It seems like it might be just a little too simple. But I may have found the writers’ holy grail: the key to beating the dreaded ‘writer’s block’.
I was always one of the those people who felt guilty if I started reading a new book before finishing the current one, even if I wasn’t enjoying it. To many readers that will sound plain daft, but I bet there are a few out there who still live by that rule. Where did it come from? Strict teachers, whose methods sucked the joy out of so much good literature, coupled with my lapsed Catholic’s heightened senses of duty and guilt. I’ve always approached writing the same way. I have notebooks full of ideas for (mainly) novels and (some) short stories. From time to time I get all fired up about one or the other – or the other. But to date, I’ve never allowed myself to start a new project when there’s an older one still waiting to be finished. That would be – er – naughty.
So when the inevitable ‘block’ arrives, it really can hold up the writing. With me, it’s usually about the mid-way point, when I know how I want to end but I can’t quite see a way to get there. I can do related research, or I can do any of those slightly iffy exercises involving minor characters, and all of that. But if it’s gone, it’s gone, for me – I have to put it away until I can come back to it genuinely refreshed. This year I started with a new writing resolution, however, which was to timetable my writing. And to make this work, for the first time ever, I’ve allowed myself to start a number of different writing projects at once.
And has it worked! When I hit my predicted mid-point blues in one novel, I clicked ‘Save’ and left it alone. Result: 8,000 words of a brand new novel, in just over a week. And no guilt, because I’m writing, and writing proper, as opposed to diddling about with ‘unblocking’ exercises. And there’s no fear about hitting a block with Novel No. 2, because I have that notebook of other ideas just waiting to start. And I will go back and complete them eventually, because I haven’t thrown off my guilt so much that I could just forget about a WIP.
I know. It just seems too simple. There has to be a flaw in the method, but I haven’t found it yet. I’d love to know what other writers do to get over their blocks – maybe a thread for some more posts?
Bea Davenport is the author of In Too Deep, published by Legend Press on 1st June 2013. In Too Deep is available to pre-order by clicking here