Five Ways To Get Over Writer’s Block

And so VR is once again my guest.
And why is this? Was keyboard unimpressed?

Sincere apologies to Sir Tim Rice for mauling his much better lyrics, but it is the truth. I have been completely unable to get anything out of my keyboard for weeks upon weeks. Apart from one rather geeky diversion into speech punctuation.

To break the spell, at a good friend’s suggestion, I plan to go back to voice writing mode. So this blog – apart from the introduction which was written on tablet – was intended to be written in one hour flat, from start to finish, using voice recognition (VR).

An ironic twist – at this week’s London Book Fair (#LBF18) I spent time helping on the SfEP stall in the hilariously labelled ‘Writer’s Block’ in Hall One at Olympia.

Yes, writer’s block sure is what it feels like – thanks for the reminder!

There is no obvious reason for it. So this blog is an attempt to work out what may be going on. Why does the pen/keyboard/voice suddenly go dry for no apparent reason?

The teaching

Too many professional distractions, and a proliferation of hats, is part of it. I am on an Easter break from university teaching at the moment. But the next short course is just round the corner, and is a preoccupation.

Two other repeat training gigs, and one new private individual tutoring job, also loom on the horizon. Good but ‘there’ getting in the way. How ridiculous that sounds when some people would kill for such work. Appreciate it while it lasts, why don’t you? Some people are never satisfied!

The editing and writing

New paid work is another one of the proliferating hats. My first academic book edit, kindly referred on by a generous and trusting SfEP colleague, is nearly done. It seemed really important to do a good job with this one, to allocate time and priority. And, as the first of its kind, it has taken up valuable mental space.

What’s more, my first website copywriting job, for an admired wealth management client who has also given me both training and editing work, has also been on the scene at the same time. Ditto and ditto.

Hardly surprising that mental space is at a premium. Both jobs deadline tomorrow. Not too much pressure there.

And there’s been some work for routine, long-term, repeat clients. Not much, but when they call I must respond. After all, the two of them kept me afloat last year.

The training

It has been a long term strategy, since I went freelance in 2016, to retrain and reinvent myself as an officially certified editor and proofreader. That takes time.

It just so happens I am at an important fulcrum point, working towards a big set of training, testing and certification milestones, right around now. It’s a hump on the path, but with warm golden sunlit plains on the other side rather than another (larger but currently invisible) hump.

The ‘serious’ blog

The quarterly risk and regulation blog, which some readers seem to appreciate but which takes a lot of time, planning and energy, is several weeks overdue.

It can’t possibly – can it? – go out more than a month late? If I am to spend time writing blogs, surely, surely, it must be that one? Anything else would be pure loose crazy indulgence.

And yet – none of the above is the real reason for the drying of ink and hoarseness of voice.

It’s the book

One of my editor friends recently did a full-scale manuscript review of the 55,000 word first draft (original target 40) of my book. And the scale, incisiveness and honesty of the result were completely admirable and certainly not a disappointment.

But now, like Billy Bunter preparing to run the London marathon, there’s a lot of figurative gym work to do on it. Turning a bloated, repetitive, incoherent wreck into a finely wrought, lightly tanned, beautifully chiselled specimen worthy of exposure to a publisher’s beady critical eye.

Can it be done? Yes, but only in time. This year’s marathon will have to wait. This is a long term programme which will need patience, discipline, scheduling and no little skill, self-examination and self-belief.

And that, dear reader, is the reason for the current lethargy. The certain knowledge that the authorly fitness programme needs to consume as many waking hours as possible. While I keep all the other balls in the air and have a life too.

Billy Bunter in lycra?

Ah yes, a life. A well earned holiday is on the cards and may even help. We can get stale. Refreshers are needed. There was a brief glimpse of one this week. My stint at the London Book Fair was a kind of shopping expedition for Billy Bunter’s lycra fitness outfit as he prepares for the marathon. He might not be able to squeeze into it yet but, my goodness, if he ever can he will look the part. In the meantime, Billy, just look, learn and aspire. And get to work.

So, finally, an admission. Perhaps it indicates that the ‘health and fitness’ regime needed for the second draft of the book is starting to show. The end of this short confessional blog has been reached without needing to resort to voice recognition, in around the the same time as it would have taken to speak out loud.

If you see a finely sculpted young man running the London marathon next year – emphatically not this coming weekend – wearing a schoolboy cap and a snazzy lycra top and shorts, don’t be surprised.

Stock Pen Nib

The five ways

I almost forgot. The title of this blog is five ways to get over writer’s block. And here they are:

  1. Think for a while about using voice recognition software
  2. Go to the London Book Fair
  3. Write down all the things that are distracting you
  4. Talk to a friend
  5. Then just do it