Sunday, 16 April 2017


We all bash our heads on them, sometimes, don't we? Brick walls. Creative blocks.

Sometimes the block's as wrinkly and stubborn as the biggest elephant you can fit in the room.

Sometimes the block comes over all soft and squishy but it still ends up suffocating your flow like a massive pillow with odd feathers spilling out to make you sneeze with sheer frustration.

I don't so much get blocked with writing in general. Oh no. It's much more specific than that. It's only now in enforced ill-health retirement I'm getting down to penning the novels I've always dreamed of writing, those longer projects, that the dreaded block taps me smugly on my unsuspecting shoulder.

Indignant me growls: "But I love this story! I love writing it! So why am I more inclined to write my boring old shopping list than pick up where I left off with the first draft?"

Yes. I get blocked with whatever the main project is. All other writing becomes a tempting seductress of a sideline. I can procrastinate as much as I like,  writing other things, shorts, poems, comments, letters, emails, blogposts, serendipitous daily scribblings. Nothing wrong with any of that. Trouble is, the block's still there, waiting, where it was all along. Helping me avoid the risk of not getting the perfect word in the perfect sentence first time around. Not reaching 'The End'.

Once I realise what the block really is, I can face it. I can thumb my nose at it and get on with the job in hand. It isn't an anonymous block, you see. It's that little voice inside me that talks in the irritating critical accent only I can understand.

For me it's my perfectionism.

For me it's my fear of failure.

For me it's my wanting to keep my options open.

For me it's the ludicrous grammar nerdish inner pedant.

It's all manner of unhelpful things. Specific things. Specific lies. Once I've identified them and pinned them to the desk, they haven't the power to bully me into neglecting the very thing that brings me most joy, for one moment longer.

So I self-medicate these days for this common ailment of us crazy creatives.

There is help out there. Help that rings true because it comes from other writers who have been there. Like most of us, they've been there daily but won't quit!

Two books I find especially therapeutic for kicking the blocks into touch and tricking my inner critic into allowing me back to the page, I always keep at my elbow as I write these days. I think of them as my block-busters. My life-savers!

One was a present from a very dear writer friend who had found it helpful.

Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way Every Day; a Year of Creative Living."

The other was bought as a treat for myself after I read it in the bibliography to another of Cameron's books and simply couldn't resist the title:

Susan Shaughnessy's "Walking on Alligators: a book of meditations for writers."

Wherever I open them, there are bite-sized nuggets of good-humoured wisdom. Best thing is, they really help me get past my pesky personal writing-resistant sticking points. Perhaps the latter's my favourite writing encouragement book of all. My go-to lifesaver block-buster!

A page or two and I can laugh at my inner cowardly lion or elephant again. Laugh at it, cuddle it compassionately and more importantly, plunge back into writing the manuscript.

I wonder what your own personal blocks and block-busters are?

I'd really love to hear about them! (In the moments before we all head thankfully back to the unwritten page only we can write!)

Thanks for stopping by!

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