not spoken about. But in recent years I have heard a few authors break the silence by talking publicly and honestly about what makes you a great writer. And I’m going to reveal that secret here today. It comes down to this.


Yup. That’s it. Write today, write tomorrow, write the day after. Keep writing, and you will keep getting better. There is a bit more to it, of course. That’s why there are millions of books out there, and lots of courses, workshops and degrees. But it begins with writing. Regularly.

Okay, now here’s some of the ‘more’. Write with the right attitude. Once you’ve finished the first draft of your first novel, congratulations, have a drink, love your work. But PLEASE don’t decide that’s it, you’re done, and start sending it out to publishers on the premise that you are so darned talented that the first person who gets it is going to snap it up. That way lies frustration and anger when it’s not snapped up by the first reader, or the second one. Or the third…

How Published Authors Got There

Authors with an established track record of published books edit their work. They don’t just decide that the first draft is perfect. They know writing takes effort, a critical eye, and a willingness to keep doing the job until it is done. You’re not doing yourself any favours if you decide after a first draft that the responsibility is now in the hands of the publishers to recognise how amazing your novel is. The reality is that the responsibility is still in your hands to get it to amazing.

So when I say the secret to writing is to write, what I actually mean is to write, then re-write, then re-write some more. Be open to recognising that writing takes work. Take the time to read through what you have written, but remember to keep your brain open. Have the attitude that you want to be a good writer, not just a star, and recognise that that takes work. Oh yes, and one other thing. Read. A lot. But that’s a post for another day.