Thursday, 24 June 2010


Words don’t come easy, or so the song goes. And for writers that can often be the case. We are all familiar with the fear, that blank page can present us, or the panic when our muse has gone into hiding. It can frustrate and annoy us and often, at times like these, we can lose our impetus and inspiration for writing completely.
So what can we do when this malady strikes?

Well first it’s a good idea not to panic. It happens to all the best writers and a dose of wordlessness doesn’t mean it’s going to be fatal.

Sometimes it can be helpful to take a break, go for a walk or make a cup of coffee. Giving yourself space can help you come back to your writing refreshed and with new eyes.

Many writers have more than one work in progress, so that if they are having problems with one piece, they can move onto something completely different but still feel they are achieving something.

Before I write, I like to limber up. No I don’t mean pumping iron or going for a jog. When I am ready to write, I like to do some mental gymnastics. I write lots of prompts on a page. These can be words from a dictionary, off the top of my head or I ask someone to suggest some random words. I try then to come up with quick plots for each word. These are just one liners but it gets my brain into the writing gear. I find this useful to do before I enter the “Live Writing” competitions in which I have 30 minutes to write a story, from prompts that are given by the competition hosts.

Morning pages are very useful. The idea is to get up half an hour earlier than you would normally. Before you eat breakfast, walk the dog, shower, put on the radio - sit down and write. It is believed that writing at this time of day is useful because we are still in touch with our dreams and unconscious minds and can write with more freedom. The idea is not to be concerned with what you produce - just enjoy the experience of freewriting. It‘s surprising how your much your writing will improve once you get into the habit. Often, something written with abandon can inspire you to follow the idea up with more focus.

Virginia Wolfe used her diary to reflect her writing process. She saw entries in to her diary, as not proper writing and was able to write in a “rapid, haphazard gallop” (1953, p.7). She thought that this type of writing often produced happy accident s and valuable inspiration.

20th January, 1919

Still if it were not written rather faster than the fastest type-writing, if I stopped and took thought, it would never be written at all; and the advantage of the method is that it sweeps up accidently several stray matters which I should exclude if I hesitated, but which are the diamonds of the dustheap. (Woolf, 1953,p.7)

These are just some ideas to get the ink flowing. I invite you to please comment and let our readers know how you cope with that blank page.

Woolf, Virginia (1953) A Writers Diary, London: Harcourt.


Caitlyn said...

Some great ideas there. Rebecca Lenkiewicz taught me to start each day with a list of seven random words, and then give myself seven minutes to write a piece which involved at least some of them. It might be rubbish, but often it isn't, and it gives a germ of an idea for a future work. In the meantime, it has also woken the writing muscles for today's stuff.

Now, off to write...

Poetess said...

Great idea Caitlyn. I will try that. Thanks for posting.

Hilary said...

Or have a list of short titles and when you are feeling blocked, pick one at random and try to write for ten minutes on it. Don't worry about quality, just getting something down. 99 times out of a hundred, you'll be fired up at the end of it.

Poetess said...

Great idea. Anyone got any others?

Post a Comment