During the summer of 2007 I suffered from a severe and degenerative disease that almost killed me. It is not as rare as some would think and not as tragic as some would preconceive but it has the ability to not only incapacitate your body but more importantly – it melts your mind. This illness captures its sufferers in a web of indifference where the world becomes colourless, food tasteless and every day tasks emotionless and draining. Those who suffer with it may find insomnia knocking at their door or may find themselves sleeping for eighteen hours a day and never quite feeling rested. I fear this sickness now with every ounce of my earthly sinew and for those of you whom suffer from it I have a few tips.
Here is my 5 Guide to Raping Writer’s Block
1.) Ignore The Urge – One of the main traps people who suffer from writers block fall into is trying to force themselves to write. This is a dangerous web to weave my friends and effectively renders you sicker as you eventually become a “Block Bulimic”. You know that writing makes you feel good and without it, the writers block is forcing you to choke on your own words. So you give them some guidance and stick your literary fingers down your throat, forcing them out and onto the page.
Do not do this. It will leave you feeling exasperated and will stunt what little patience you have left with yourself and the written word. Do not force yourself to write if you are not in the right frame of mind to do so. All you will end up with is word vomit sprawled across your page and reading it back will just make you angrier with yourself and feed the block, because you will feel like the quality of your work is dwindling. Ignore the urge to write until it becomes a compulsion again.
2.) Good Ole Fresh Air – Going for a walk or sitting on a bench in a park, without music in your ears or a book in your hand are tried and tested ways of relieving almost all mental tension, including writers block but there are a few more hardcore versions of taking in the scenery that you should try. My personal favourite is waiting for the rain. When you look out of your window and see the rain starting to come down hard, forget your jacket (and maybe even your shoes if you’re feeling particularly hardcore) and go outside.
Sometimes the reason our minds stop allowing us to look beyond the mendacity of our lives is because we forget just how small we are. Go and stand bare foot in a thunder storm. Close your eyes and let the water pound against the lids. Let the water drown out the block. One thing nature has an amazing capacity to accomplish is reminding us that we do not matter to the earth. Writer’s block consumes you and therefore you give it an immense power over your mind. Forget about yourself for a while and remember what the world outside of your head feels like against your skin.
3.) There Are Other Worlds Than This – Most story tellers know that when you are not writing, sleeping, eating or working you should be reading. By constantly immersing yourself in the written word, especially that of fiction, you are subconsciously feeding your own creative constructs. When writer’s block strikes these constructs break down and weaken as a result of the malnourishment more often than not.
Reading will feed these constructs once more and soon they will grow strong and healthy again. Another tip is to try and read books that you do not usually dabble in. If you are a die hard war time historical novel kinda dude, try hitting up a romantic comedy or a supernatural thriller. By taking your mind outside of its natural habitat, you in turn guide the block into uncharted waters, where more often than not it finds it can no longer swim, and if you are lucky, will disappear in the undertow of the unknown.
4.) The Power of Dreams – Many writers have said that they gain a lot of their ideas from dreams, both forged during the day whilst awake and at night whilst asleep. This is a technique I have used on a few occasions when the block has been but a twinge in my spine and it has worked more often than not. If you have the ability to crawl into a dark space, draw the curtains and switch off all sensory equipment then daydreaming works as well as night dreaming, but the basic practice is the same.
Before you go to bed, or nestle down in your favourite spot, make sure you have a notepad, a pen and a glass of water beside you. Upon waking, from a day or night dream, before you do anything else, take a sip of water and a deep breath. Commence to write what happened in your dream, however fragmented it may be, because after all masterpieces have been spun from fragments. Re-read it, the re-read it again and keep reading it until you feel that you have got everything down. Put these “dream notes” in a binder and keep them close, reading them from time to time. You will be amazed at how much inspiration can be found from those reports, especially after they have had enough time to disappear from your mind completely.
Remember that writer’s block only destroys your capacities to write when the thoughts are forming in your mind. If you manage to expel them before the block has a chance to feed on them, you are effectively starving the block. A hungry block is a weak block, and weak blocks can be destroyed.
5.) Wishing You Were Someone Else – It is also important to remember that reality and writer’s block are daytime friends and night time lovers. Ninety percent of writer’s who suffer from the disease usually come down with it during times of physical or emotional stress – a relationship on the rocks, exams on the horizon, an upheaval of some sort – it is therefore your responsibility to ignore reality whenever you can.
People will think you are crazy (but if you are a decent writer they probably already do J ) but pretending you are someone else is one of the greatest sources of strength during a difficult time. When you are walking down the street with your head phones in, pretend you are not John Doe who has a million worries at home, but that you are Johnny Doe-Cool, a space cowboy with a soft spot for cyber courtesans and the fastest hands on Klacton-9 – be anyone you want to be, because your alter ego does not have the problems you have – including writers block.
So that’s my miniaturised five step guide to pinning writer’s block against a wall, spreading its legs and showing it who is boss. Remember that you are not alone and however bleak it may seem, every human being with a lust for the written word will catch the disease at some point. Try these steps and if they do not work, invent your own. The key is not to feed the block. Ignore it, forget about it and do not indulge it – it is not herpes and will not get worse if you pretend it is not there.
The more you give into it the more it laughs at you. The angrier you become and the more you put yourself down, the harder it gets. It likes you being frustrated and it feeds off of your incapacity. Starve the son of bitch out and eventually it will quieten down and let you find your groove again, but one thing I can tell you is this – as long as you are a slave to the written word writers block will be waiting for you. It is your enemy and as such, it is in the palm of your hand – so squish it.