Conflict Resolution: Writers' Block & How To Overcome It

Posted at 03:57am on 1st April 2011

I must confess, writers' block is rarely a problem for me.  On the contrary, I'm usually brimful of ideas and can't get them down fast enough.  In fact, the last time I wrote on this subject was when my novel, A Painful Post Mortem was newly published and required all my efforts in marketing and speaking.  So it comes as quite a shock when the writing is turned off, like a tap, and there seems to be no way to re-establish the flow.

If this is your experience – and it happens to aspiring authors and published authors alike - then allow me to share my experience, and the ways in which I've dealt with the problem.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION

If you are a novelist, you will understand the dynamics of conflict resolution because – consciously, or unconsciously – you will almost certainly have used it when creating fictional characters.  It begins with 'know yourself' and requires answers to questions like: how am I (or how is my character) feeling?  And why am I (or why is my character) feeling like this?

FIND A SAFE PLACE

Having a long, scented bath, going for a drive or a walk – alone - or simply finding space for yourself is the first step in identifying the problem.  Allowing myself time and space, I soon realised that a particularly difficult family situation was draining me emotionally, and physically.  Little wonder that I couldn't write!

IDENTIFY & ASSERT YOUR NEEDS

It's amazing how easy it is for your family to convince themselves that working from home as an author is not a 'proper job'.  No matter how many books you've had published, you may even be persuaded, yourself.  I don't find it easy to put my writing before my family, but with a manuscript to be revised before making a promised submission to my publisher, I had no alternative but to ask my mother and sister not to phone me in the mornings, but to wait until the afternoon.  Don't leave this until you're feeling frantic.  Tell the people who want to impinge upon your writing time quietly, politely, and rationally that you will be busy for the next few months.  And don't allow yourself to feel guilty!  Your publishers are owed some respect.  And so are you.

DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY

If the battle that you're dealing with is ongoing, don't wash your hands of it, because you'll only feel bad.  Conflict resolution requires some sort of agreement – but it may be an agreement to have someone else take responsibility.  In my situation, I was able to suggest that a friend move in, temporarily, with a vulnerable family member so that I could clear my diary (and my mind) for writing.

READ & REVISE WHAT YOU'VE ALREADY WRITTEN

I'm currently working on a non fiction book on the subject of self-empowerment and enlarging my vision.  I have already submitted it to the commissioning editor of a publisher who has previously published my books, and she felt it was not compelling enough – see my blog The Importance Of An Elevator Pitch When Writing & Publishing A Book.  Instead of staring at a blank screen unable to write a word, I decided to read through what I'd written, and make revisions to the opening three chapters.

WRITE AN OUTLINE OF YOUR BOOK

I've deliberately not used the word Synopsis, because this aspect of writing is probably the most hated task of all authors.  To write my outline, I had to ask myself the questions with which any author begins a book: Who am I writing for?  What do I want to convey to my readers?  Where might what I'm writing be made more relevant to them?  How am I engaging with them on the written page?  Does the story flow?  The easiest way to write an outline is to imagine that you're speaking to a friend: telling them what your book is about.  If you're not excited about it, how can you expect anyone else to be?

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Don't beat yourself up, don't attempt to do too much at once, and don't set yourself up for failure.  Accept that Right Brain thinking – which is what you need for any creative writing technique – requires that you DON'T write or think.  Reading poetry may help.  Walking, gardening, line dancing, even the dreaded ironing, in fact any mechanical, repetitious activity, is conducive to getting the old creative writing juices running again.

 

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REVISING

So my next strategy was to 'allow' myself to revise my Stepfamily book.  With all Rights reverted to me by my publishers, my aim is to turn it into an e-book, and thus make it more readily available for the people who might benefit from the wisdom contained therein.  Who am I kidding?  My concentration is shot to pieces by book sales, upcoming reviews and recently or soon-to-be published magazine interviews.  Besides, revising and updating a book requires a far greater sense of dedication than writing something from scratch.  The project has progressed no further than page seven of approximately one-hundred and seven, and today has been abandoned.  For now!

 

EDITING

I did manage to change at least three sentences of the already written chapter one of my next novel.  Whether I shall consider them an improvement when I switch on tomorrow remains to be seen.  Three chapters in, and I can barely recall the characters, let alone their storylines.  After three months of absence, they have become like strangers; I have a vague recognition of someone I should know but can't quite place.

 

It will all come right, of course, in the end.   We've been here before, my books and I.  It's simply a matter of making up our minds to become reacquainted.  And that requires time and dedication.  Both of which are in short supply at present.  Ah, well.  Back to the blog . . .

 

TWO TIPS TO BREAK WRITERS BLOCK

 

 

In Lanzarote, where the lava meets the coastline, an arched channel has been created by the ebb and flow of the sea.  In order to free our creativity we need to create the same ebb and flow.

 

 

  1. The ebb: Don't attempt any new writing.  Re-read what you last wrote.  It will get you back into the frame of mind you were in while you were writing it.  You may find that you want to revise certain parts.  Switch on your Tracker (if using MS Word) so you retain a copy of your original as you make the changes.
  2. The flow:  Only then should you begin writing new material.  And persevere, irrespective of how it easily it flows.  Think how many centuries it took to carve out the channel in the picture.  It's easier to have something down – anything – and then revise it, than to sit looking at a blank screen.  Remember that old adage: 'I write when I'm inspired, and I make sure I'm inspired at 9 o'clock every morning.'  Good luck.

 

Share your tips on breaking writers block.  Leave a comment below.  Remember your contact details will not be visible to any other reader and will NEVER be divulged to any third party.

 

© Mel Menzies, August 2008

 

The author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No. 4 Bestseller,

Mel is also an experienced Speaker

and has addressed live audiences of between 20 and 700+

in addition to participating in TV and Radio chat shows.

Her latest novel 'A Painful Post Mortem' may be purchased online here at: booklocker

or at amazon

Approximately 35% of book sales is for charity.

To book her as a Speaker, contact her at: author@melmenzies.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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