I have just finished my History degree at the University of York. This year alone I wrote over 20,000 words about a mixture of twelfth-century court life, sixteenth-century science, magic and tried to justify to myself and my tutor why exactly one should study history. Most of my time at university is spent either reading dusty books in our archives, or writing academic papers. When I drag myself out of the library at 6 pm in the evening and after propping myself up enough to cook a semi acceptable meal, it is hardly surprising that what I want to do is curl up on the sofa and watch Community and not spend time on my writing projects.
To counter this I set aside a certain amount of time each week which I dedicated as my writing time. Wednesdays I had no classes, I had my writers group, and it was just early enough in the week to not be a comatose mess. So there I would be, sitting in my favourite coffee shop, tunes on point, document in front of me and… The Block.
For those of you who have not experienced The Block have not yet encountered a writers worst nightmare. The Block is a sinking feeling deep inside of your stomach as it dawns on you that despite having created the perfect setting for writing, and being in the mood to write, your brain has betrayed you. As you try to force yourself to write, the more wound up you become until you are so angry you have to shut everything down and change your venue from coffee shop to pub to drown your sorrows (and trust me, it’s quite hard to find a pub serving alcohol at 10 am).
Many of us have suffered at the hands of The Block, but not all of us have found methods of breaking that block (yes, it is possible!)
My favourite method of Block Breaking is to use Prompts. A lot of you will already be familiar with the concept, but for those who are not, a Prompt is the start of a story, or a scenario, or it could even be a picture, that you have to write a story based on. For example, if I said the colour red was your prompt, you would have to think of a story to do with the colour red. This might inspire ideas of roses, blood, or a sunset. Go with it. It’s a great way to start stimulating the brain. Blocks are usually caused through a lot of pent-up expectation and pressure, by removing some of that by distracting your brain with smaller and less challenging tasks, it eases The Block. Often I will have to do several prompts to get the creativity flowing again, but I have always had success when using this.
Now, I’m not a sporty person myself so before you click the tiny cross at the top of the browser and declare me a lunatic for even suggesting so, please give me a minute to explain. Exercise is a great way to release happy chemicals into your brain, and The Block is often a cause of stress and pressure. Going for a walk around the park, a swim, or horse riding in my case, releases those endorphins and allows you a bit of clarity. Such clarity allows you to once again be in control of your brain and what you want to do. After a good swim I always find myself itching to get back to the paper and pen with a new story line or idea.
Change the story:
Sometimes you just can’t get yourself to focus on the story line you are currently working on and the first step to defeating this kind of block is to simply change the story line. A good novel will have a lot of subplots going on as well as the main story, and when The Block hits, it is a good opportunity to work on one of the more underdeveloped plot lines. It might just be the change of scene so to speak that helps you ease back into the creative mindset. This tactic can be quite challenging if like me you want to work on chapters in order. What I tend to do is work either on the other novel series altogether, or I will start planning and researching one of the other plot lines and writing little snippets of what I want to happen.
D&D is great, sure, but the type of role-play which is great for stimulating your creativity is called Writing Role-play. All you need it one other writer friend to do this with you, and you simply write large blocks of text to one another on One Drive of your characters interacting with one another. Anything goes, and the most wonderful, fun and original ideas come out of writing only half a story and having to react on instinct. If there’s nobody around to help you out when The Block hits, there are plenty of forums which are full of other writers like you searching to beat The Block. Vampires, Werewolves, School High-school, alternative realities, space … You name it, there is a forum out there for you.
I hope this helps you on the path to recovery and you are soon scribbling away again. As always, if you have any questions or tips of your own feel free to comment or email me.
Happy Writing, Ink-Slingers*!
*Credit to Katherine for inspiring this little phrase.