The bestselling author of The Cake Maker’s Wish with some creative solutions to beat writer's block.
Writer’s block happens to everyone at some point in their writing journey. The important thing is to know that it isn’t permanent. You will move through it and start writing again. Over the years, I’ve developed a few useful habits that help me move through it. Remember, you’re not necessarily trying to find ‘the answer’ to your problem, your goal is simply to get moving again, in any direction. Be like Dory and just keep swimming.
- Do more research. Research is my happy place and where I find inspiration for my characters and stories. If I’m stuck, sometimes it’s because I need to do more research. It might be as simple as finding a house or building or landscape online that speaks to me and gives me content to build a scene around. Use it as inspiration to get moving again. Word count begets word count, in any direction.
- Check your internal landscape. More and more, I understand this to be true: I have to manage my headspace. If your head is full of to-do lists, or the argument you had with your partner, or planning your kid’s birthday party, or worrying over the state of the world, there isn’t enough room to create something new. We need to turn off all distractions (and that absolutely means anything that gives you audible or visual notifications from any of your devices). The second you hear that ping, your inner world is broken. Create a transition ritual to move from the everyday world into your inner world. I have learnt that I need to work really hard at decluttering my mind. All of that mental chatter is my biggest block to getting anything done.
- Change your location. For me, one of the simplest things I can do if I’m feeling stuck is to change my writing location and head to a café, which will provide me with food and coffee delivered to my table, a fresh injection of ‘characters’ who occupy the space, as well as visual stimulation in décor and aesthetics. I also can’t be distracted by the laundry that needs to be done or the dog that wants my attention or the ride-on mower zooming around the house.
- Write by hand. This works for me every time. Sitting at a computer and staring at a blinking cursor that I simply cannot get to move can be a real downer and ruin my self-belief. There is something exceptionally liberating about writing with a pen and notebook, even if it is simply jotting down random thoughts or fragments, or asking myself a question about my character or plotline. Writing in a notebook is a far less linear activity than typing into a document on the screen. I can cross things out, draw arrows to connect thoughts, write in thought bubbles, put in extra ideas as they come up and there’s no pressure to get it right because I’ll have to type it up again later. I can doodle as I work and I think the mere acting of creating a little line drawing of a flower stimulates that part of my brain that I need to build worlds.
- Wait it out. Sometimes, I know I just need to wait it out. I might have written three hundred words, each one feeling like treading through concrete. But I have learned that exactly at the moment I want to give up and toss it all in is exactly when I should stay connected… and wait. I might have to go and bake something (which is another creative way to move through blocks), but as long as I stay connected to my project (now is not the time to scroll mindlessly through social media), keeping it in my thoughts and heart, somewhere along the line, a fresh rush of inspiration will hit me.