A while back I misread an advert for a writing course which I thought, at first glance, said: ‘Write yourself to a new carer’. Too true, I thought, this writing lark has twisted my mind enough so I need someone to look after me. In fact the actual wording was: ‘Write yourself to a new career’, but I think my initial reading still holds valid.
What other job, hobby or passion sees you sitting alone for hours while you make up characters, situations and even whole worlds over which you play puppet master? You jump into an environment of your own making, with ne’er a look back, and once there you let your imagination run wild. You create vivid scenes, conduct a choir of voices, make people fall in love or commit murder, maybe you choreograph a car chase through the suburbs of Paris as falling hail turns the roads into an ice rink. Come on, you’ve got to admit it, that’s slightly mad isn’t it? Great fun, but mad all the same.
However, the real ‘maddening’ comes when your characters fall dumb or the sun doesn’t rise over the mountains that morning or the car in Paris stalls as surely as your will to carry on writing has. Whether you believe in writer’s block or not, there are days when you can’t get going and all too quickly days can turn into weeks and the weeks…you can see where I’m going with this. Hands up who’s got at least one unfinished novel in a drawer or tucked away in the corner of a hard drive? Me too, several of them, and I think that is much more mental than the act of writing itself.
So, other than us getting ourselves an actual ‘carer’, what can we do about this hiatus? How do we get the words flowing again? Some say, just write. Whatever comes into your head, put it down and keep going. Good advice, but it may not work for everyone. What I try to do is walk away and do something else. If I sit there, on my own, struggling to carry on I can dig myself a mental pit so deep I need a ladder to get out and all I’ve got is a spade.
Exercise is good. There’s nothing like building up a sweat and having a near death experience to clear your mind. It can also help you sort out a problem because you’re not consciously thinking about it. You may get that flash of inspiration you need to get the story moving again.
Take some time to socialise. After all the internalising we writers do it’s good to get some external input from family or friends, it also expands our experiences of the world which we can feed into our work. If you decide you want to go to a bar, do bear in mind that hangovers are not always the best incentive to write…unless you get lucky and type something really special while your head rests on your keyboarddddddddddddddd.
Talk to other writers. The thing we have chosen to do is not common; there will be few people you know in your social circle with the same desire to write. They may be interested in your efforts and ‘have always wanted to write a book’ but they won’t understand fully. You need to seek out other writers, they’re easy to spot, they usually have a slightly manic, yet haggard, expression on their face. If you’re not sure what I mean, check in the mirror.
You could join a writing group, they will have regular dates for meetings and not only does this tick the socialising box it also puts you in touch with people who can help you with your work and you with theirs. No one is above good advice and constructive criticism.
Then there’s the internet, not only can we search to make sure our hero’s shoes are made in Milan but it’s also a great place to meet other writers. One of the best sites I have found is WEBook (www.webook.com). It is a community driven site, where you can offer your work – ongoing or finished – for appraisal by, and advice for improvement from, the other site users. There’s not enough space here for me to explain it fully, best you check it out to see if you think it might help you.
Obviously none of my thoughts are going to cure your madness, you’re a writer, it goes with the gig but I hope my suggestions keep you away from the rubber room with your name on it for a little while longer.
Right I’m off to the gym to see if I can get a breakdown truck out to that car in Paris and to stop myself staring at a blank screen with dribble running down my chin.
Stay mad, keep writing.
Chaos runs through the dark night; head down, teeth clenched, eyes peeled. The rain lashes his face, thick clumps of mud fly up as he runs, but nothing will stop him discovering the dark secret of the Academy, nothing.
Alec Sillifant’s first novel will drag you in and hold you hostage in a world of tension, fear, treachery and adventure, refusing to let you go. The ransom? A dare to make it through until the very last page. Enter the double life of Jake Highfield: school boy, operative, fugitive.
When the Academy turns against Jake, he finds himself outside of any authority, forced to put his training and his past to use in a deadly situation, tainted by corruption, where enemy and friend could be one and the same.