Writer’s block. That horrible moment when your mind, usually careening along at a hundred miles an hour, hits a brick wall. In an instant you go from feeling like the new Hemingway or Rowling, to feeling like a flattened hedgehog. You are stuck. Writing your own name becomes an excruciating, sweating, nerve-shredding, Himalayan endeavour. You loathe the idea of approaching your laptop. You talk to yourself, you gee yourself up. Scenes from the Rocky movies burst into your consciousness. You punch the air – jab jab hook, then sit down determinedly at your desk. And …
The mind is a blank vacuum, as vacant as the vastness between stars.
If this were professional sports you’d go talk to the team therapist, who’d look moistly into your eyes, and ask you if your mummy held you too much as a kid (or something like that, I suppose. Why do grown sportsmen need therapists anyway?)
As an author (I write a light-hearted crime series set in India, featuring a baby elephant, the first of which is The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra), I have been here many times. So what should you do?
- Hurl laptop against wall, and swear a sacred oath never to write another word?
- Sit there until you overcome, never leaving your room, or washing, or changing your clothes, descending slowly into red-eyed, cackling-laugh madness?
- Remember that you were once a human being with a real life, and many interests?
c) is the answer (though a) and b) are often employed by first-timers to the Block.)
Forget the writing. Go do something else. Play cricket (badly, as I do, and without the safety net of on-tap therapy). Buy a present for someone you love (or remotely like even). Read those books you’ve been putting off. Watch a crap movie. Stuff your face with ice-cream sundaes. Live a normal life for a while . . . and then come back to it.
Lo and behold. The train judders, the stationmaster blows his whistle . . . and you’re off.
All the clichés are true. The mind becomes jaded, overfull, like a bunged-up toilet, and sometimes it really is just a case of giving it a well-deserved rest, a metaphorical chance for the crud to seep away. Routine is important, but taking a break from the routine is also an important part of the routine. If you see what I mean.
Even the Great Ones suffered from Writer’s Block. No doubt Shakespeare snapped many a quill in his time, and went out for an ale and a game of quoits when the drought hit him.
If it was good enough for Shakey, it’s good enough for the rest of us.