(5 minute read)
I’m not a big believer in writer’s block. I think it’s a feeble excuse, blaming something outside of yourself almost, for why you can’t write. Poppycock. This excuse is usually from people who have deadlines, as to why they can’t deliver what they promised. It’s not something that people who write for themselves suffer with. I’ve never had writers block because it’s not that I don’t have any ideas, it’s just a case of not being able to write them down fast enough. I’ve never had writers block because I see it for what it is: a lack of preparation. (We’ll get back to what this means in a minute.)
Not to say that you can’t also avoid writing by being in a state of constant preparation. That’s actually called delaying tactics, research too. You must write, it’s pointless putting it off till you have something perfect to say.
For me the proportion of writing to prep/research should be 2:1, write twice as much as you research or seek inspiration, but that’s by the by.
No, “writers block” is actually “not in a fit state for writing”. If you are drunk you shouldn’t drive a car, if you are angry or drunk you should not text anyone, and if you are drunk or tired or angry or depressed you probably shouldn’t have promised someone you would write something brilliant and deliver it at this certain date. Bonehead.
But it happens. You suffer from the writer’s equivalent of “man flu”, what do you do? Get good at creative solutions, or Mind Judo as I like to call it.
I studied Judo as a kid and it’s always stayed with me. In Judo/Jujitsu etc. you use the weight (of the person you are throwing) against them. You become a pivot and they become your own personal see-saw. So in writing you use the problem to solve itself.
Many times I’ve had to deliver a piece of writing and not been in the mood, so what do I do? I write about not being in the mood and then the only thing I have to do is tie that into a wicked insight into the thing I’m writing about. THEN I DELETE THE BIT ABOUT NOT BEING IN THE MOOD.
Having got over that minor crisis about not being in the mood, between submitting the piece and getting paid I have time to do the real preparation.
In farming you can’t just hand people crops that you haven’t sown seeds for, watered, weeded then then harvested when they come to their natural fruition. Farming is not magic, unless like JK Rowling you are farming magic wands. You have to do the work.
With writing the crop you are selling is ideas, a facility with words and a certain attitude of mind. In order to harvest that crop on a daily basis you also have to put effort into obtaining the seeds of ideas, planting them somewhere fertile and watering them with other ideas till they cluster together into useful nuggets of creative thought. They don’t have to go together or make sense at this stage but they have to be on the verge of being fully formed before havesting into the silos of your mind.
So how do you farm ideas?
Single thoughts are like a single LEGO brick. They are meaningless and pointless on their own, but collect enough single bricks and you can start slotting them together. They only fit one way, bottom holes to top nubblies. But they can fit in a variety of orientations to allow them to fit together interestingly with others.
So it is with ideas. You have to turn them over in your mind, fitting them together in an unhurried and relaxed way until you reach an arrangement you that you find pleasing. Then you turn over those two and try to fit a third idea, again in a relaxed and aware way. And so on.
This delicate and skillful process is not fuelled by rage and doubt and caffeine and impending deadlines. You have to work on your mind constantly. You have to soak yourself in books, images and music that inspires you, that gives you inklings of unformed ideas that you can bolt together. You must relax and I insist that you meditate or at least close your eyes and not fall asleep (which is what meditation is, in case you were wondering).
You have to write down your ideas, even a single idea that doesn’t mean anything. It’s rare that an idea for a whole piece of art lands fully formed in your brain. You have to tease it out, brick by brick. And that is why if you do the prep, farm your ideas and most importantly write every day you will never run out of material. Even if you have nothing to say, just work to smooth those pathways in your brain so everything you think can glide effortlessly onto the page without any speedbumps in between.
Master the Idea LEGO and Mind Judo and you’ll never have to pretend to have writers block again.
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