Sunday, 2 March 2008

Addressing Writer's Block

Following on from the recent post discussing writer's block and its causes and having taken the first step of recognising that even some of the all-time great writers have at times been afflicted, I will now cover some of the ways of addressing the problem.

Writers like to think of themselves as artists and indeed they are but it is also a job just like any other. We have to work consistently as everyone else does and not only when the mood takes us or creativity seems to be optimum.

Try changing your perception of your vocation and move away from the artist mentality. Instead of considering yourself to be a writer, I suggest you picture yourself as a journalist. A journalist sits at a desk each day and produces a constant stream of work and must regulate him/herself and conform to required deadlines.

You are a professional and regulating your productivity in this manner should ensure a constant flow of work. It may not be your finest, most accomplished material but you are skilled at what you do and you will still maintain quality.

Set yourself a schedule and stick to it. However much time you decide to allocate can reflect your own circumstances but choose a defined amount of time to work each day, sit yourself down at your desk, open your laptop and write. Keep to a set timetable that suits and make no excuses. Select 10am-2pm on a Monday for example and turn up every time. Being late for work or non-attendance is not acceptable in any other profession and neither should it be so for you.

Following these guidelines should help to maintain productivity and in the next post I shall try to assist with the issue of sourcing inspiration. In keeping with the style of this series I've posted a few quotes from prominent writers that are applicable.

Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life. — Lawrence Kasdan

I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork. — Peter De Vries

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit. — Richard Bach

You have to protect your writing time. You have to protect it to the death. — William Goldman

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster. — Isaac Asimov

Let me tell you about my day. I get up at 8 o'clock in the morning. At 8:30 am, I leave the house and I arrive at my office at 8:37. I stay in the office until 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I get in my Porsche and I'm home at 2:03 because the one-way streets make it faster for me to drive. And between 8:36 am and 2 pm, I'm doing one of three things: I'm writing. I'm staring out the window. Or I'm writhing on the floor. — Thomas Harris

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. — Jack London

No professional writer can afford only to write when he feels like it. If he waits till he is in the mood, till he has the inspiration, he waits indefinitely and ends by producing little or nothing. The professional writer creates the mood. He has his inspiration too, but he controls and subdues it to his bidding by setting himself regular hours of work. But in time writing becomes a habit, and like the old actor in retirement, who gets restless when the hour arrives at which he has been accustomed to go down to the theatre and make up for the evening performance, the writer itches to get to his pens and paper at the hours at which he has been used to write. Then he writes automatically. — Somerset Maugham

You can't rely on inspiration. I don't even believe in inspiration. I just believe in working. — David Long

Get up very early and get going at once. In fact, work first and wash afterwards. — WH Auden

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. — Gustave Flaubert


JesieBlogJourney said...

Haha, I would need more discipline in writing. I have some bad habits which I have to correct.

Trista said...

Fantastic tips. This is a must read for all writers.

Twisted Teenager said...

I can't help but think that writer's block is a myth. Too much of the time we scribble out ideas that might have potential. I think writer's block derives from a writer's insecurity about their worthless ideas.

Jeremy Neal said...

Great post Matt. My degree is in Journalism from the University of Connecticut, and I spent about 3 years working as a journalist before my career morphed into other things. Even though I have had several creative works published over the years, I have always continued to think of myself as a journalist at heart. While working as a journalist, I learned the value in writing every day, and the discipline involved in building habits that maintains productivity in between periods of "inspiration." Anyway, thanks for sharing these tips.

Matt D. Barnes said...

Thank you for all your comments.

Twisted teenager, this is something I mentioned in the first post and is undoubtedly true. The important thing to remember is that even the greatest artists suffer from the same effect. In fact, Leonardo Da Vinci's dying words were, "I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.

J. C. said...

I certainly agree wit everything said in this post, writing is also, like any craft, something that needes refining and practice, thanks for sharing