Breakfast under a Cornish Sun is my sixth novel, out in July 2016, and by now I’ve had some experience of writer’s block – especially as I am lucky enough to work full-time as an author. I write from 8am to 5 or 6pm most days and so it is inevitable that, at some point, my creativity temporarily runs dry. At its worst, for me, writer’s block results in time spent prevaricating on social media, fooling myself that this counts as authorly work – like when I’m doing those addictive Facebook quizzes like “what is the theme song to your life” or “which of the Kardashians do you ressemble?”. However, I have found some solutions over the years that work for me and might for you. Here are my top five.
Firstly…plan each chapter in minute detail. This is working for my current project. I go to Costa Coffee in the morning with an old-fashioned notebook and pen and scribble down notes on the next chapter I am due to write. Not the dialogue or actual prose, but the gist of how it is going to flow, every single twist and turn. This then makes it SO much easier when I come to write the actual chapter on screen, in the afternoon. I find it sets the story in my mind so that I usually don’t need to use the notes I’ve made. It’s like going on a journey with SatNav, instead of a paper map that you have to keep stopping to consult. So take that time to plan, whether it is in your lunch hour at the office or whilst your toddler takes a nap.
Secondly, stubbornly force yourself to write through the block, even if the result is absolute rubbish. At least you are getting something down that can be rewritten (and thank goodness for rewrites!) Or jump ahead and write an exciting scene from your story – perhaps a romantic encounter or heated argument. In Breakfast at Poldark’s I could have jumped ahead to one of the grass-cutting scenes… 🙂
Thirdly, take a break but do something that is still authorly so that your precious writing time isn’t being wasted. I might write a blogpost (like this!) or prepare some promotional materials – for example shareables for Twitter or Facebook (and I can highly recommend Canva for those).
Fourthly, take a complete break, away from the screen and writing. Recently I found myself working seven days a week and wondered why I felt stale! Now I make sure I rarely work at the weekend – I get out and do stuff. Cinema. A meal out. A walk through a park. Anything. If you hold down a full-time job or look after kids all week, perhaps grabbing every free moment to fit in writing isn’t giving your body enough time too refresh itself and unwind. Writer’s block might be its way of telling you that your brain needs to recharge. So do something you enjoy. Recently I’ve started baking again and – dare I say it – caught up on some housework. I’d forgotten that ironing can be quite therapeutic!
Last of all… don’t beat yourself up about it. Writer’s block happens. We are emotional humans, not metal machines that can pump out words and sentences on demand. Follow one of my above tips and I’m sure those authorly urges will start twitching again. Best of luck!