We’ve all heard the words ‘writers’ block’ and cringed in one way or another. I think I’ve even blogged about my approach to writers’ block before, which is generally to ignore it and carry on no matter how awful the writing becomes. After all, editing exists for a reason.
But more recently I’ve noticed that sometimes I approach the dreaded block differently. Let’s face it: the words don’t always flow well. Sometimes there is that period of staring at a computer screen and producing zero word count. Or reading back over something you tried to force and deleting the whole lot in despair. Or laughing about it, on better days.
Someone recently asked me what I do when the words won’t come. And now I’ve thought about it and spied on myself during a very unproductive week, my answer is this: I still ignore the block and deny its existence, but instead of pushing through it I walk away from the story and from the keyboard, I pick up a fantasy book by an author whose work I admire, or I go in search of someone new, and I read. I lose myself in someone else’s world for a little while and I just read.
This is not because I have given in and accepted that they have managed what I cannot. It is not because I think I will never manage what they have. No! There is nothing defeatist about it. I do it to remind myself that they have been where I am, that they have taken time and laboured over something they believed in, and they are proof that the achievement is possible. Plus they wrote a good book so why wouldn’t you want to read it?
So next time I find myself avoiding writing through reading (far more pleasurable than housework anyway!) I will tell myself that I believe in my story, that I will write it when the time is right, and that it is possible to achieve my dream. Every well-loved book on my shelf is proof of that.