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Writer's Block Is Not a Disease

S.P. Austen (1960- 2020) was an independent author writing on a diversity of subjects and genres. He passed away on June 30, 2020


If Music be the food of love...

Those involved in the literary world hear about the malady of Writer's Block as if it is some kind of contagious disease, which, for various reasons may suddenly break out into a manifestation of blood, sweat and tears and the fear of placing pen to fingertips or fingertips to keyboard.

But it needn't be seen this way. Most writers at some point or other encounter a block to their creative flow. It may happen midway through your latest crime thriller, or near the end. How do I conclude this story? It may be that you sit blankly staring at the ruled A4 paper or the computer screen like a literary zombie.

Right, let's make a few rules to solve this needless dilemma.

Rule number 1: Relax and listen to music

Don't panic. Not even if the literary agent or publisher is screaming down the phone at you or bombarding you with demanding emails to see the next draft. If you don't relax, then inspiration hasn't got a hope of coming through to you.

Do whatever it takes to relax your mind and empty it out of the junk first. This creates a clear and open space for fresh inspiration to come in. I have meditated for 40 years and find that it is one of the best sources for fresh ideas.

Another thing that you might try, is to play some inspirational music. I am currently writing a fantasy novel set in Africa, and recently I was listening to some gorgeous and evocative music by the New Age group Enigma. Straightaway, I had the imagery that I wanted to convey for the ending. The music evoked a creative response.

I have done this with several of my stories, finding that as I allowed the music to permeate my mind and emotions, the story ideas will unfold by themselves. Fantastic music often accompanies fantastic films; it makes sense that great music can inspire the mind with an evocative storyline that plays into the music like a magical dance.

I believe that one art form can inspire another, as in my article on Scrapbooking. Imagery can literally evoke a story and so can music. Certain lyrics in a song may work for you to inspire your script, and maybe 'pomp and circumstance' music such as along the Elgar or Beethoven lines may work for your story.

When in Doubt, try Music out.

Rule Number 2: Dispense with a pre-set outcome

Many writers actually set out their characters in defined forms and have a literary 'sketch' of the beginning, middle and end. If that works for you, and is a formula that proves itself successful, then don't fix what ain't broken.

But, if such a formulaic way of writing is not working for you, then I suggest that you work only with a bare skeleton of an idea, and allow the story to evolve by itself, naturally. As inspiration comes in, jot it down and keep it on a separate piece of paper or document for 'basic story outline' or some other subtitle, for ease of reference and fresh inspiration. This will prove itself invaluable. You will be astonished at how your characters and the plot will evolve by themselves, under their own steam.

When I write, I never really have an entire outcome in mind. At least, that works for me, if it isn't fact-based fiction. I literally make it up as I go along, unaware of how it will all end, and sometimes of even where it's going! That may however, be more precarious. The point being, let inspirational ideas flow. Don't ignore them because they do not yet fit in with any pre-conceived concepts.

Not only will you produce some really fine, inspired work, you will also take the stress out of writing, as you will have removed the 'pressure to perform' from the script. Just write as it comes. You can always edit later on.

If you stress over not knowing how to end your story, you will likely not even begin it. This actually creates the malady of Writer's Block.

Just write, flow, be inspired, and edit later.

Rule Number 3: Write under Pleasure, not Pressure

I have said this elsewhere in other articles in this community, but it is essential that you only write what you enjoy, or Writer's block will haunt you like Marley's Ghost.

Take the pressure off, whichever way you can, by first ensuring that you are really writing about a subject that you are enthusiastic about. Whatever it is. If you don't like it or enjoy it, Writer's Block will descend upon you like the Sword of Damocles.

Rule Number 4: Take a Break

Some of my best ideas have come to me whilst on holiday or taking a break from work. When I complete one writing project, I never go straight onto another project. I take a break, and do other things unrelated to writing, to allow the creative juices to fill up and flow again.

Don't overdo this writing thing. It isn't a chore, and you shouldn't feel guilty by taking some time off from it. Writer's Block often creeps up on the writer when he or she has exhausted themselves on other projects. The mind and brain need a rest from this stuff too, as much as anything else in life.

I am very fortunate in that I never suffer from Writer's Block, and I put it down to some of the rules I outline for you here. I'm sure that you can come up with ideas of your own to solve this problem too.

So Relax, Flow, Enjoy, and Take a Break. If you write, make it the love of your life. It will reward you for it.


© 2016 S P Austen


S P Austen (author) from Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada on November 30, 2016:

Thank you Heidi for your kind comments and for sharing this hub! Thanks to Audrey too, for your feedback. Much appreciated comments from both of you.

Best wishes,

Stephen Austen

Audrey Howitt from California on November 29, 2016:

I love to write through writer's block--it can be a great source of inspiration--but being a musician, I can't write to music--I really listen to music--so I just write and write and some of it is good and lots of it . . . .well, not so much

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on November 29, 2016:

Love the "write under pleasure, not pressure" advice. Sharing post here on HP!