Combating Writer’s Block

Writing has been around since the year dot, or people have been writing ever since they could hold a piece of charcoal – the same thing to say, really – so there’s no real difference about the objective. To get something down on paper or on a computer screen, whether it’s a treatise, an essay, a blog post like this, a story or a book, is the same vein of every writer. It’s the circumstances that are somewhat different, and some not associated with writing at all can get in the way. Obstacles to writing fluently or efficiently can be complex or multi-faceted.

Some writers who are super-efficient can write up to 10,000 words per day – a phenomenal tally – but the disadvantage of this is a tendency to become too sedentary so that other interests or concerns get pushed away or seconded to some back-burner. Some might call it the need to ‘get a life.’ One best-selling author who can reach this tally admitted he was becoming physically inactive so needed to do something about it. Of course, this can work the other way – one is not writing enough or applying nearly enough discipline. So, how can one reach a semblance of balance?

Writer’s block isn’t just about struggling to find or develop ideas. Sometimes I struggle to find ideas to deliver in my teaching profession. It’s also about struggling to get a pool of ideas down on paper. I don’t have too much difficulty with this but in getting some writing projects finished – I do.

I get somewhat tired of reading all the hype flying around about how writing is all the ‘new’ rave now, just because of the e-publishing syndrome. Apart from the opportunities self-publishing offers, has much really changed? The same best-selling author mentioned above who was speaking in a podcast a few months ago said there is no substitute for the brain. No matter how many cool or efficient software aids or gimmicks are out there such as Scrivener, Sigil, ibooks, QuarkXpress – another rave, and raves – nothing can replace the thought process. Thinking has its own index.

Ok, so you’ve figured out you don’t need to go much further than MS Word in getting a manuscript done, but what if you’re still struggling to get something down on paper? You might find staring at a computer monitor all day is headache-inducing and bad for the eyes, particularly when you’re editing. Writing can be enjoyable but also rudimentary.

Does it depend on one’s mood? And what if there’s no pressure or deadline? How are you going to be spurred on?

Electronic devices are comparatively recent. Before the advent of the computer and the key-thumping typewriter, people wrote by hand which went on for generations. Austen, Dickens, the Brontes, etc, had no alternative but to dip a nib in ink and write by hand. When Hemingway and Fitzgerald came along, the key-thumper was likely used, but judging by the content these authors produced, their motivation wasn’t affected at all. It’s not about the tool. It’s about attitude.

I’ve recently been struggling to get a manuscript I’m working on…I wouldn’t say finished, but in getting some headway with it. I had been carried away with the idea that working from a computer will solve all the problems. Not at all. Sitting in front of a monitor hour after hour churning out an idea pool hasn’t been that appealing, not to mention those headaches. So, what did I do? I resorted to the pre-twentieth century method. I grabbed a biro and a refill pad and started writing by hand. I’ve lounged on the settee letting the ideas form fluently while flexing my handwriting and it’s turned out to be less wooden, taxing, or constricting than sitting cooped up behind some desk where ironing out ideas mightn’t be as forthcoming. Continuing with the publishing process, now that I have something to work with, will be a lot easier.

Using the term ‘combating’ in this post’s heading may be somewhat forlorn, but if any writers out there are struggling to churn out ideas, try the pen and paper method. You never know, it might help.

David Butterworth




OMP Admin Note: David Butterworth is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues.

David’s first book CRUISING COAST TO COAST can be found on Amazon and his flash fiction will be available in Volume 5 of BITE SIZE STORIES (coming early 2017)


5 thoughts on “Combating Writer’s Block

  1. I think every writer, at one time or another, will get stuck. I hesitate to call it “writer’s block” because that, to me, implies you can’t find the words (or the motivation) to translate what’s in your mind into words on the page. It’s more like “idea block.” Something in your MS isn’t working, but maybe you don’t know what it is — or if you do, you don’t know how to fix it.

    I think “idea block” goes with the territory. What leaves me scratching my head is how many different software applications exist to help someone take an idea and transform it into a true novel. Or apps that cut out distractions so that a writer will write. It never occurred to me that a writer would need these things. If you are a writer, you writer. If it’s too much of a chore or too difficult to form sentences and scenes or the idea of writing a story is good enough, then maybe you aren’t a writer (the “general you,” not the author of this blog post!).

    Or maybe I’m just damn lucky I’ve never stared writer’s block in the face.


    1. Whether ‘writer’s’ or ‘idea block’ is used, it’s the motivation to get one’s ideas down that’s an issue for me. Modern software devices aren’t always helpful, at least not for everyone. That’s why I’ve taken to the pad method. It’s a lot more fluid and doesn’t induce headaches.

      Liked by 1 person

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