Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance Novels, The Writing Life

Writer’s Block

Flowers – waiting to be smelled!

I’ve always wondered what it might be like to suffer from Writer’s Block.  I’ve heard about it, seen characters in TV shows staring at blank screens, or glaring balefully at half-finished manuscripts, but it’s never happened to me.  There have been times when I haven’t had time to write, and times when I’ve written myself into zombie-like exhaustion.  But up till now I’ve found that just sitting down and writing something – anything – will get the words flowing again.

So today’s been a bit of a revelation to me.  After a week spent working through some ideas for my next book, and finding that there were plenty to spare that I wanted to note down as well, I sat down this morning to write a blog post.  And…  Nothing.

I didn’t panic.  Because I know what to do here, right?  There are a few simple remedies, guaranteed to get me back on track.

  1. Go for a walk to the park/the shops/the post office.  Who knew that the post office was such a useful place, even when you’ve no requirement for a stamp?  Normally, just joining the queue is enough to get my brain back into gear and bursting with ideas.
  2. Comfort Food.  As far as I’m concerned, tomato soup and cheese and cucumber sandwiches can cure pretty much anything.
  3. Take a long bath.  Getting too wet to jot anything down is generally a good way to ensure that something worth taking a note of floats into my head.

Or I could try Agatha Christie’s remedy.  She is quoted as saying that ‘The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes’, and after all that comfort food I’ve just eaten, there are dishes to do.  (A few chocolate wrappers to hide, as well, but we won’t mention them…)

But today, despite all my exhortations to myself that there’s no such thing as writers’ block, and doing all the things that are guaranteed to fill the space between my ears with something other than fresh air, nothing seems to work.  I’m beginning to realise that I haven’t taken any time off at all recently, and it’s time to spend a couple of days just smelling the flowers, and letting the well re-fill itself.

So here’s the question I want to ask.  We all need ideas and solutions, whatever line of work we’re in, and we all have days when those ideas elude us.  What’s your favourite remedy for when the ideas don’t seem to come?

[And, of course, there’s one thing I haven’t tried yet.  The ‘Publish’ button, in the corner of the screen 🙂  Because as soon as I send a manuscript off, or click ‘Publish’, it’s pretty much a given thing that I’ll get an idea about something I really should have written and didn’t.  So here goes…]


16 thoughts on “Writer’s Block”

  1. My favorite remedy, when I can not make me come of ideas, is to stop thinking about what I should do, but do something completely different. Most of the time it works. 🙂

    1. Thank you Franca, that’s good advice. In fact it seems to be working already – as soon as I’d pressed the ‘Publish’ button and gone to make a cup of tea, a couple of ideas popped into my head 🙂 At least I won’t be short of a topic for my next blog!

  2. Hi Annie! I just loved this- you’ve perfectly described the feelings I have every time I sit down to write a blog post!

    There are two ways I try to overcome block; the first is to do the ironing! Strange, but true – apparently research has shown that doing mundane tasks allows our brains to relax and our sub conscious starts to play- old Agatha was on to something when she talked about doing the dishes! Doing nothing doesn’t help as much, and trying to force your brain to think is not as effective either.

    The second thing I do is I read something else or watch a movie; not something in the same genre (often I’ll grab a gossipy magazine or read the newspaper) and that seems, again, to fool my brain into relaxing. I sometimes have the best ideas while watching tv- and they are never to do with what I’m watching at all. Bizarre how the brain works, eh?

    Failing everything else, I have wine- that way I stop worrying altogether…

    1. Thanks Louisa! I’m so glad you mentioned ironing, as I’m a big fan of ironing too. Interesting that these everyday tasks allow our brains to relax more effectively than doing nothing – bang go all my excuses for not keeping up with the chores. Following up with a movie and a glass of wine sounds good to me, even if I’m not in need of ideas 🙂

  3. I haven’t exactly had writer’s block as I understand it(Dearth of words) but I do regularly get overwhelmed by the prospect of starting another book… so at the beginning, it’s like pulling teeth to get any words because I’m so busy second-guessing everything.

    But if I’m having a hard time, I tend to do one of two things:

    1) For writing word-fail, I meditate… which sounds all woowoo and crazy but actually helps my ability to pay attention
    2) For brainstorming fail, I have tiny boxes of words that I pull random words from to do quick brainstorming… to get ideas flowing. 1 box has tons of settings, 1 box has occupations, and then I have 2 other boxes that each have positive and negative character traits… and I just randomly pull from there to get fun combinations until I feel sparky and creative enough to go back to the real brainstorming.

    (And I give my excel spreadsheets with words out to anyone who wants them, because they’re so much fun to me!)


    1. Thanks, Amalie! Meditation’s not something I’ve got around to learning, even though I’ve always meant to. It certainly sounds worth a try! Boxes of words sounds like a fab idea too – something to challenge our assumptions.

      I like to try ‘switching’ characters and situations, too – putting the heroine into the hero’s shoes and vice versa. If nothing else, it’s an interesting exercise 🙂

  4. Annie! It’s Annie! I tend to stare at my kitchen a lot. The cafetiere. The kettle. The food. Then I eat some…then I play with the dogs….I could go on forever….then – whoosh! Something flies into my head. Whether or not it’s interesting is another story….so glad to hear your font of stories remains a gushing fountain. xx Annie O’

  5. Annie, I recently took 3 months off and it worked a treat! I realized I had had 2 very big years writing wise and my brain needed a rest! Back writing again now and loving it.

    1. Wow Fiona! So glad to hear that you’re back and loving it! I have this feeling that my brain’s a great deal wiser than I give it credit for and knows just when it needs to switch off for a while 🙂

  6. Annie, I feel that way every time I write a blog. That seems to be where my biggest writer’s block occurs. 🙂 But at least you did have a few more topics spring to mind.

    1. So true, Tina. People have asked me about where that impetus to finish a book comes from and I have to say that I honestly don’t know – it just seems to be there. It’s the short-to-middling things which are more likely to have me staring at a blank screen for hours 🙂

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