There’s little more horrifying to a writer than a blank page and a winking cursor. I mean it’s literally winking at you. Bastard.
We talk about writers block like it’s a disease that we can catch
We talk about writers block like it’s a disease that we can catch – I can’t come round, I have a dose of the writer’s block and I don’t want to pass it on – and as though it’s inevitable for all writers. If we assume those things are true, then like most common diseases we can cure it, inoculate against it or, at the very least take the writers equivalent of Lemsip and wrap up in a big writers blanket in front of Jeremy Kyle until it all blows over.
It turns out though that it’s not a disease and the more we try to cure it the worse it gets. Like fighting fire with fire, celebrities with tattle magazines or Donald Trump with twitter, you’re just acknowledging its power over you and letting it grow. You might remember the Blob films in which the titular goo gets bigger, the more people it globs up and the more people it globs up the bigger it gets. That’s writers block. And it’s harder to get rid of than Japanese Knotweed. Or Baby Shark.
It’s harder to get rid of than Japanese Knotweed. Or Baby Shark.
Like all monsters, gods and demons, writers block can be defeated by the act of staring at it right in the face and realising it isn’t that big and scary after all. There’s a brilliant story called There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon where a boy called Billy is told that very thing, despite having one in his bedroom. He ignores it and it starts to grow until its causing havoc around the house. In the end Billy acknowledges it and confronts it, shrinking it down to a normal household pet. “I think it just wanted to be noticed” reflects Billy.
Confront your dragon.
This is true of all problems with the ego, the more closely you confront them, the further they shrink. They are after all illusions of your own making.
By not striving to fight it, by relaxing, looking straight into its face and knowing that it can’t stop you, you can simply carry on writing with it sat curled in your lap like a good little dragon. If you then read back and immediately decide that what you’ve written is no good, if you reach for the delete button in despair, your cute little pet will go for your throat. Dont let it. Stay in command.
So the cure for writers block, if there is such a thing, is to write. Just write. Then, if you feel the dragon creeping up behind you, whispering criticisms in your ear, simply write faster than he can run and NEVER stop to listen. At least until the edit….