If you’re a writer, you’ll agree with me when I say, that writer’s block is the thing that must not be named! The dreaded thing that sends a cold shiver down our spine.
I used to consider myself as a wordsmith; having spent more than 18 years writing for publications and companies, ideating, pitching stories all the time, I’ve never been stuck with words. I used to say, when you write for money, you can’t afford such luxuries. Though I never openly said it, I’m too polite to do that but in my mind I scoffed at those who said they have a writer’s block. I believed it to be an excuse for not wanting to write. A lazy mind’s excuse.
I made the transition from freelance writing to fiction easily. First book done in 2016, second one in 2019, a bank of good stories ideas to write on. I was sorted and sure to go cruising all the way. But then Life has few knocks stored up it’s sleeve just when you least expect it.
2020. COVID happened. When the lockdown started on March 24, I was clocking in 5 hours of writing time and feeling on top of the world. My book 3 was looking good, I had chapter outlines drawn out for 30 chapters, the end was clearly defined; as it always happens with my writing. I was good. Nothing could go wrong. I told my editor, I would have the MS ready when the lockdown ended. In my mind I thought I’ll have 2 books ready. What could go wrong huh?
Well, as I would soon discover… a lot!
After about a month of lockdown, I just didn’t feel like writing the story that had been gurgling inside my head. I told myself, never mind, write the next story – book 4. That’s a fun wild thriller too. So I jumped into that. Somewhere, far inside my head, a niggling thought was raising it’s ugly head.
This isn’t me. I’m very disciplined and organized. I don’t behave like. doing one thing today and something else the next day.
For a person who always walks the straight and narrow path, who likes order and precision, chaos is…chaotic and unsettling. But I went along and then one fine day I didn’t want to write book 4 either. I didn’t want to write book 3 also. Both the stories seemed pointless to me. And my mind shut down. It’s like someone flicked the light switch off and I just couldn’t find the damn switch to turn on the light. I panicked. I’m the kind of person who always paints the worst case scenario first so my thoughts were – may be I’m done as a writer. May be I have only 2 books in me. That’s all. I spoke to some of my author friends and lucky for me, they are extremely patient with me. Always.
They assuaged my fears. Told me, this was happening to loads of authors around the world. I was told to shift my focus to something else. So turned to my other love – gardening. I began watching gardening videos on Youtube, taught myself how to propagate plants by plant cuttings, how to make rooting hormone at home. Then I sought refuge in baking – something I’d never ever tried my hand at. I baked bread, garlic bread with cheese, cookies, croissants, pin-wheel puffs, more cakes than I can remember.
I was trying to calm myself but the truth is…
I was going crazy. Writing is like breathing to me. As far as I can remember I have wanted to write. I have never ever wanted to do anything else in my life. NEVER. And writing is what I have done. How can this happen to me? How can I get stuck? Not even in my wildest dreams did I think of such a possibility.
But it happened. I. just. couldn’t. write. I was blocked and nothing I did could get me out of it.
The reason I’m writing this post is to share not my angst but to tell you, yes! it’s true. Writer’s block is very true and it’s not an urban legend. I used to believe it is. I didn’t believe it could happen but it did. But there’s light at the end of dark tunnel.
While I kept myself busy with other things, I didn’t stop writing, or trying to write. I scribbled furiously in my thoughts journal, I wrote blog posts, I dug out old stories and reworked parts of them. I didn’t completely switch myself off from the write mode. And finally my mind walked out of the funk. I’m hardly the one to give advice but if you are going through what I did, please know that you aren’t alone. I don’t feel nice saying this but misery likes company and it’s ok. Seek solace in numbers, in the fact that you aren’t alone. Reach out to friends. Connect with me if you want to. There are few writing exercises I did that helped, may be they’ll help you too. Writing prompts are good thing to work on when you’re head isn’t in the write space. It’s important to get the stress of the current WiP out of your mindspace but not to stay away from writing completely; hence the writing exercises and the prompts.
I read loads of writing help books, listened to podcasts and audio books. I also enrolled for a writing course with Curtis Brown – a reputed literary agency in the UK that conducts world class writing course. It’s a good idea to use the time to learn, do courses and basically equip yourself with knowledge.
Some of the books that i read and found useful:
Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson
The Last Draft by Sandra Scofield
Save the Cat writes a Novel!
The Emotional Craft of Fiction – Donald Maas
What I talk about when I talk abour running – Murakami. Though this is a book about his running expriences but there are so many writing references and metaphors; this is one of my favourites.
(There are many books that you can pick up. Above mentioned are the few I picked, read and found useful.)
When that which must not be named, strikes; you just need to ride the phase out. Yes, it’s easier said than done and I know it too well. One thing’s for sure, I don’t take my writing for granted anymore. Every day when I sit down to write I say a little prayer and thank the Muse for showing up.
I finished writing Book 3 finally in April 2021 and submitted it to my publisher. Currently working on Book 4, also a thriller.