Beating the Block

andy butcher Aug 27, 2022


by Andy Butcher

           Douglas Adams, the author of the classic sci-fi comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, once said, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they fly by.” Maybe he was just joking, or perhaps he was one of the few writers well established enough to be able to miss a deadline without consequences.

           For most of us, that’s not the case. We don’t have all the time in the world to write, either because we have other commitments that take up a lot of our waking hours or we have committed to delivering a manuscript by a certain date. So, what do you do when you sit down to write and just can’t keep seem to get started?

           Here are some suggestions for dealing with writer’s block.

           Pick up where you left off. Set your cursor a line or two below where you finished last time, rather than making a clean page break—even if you are starting on a new section or chapter. You can format later: for now, there’s nothing worse than staring at a blank screen. Having some words of yours there in front of you reminds you that you can do this!

           Repeat the process. Go back to where you had previously left off in your writing. Reread what you did. Then take the last page or two of what you wrote then type it out again. It’s a bit like awakening muscle memory—you may find you jolt yourself back into the flow.

           Write to your aunt. Or some other favorite relative. Open with a greeting and ask how they are doing. Then tell them what you are actually supposed to be writing—the chapter you are working and what you need to include in it. When you have finished, wish them well and sign off. Then go back and delete the salutation and farewell; what’s left in between is something to work with. 

           Jump ahead. Most times we write sequentially; we’re following an outline, an arc, as we work our way through our book. But if you can’t get any traction where you are, fast-forward to another part of what you are going to write and get some of those words down on paper. You can always refine or revise them as needed, later, and it will get your writing juices flowing.

           Chances are, you may not feel great about what you end up with, but at least it’s something. It may be rough, but there is something down on paper and, as they say, writing is really rewriting.