It is the entity that all writers fear; the shadow which lurks at the back of the creative mind; the unseen enemy; I am of course talking about writer’s block.
Writer’s block is a dark, oppressive cloud, which has hovered above even the greatest writers at some point during their respective careers, and it is something with which I myself am very familiar. How frustrating it is, to have the desire to write, and to only realise that once you are sat, pen poised and ready, writers block is sat right beside you, leering at the scattered, meaningless spaces on your page.
Opinions on how to overcome this metaphorical menace range from trying to fight against the demon itself, or abstinence from writing altogether, until the tempest has cleared and the light of inspiration appears once more. It is often the case that in the presence of writer’s block, one starts to wonder if the light of inspiration will in fact ever reveal itself again.
Celebrated writers often have their own advice on the subject, with Jeanette Winterson stating that, ‘Whenever Keats was depressed, he put on a clean shirt.’ What a fantastic image, of John Keats sitting in a small, well lit room in Rome, and, throwing down his quill in frustration, heading off to the wardrobe to pull out a fresh laundered shirt. Unfortunately, in my experience, a mere change of clothing is not in the least bit helpful in overcoming the overwhelming frustration of writer’s block. Whilst some kind of disguise would be a good defence mechanism against the oppression of writer’s block, this unfortunately is not a foolproof solution.
It seems almost unfair that, during my Creative Writing course at university, whilst there were many opportune moments for the curse of writer’s block to appear, the university lecturers had all sorts of ways in which to keep the thralls of writer’s block at bay. These methods ranged from simple writing exercises, to people-watching from Starbucks window in Winchester high street…whilst attempting to avoid being sectioned if caught during this particular exercise! This however lulled me into a false sense of security, whereby in the safety of the university world, the lecturers; magicians of their trade, were able to equip the students with the necessary tools in order to battle and overcome the obstacles that may stand in the way of their creative flow.
Having left the world of university however, writer’s block is even larger and more terrifying than I had realised. Without the guidance of the lecturers, one must stand alone and face this demonic entity. It seems that, whilst each of us graduate writers are still equipped with the tools we had been given during our time at university; it is as though the tools have no power outside of the university safety zone. One must therefore battle face to face with writer’s block, whilst struggling to stay afloat in this tumultuous storm.
In the post-university world, it appears that writer’s block has found love and happiness with that other, though slightly less frightening entity; un-inspiration. Arguably, nothing is more damning to creativity than either or of writer’s block or a feeling of being uninspired taking hold, however, put the two together, and you are faced with a blank canvas which has no hope of ever being filled with words of substance…or any words at all.
I have however found several solutions of my own in order to succeed against the threat of writer’s block and un-inspiration. Firstly, just keep writing. It may be that only one word in an entire page of consistent scribbling is worth anything at all, but in the process of writing, more ideas and thoughts will be ignited and the spark of creativity will once again reveal itself.
Secondly, keep a pen and paper next to your bed. So often is the case that you will have a vivid dream, or sleepy meandering of thought in your pre-slumber moments, which is so bursting with imagery, colour and creativity, that to go about your daily business and dismiss these ideas, is almost criminal.
Finally, if neither of the previous ideas works against fighting off the writing demons, then just go for a long walk, somewhere quiet and with great scenery. Even if the surroundings fail to inspire you, more often than not, a memory, feeling, or thought will be recalled.
As suggested by William Wordsworth, ‘Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.’ Therefore, what could be better than a walk in beautiful surroundings, where the threatening companionship of writer’s block can be abandoned, and the writer can be alone with their thoughts, and a subsequent masterpiece created.