In the spirit of prevention being better than cure, I thought I would share some of my favourite remedies to help you to avoid the dreaded Writer’s Block (the struggle is real, therefore it needs capital letters) and maintain a good momentum with your writing.
- Keep it real
Writing stories is wonderfully all-consuming and often very cathartic, but it can also lead to insular, antisocial behaviour such as muttering to yourself and avoiding direct sunlight. To guard against these maladies, remember to socialise with family and friends (sitting on the sofa with an open laptop does NOT count) and get out for some fresh air once in a while. Seems obvious, but there’s a reason why so many writers have pasty, vitamin-deprived skin!
2. Think like Rocky Balboa
There is no polite way of saying this, but you need to toughen up a bit and stop being such a ninny. It’s a jungle out there and you’ve chosen a competitive career (so many of them are, these days), so don’t be surprised if it ain’t a smooth ride. From the very inception of your novel right through to its release and long afterwards as the reviews pour in, you will feel mood swings ranging from crippling self-doubt to sheer elation, depending upon the moment. Console yourself with the knowledge that you are not alone and make a beeline for the Rocky IV soundtrack. I defy anybody to listen to the training medley and fail to be motivated at the end of it!
3. Keep your eye on the prize
Stay focussed on what you wish to achieve. This is a tricky question in itself and it isn’t as simple as saying “I want to complete my novel”. What kind of novel? Do you write with an audience in mind, or do you write for yourself in hopes that others will agree with your preference? Are you aiming for critical praise or commercial success? They are not the same thing (with the exception of a rare breed of novel) and you need to be clear on this from the outset, otherwise you will find yourself drowning under the weight of your own insurmountable expectations.
4. Don’t be precious about your work
You know what I’m talking about, because we’re all guilty of it. For example:
“I’d really love to hear your feedback about my novel.” Read: “If you don’t tell me you love my novel, I’ll never write another word again!”
“I’ve written a novel but I’m not ready to show it to anybody yet.” Read: “I’m shit scared to show it to anybody and I’m not sure I’ll ever be brave enough to take it out of moth balls, but I like telling people I’ve written it all the same.”
The important thing to note here is that there is a difference between ‘critique’ and ‘criticism’. You need to develop your skill in distinguishing between the two, because the first is absolutely essential in the long-term success of your book.
5. Stop making comparisons
Books can be like marmite. What one person absolutely loves, another will positively hate. Therefore, whilst it can be useful to read books within your chosen genre (for pleasure and to gain a better understanding of the current public ‘mood’), remember not to lose sight of your own style and your own goals. I’ve been tremendously fortunate in having three #1 bestsellers but, trust me, I never take that for granted. I put the same hard work and effort into each new story and try my utmost not to lose sight of my own ‘voice’. It would be easy to look around the marketplace and wonder whether you should write differently, or to a different audience. I would advise that you remain true to yourself, but with the proviso that you also remain open to improvement and fine-tuning to make your writing the best it can be.
…In addition to all of the usual writing necessities, such as copious amounts of caffeine, chocolate/otherwise calorific food groups.
Bye for now!