The Dreaded Writers Block

We make much of the dreaded writers block. It’s such a common phrase that most people, not just writers, know its meaning.

photo of writing materials and coffee for manuscript appraisals for the dreaded writer's block

The Dreaded Writers Block Hits me

Writers block has recently afflicted me and today, I decided to explore the reasons. My hope is that these insights may help some of you become unstuck in your own writing.

Procrastination and Indecision

One thing I’ve historically been excellent at is procrastination. (What? Now? Do I really have to?)

Another is indecision. (I thought I was indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.)

I’ve been thinking about whether either has played a part in the dreaded writers block affecting me lately.

The Book I’m Working on Now

Many years back, I visited Spain, one of my favourite places in the world – I’m sure I must have had a previous life there 😊. (This was years before my 2019 visit.) The reason for that trip was to accompany my nine-year-old daughter, who was to spend several weeks over the Christmas holiday period with her dad in northern Spain.

Meanwhile, in southern Spain, I spent the weeks carrying out research for a second historical novel. (I published my first in November 2019, Winter in Mallorca: Turmoil to Triumph.) The setting for the novel I’m currently working on is also Spain, but in the 1500s as opposed to the 1800s.

Every story has its accompanying story, and I tell the story of that trip in the travel narrative I’m publishing later this year.

That Novel…

So, I hear you asking, what about that historical novel you went to Spain to research all those years ago?

Thank you for keeping me on track.

I told you, I’m an excellent procrastinator. So yes, it’s taken me all these years to set myself the task of continuing to write that novel.

Committing to Writing through Workshops

the dreaded writer's block photo of YON poster QWC

To commit to writing my novel, I signed up in late 2019 for the Queensland Writers’ Centre Year of the Novel 2020 workshops. The course description promised it would allow me to ‘follow through with your New Year’s resolution to get that book out of your head and onto the page.’ The five full-day Sunday workshops were to be run throughout the year. By the end of 2020, I intended to have the first draft completed.

Sadly, I had a prior commitment in February so was unable to attend the first workshop.

However, I was motivated. I followed the notes from the workshop and set myself a writing routine: two mornings a week, and Saturday afternoons. It needed to be a realistic goal. For during the week, I set aside one hour before work. For Saturday afternoons, it was one hour minimum, but I placed no maximum on it.

Then COVID-19 hit. That put an end to the workshops for the foreseeable future.

But I Kept Going … for a While

I remained stoic. I can do this, I told myself. Just keep up with the routine. By the time the workshops restart, I’ll be well on my way with the research.

Then the Dreaded Writers Block Brought me to a Grinding Halt

Researching historical material these days is amazing. Compared to when I was researching for Winter in Mallorca, Turmoil to Triumph, in the days before internet availability (yes, I’m that old), there is so much material available in so many formats. There are podcasts, videos, background documents by experts in so many different fields … No longer do I need to rely on books, which, I have to say, are difficult to come by in Australia for historical research about Spain.

Nevertheless, some 10 days after lockdown restrictions, my researching energies petered out.

Why I Think the Dreaded Writers Block Hit

Did it have to do with procrastination, or indecision?

I’ve realised that for once, no, it didn’t.

Did it have anything to do with COVID-19? Only indirectly.

Work has remained steady. In fact, I’ve been ultra-busy working on clients’ books, for which I’m very grateful. I’ve identified this as one of the reasons I haven’t had the energy to put into my own work.

Another reason is that while I enjoy research, it can also be frustrating – in the sense that I can’t progress the writing until I’ve done a significant amount of research.

Getting Out of My Head

How COVID-19 indirectly played a part in the dreaded writers block is because when I physically change my surroundings, I get out of my head and into a more creative space. With our local cafés currently closed or serving takeaways, bringing a takeaway coffee back to my home office doesn’t get me out of my head in the same way that taking my laptop to the local café for a few hours does.

I admire writers who work by shutting themselves away in their writing room for a day or for several hours at a time. I’m much too fidgety for that. Taking myself away from distractions, out into nature, down near the beach or to a café, helps create a different environment and clears my head. I become more creative. Everyone’s different, but it works for me.

I’ve Missed my Fridays

For several months before coronavirus restrictions, I’d begun to set aside one day a week for business development, working on rather than in my business. First, it was Thursdays. Then I made it Fridays, as I got so creative on Thursdays that I couldn’t settle down to work again on Fridays!

The restrictions have changed my routine and I’ve been working from home every day.

Today, the second Friday of May, I’ve changed all that. Here on the Gold Coast in Queensland, we’re blessed with a benign climate, even in winter. In fact, it’s even better in winter, with the days mild, not too hot and almost always sunny.

Adiós to the Dreaded Writers Block

I’m sitting on a bench seat at the waterfront, with my laptop, my cushion and a coffee, writing today’s blog. Finally – with a clear head thanks to the beautiful water view, the salty breeze rustling the palm fronds above, and the chirping of birds in the trees around me – I’ve resolved the dreaded writers block. (No thanks, however, to the bloke who plonked himself down near me and immediately started making calls on his mobile. But then your meditation is supposed to help with that, Gail – focus on the positive, no judgement, Om, Namaste…)

Writing this blog from my new environment has helped me realise I need to change my writing routine – from Tuesday and Thursday mornings to Tuesday and Thursday lunchtimes. I’ll bring my lunch down to the waterfront (it’s a bit too cool even here on early winter mornings). And on Saturday afternoons, for now, I’ll give myself a break without feeling guilty!

I wish you luck with your writing routine and I’d love to hear what works for you. Leave a comment below if you feel called to do so.

Writing Resolutions for 2020

Have you made any writing resolutions for 2020?

notebook and pencil with pencil sharpener and shavings for writing resolutions for 2020
Sharpen Your Pencil and Make Your Writing Resolutions for 2020 (Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash)

Any goal, including a new year’s resolution, needs committed action, discipline and planning.

Below, I give you a couple of my own writing resolutions for 2020. These may help you formulate some of your own and keep you on track with your writing.

Commit to Taking Writing Courses

Just like any job, career or profession, regular learning through writing courses will help hone your craft as a writer.

My #1 Writing Resolution for 2020

Having published my first novel in November 2019, I really wanted to keep up my writing momentum. So before 2019 ended, I registered for the Queensland Writers’ Centre ‘Year of the Novel’ workshops. It’s a multi-part workshop held across five Sundays throughout the year. At the end of it, we will have drafted a full-length novel. Curiously, as we’re on the subject of writing resolutions for 2020, the course description states, ‘Year of the Novel returns in 2020 so you can follow through with your New Year’s resolution to get that book out of your head and onto the page.’

As it happens, I don’t yet have a ‘book in my head’, However, I’m working on it so that I’ll have a clear(er) idea before the first workshop.

Commit to Entering Writing Competitions

Competitions are a worthwhile way of testing your book out on the market. It’s best to approach competitions with the mindset of first putting on your big girl or big boy pants, being prepared for possibly not getting placed. The more competitions you enter, however, the more likely you are to achieve a placing eventually. Make sure you have your manuscript professionally edited before submission, and that it meets all the requirements of the competition.

My #2 Writing Resolution for 2020

Each time I’m researching competitions for my fortnightly newsletter, The Lonely Writer, I find a competition or two that captures my attention. The thought, ‘I’d like to have a go at that’ comes to me often. And, well, until now, that’s as far as I’ve got: just thinking about it.

All that’s behind me now since my zest for writing resolutions for 2020!

If you’d like to subscribe to The Lonely Writer, you can do so here.

Writing Competition for Published Writers!

…and for unpublished and independently published writers.

Over the Christmas break, I had lunch with an old writing friend of mine. He congratulated me on publishing my first novel, and said I should enter it in a competition. All the competitions I’ve researched so far for The Lonely Writer have been for previously unpublished works.

So I was very excited to discover a competition for published writers also. The condition is that you must be a self-published or independently published writer. You are also eligible to enter a previously unpublished manuscript.

The competition that has me so excited is an international one, from the UK. It’s the Bath Novel Award 2020. You can read all about it here.

I encourage you to set a couple of achievable writing resolutions for 2020, more if you can realistically accomplish them, and then take committed action towards achieving them.

Happy and productive writing 2020!

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