So there you are, fingers limbered up, laptop ready – maybe that structure spreadsheet in the wings. All set for National November Novel Writing month. Or some project with a pressing deadline. Or that novel you were always gonna write. You know the drill.
And – nothing. The muse has departed so fast the door doesn’t even hit it on the way out. There you are with a blank screen and – and – (Tardis cloister bell sound here) – it’s –
What do you do? Waiting isn’t the answer. You have four weeks to write 50,000 words. Or some other short time to meet a contract deadline (and trust me, ALL time is short when you have one of those!) The pressure’s on.
Welcome to the world of professional writing. Deadlines loom. Editors bleat. That blank page or screen doesn’t fill itself. And for writers with contracts and commissions, filling that page also fills their larders, pays the rent, clothes their kids. That sort of thing. No pressure…
Ultimately the answer’s going to be personal. I’ve got a few things which work for me. Maybe they’ll work for you. The trick is not to get distracted into something that occupies your creative mind, or let too much time pass – deadline, remember. When I’m stuck, I’ll try one of these:
1. Do some housework for about 20 minutes. (She Who Must Be Obeyed likes this one).
2. Go for a brisk walk. Not long – about 20 minutes again. It’s good exercise, and you can let your mind wander.
Quite often the answer will drift in while I’m walking. The problem then, of course, is remembering it. I have the perfect phrase. And by the time I get to type it out – it’s gone. Argh!
If I’m still stuck when I get back, I’ll often:
3. Start in the middle. Maybe the sticking point is that first sentence.
4. Write anything – if you have a word processor, deleting’s easy. So’s re-jigging. A bad first draft is infinitely better than no first draft.
And finally, if all that fails – and it sometimes does – I’ll do something totally different. But I’ll also make a time to return to the writing – a specific time. Why? Because at the end of the day, writing is only 5 percent inspiration. The rest of it, alas and alack, is perspiration. Sometimes the only way ahead is by the brute force method.
So – those a few ways to break the muse-block. Do these work for you? What do you do? Do share! Send me a few lines on your own methods – ‘matthewwrightnz <at symbol> gmail <dot> com’ and I’ll post ’em in Part 2. Or comment below.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2011