Tag Archives: writer’s block

Being a Writer in a Heatwave is Hard

Extreme weather is bound to have an effect on your writing sessions…

Being an author is hard work. You only have to eavesdrop on the conversations of writers to get my gist. You will hear soundbites such as writer’s block, lack of motivation, I’ve just discovered I hate my protagonist etc. It can really be a labour of love but I believe that getting through all of those emotions and the practical debris of the craft is what really makes a writer. You get to show what you’re made of. There is a huge factor that makes writing hard and that we sometimes can’t control and that thing my friends, is life.

In my last article I spoke about creating the perfect writing environment. Sometimes however, the elements have ideas of their own. The UK has recently been in the midst of a heatwave (as has the rest of Europe)- at its’ peak hitting temperatures as high as 38 degrees. You can imagine that at that sweltering point, opening windows and operating fans have had zero impact on me creating my perfect writing environment. You know things are bad when you’re sitting still and the weather decides on your behalf that no matter what, you will wilt like an ice cream. In short, my writing has suffered somewhat but I have to be okay with that because I am human.

Good intentions, not so great outcomes

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, your writing plans conspire to go south.  I started my week as I meant to go on despite the furnace-like temperatures and aimed to transfer that same motivation to my work. However, this heat has made me feel physically faint and exhausted during the nights when I would usually be writing and so I have had no choice but to listen to my body and give it a bit of a break.

I am somewhat of an organic writer and that works for me, however if this UK heatwave returns, I will need a bit of reinforcement in order to push ahead. I will propose two tactics to my usually organic writing process:

Word count

I will enforce a minimum wordcount on myself. You don’t do this? I hear you say- The answer is not really. I write when I am inspired and enthused and when I am not, I stop. That way you stop Writer’s block dead in its tracks as I discussed in this previous article. I definitely do check how many words I have written after a session though as I find it useful to know.

Write notes ahead

Sometimes feeling unmotivated to write doesn’t mean that you should stop writing altogether. Why not write up some notes that will keep you ahead of the game in the next session? My manuscripts are full of incoherent paragraphs containing disjointed sentences and singular words. They act as a guide to my next scenes and thought they would look illegible to anyone else, they act as a beacon for my storylines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up really pleased with myself because I have more insight into where my project is going. Being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel is a huge incentive for us writers.

So, when the going gets tough, what tactics would you propose to keep yourself going?

Let me know in the comments below!

Create the Perfect Writing Environment Now

You’ve overcome your writer’s block. Now it’s time to create the perfect writing space.

Not all writing sessions are made equal.

In my last article I discussed how to combat writers block. What could possibly go wrong once you’re full of ideas and sit down to write? Our writing environment comes to mind. Creating the perfect writing space makes room for a more productive writing session. Lately I’ve been thinking about what I call writing variables and how they affect our output. The variables I’m going to discuss are those of the physical variety and since we are sensory beings, this affects more of us writerly types than you might think. If I received a pound coin for each writer I’ve heard complaining about not being able to sit down to a session, I would have had a five-course meal at Nobu already. This is why we need to consider creating an ideal writing environment before we even sit down.

Here are some of the variables you may want to consider and adjust before you take up your next writing session.

Room Temperature and air quality

Pollen: An air ioniser or purifier acts to get rid of dust, pollen and cigarette smoke fumes.

If there’s one thing that puts me off writing, it’s a hot and dusty room with the sun spilling into it. I might be bringing back memories of your double Geography lesson and I really don’t mean to, however could air quality be making you retreat away from your next chapter or article? I’m a hay fever sufferer and now that the summer is here, I am definitely finding it physically harder to sit through writing sessions with the same zest that I usually have. It’s like I can’t win at the moment: if I keep a window shut, I’m boiling hot and can’t focus but if I leave it open, I’m inviting the pollen in. If I leave the window shut and the fan on then I’m dehydrating myself from the inside out. Sigh. Get it? It’s up to me to find the right balance so that I can focus on my best writing rather than the forces of nature.

How I usually avoid this is to leave a window slightly ajar for fresh air but to cover it with a sheer curtain to act as a barrier for the excessive bright light as well as pollen. An air ioniser or purifier acts to get rid of dust, pollen and cigarette smoke fumes. Likewise, a humidifier works wonders to alleviate dry skin and alleviate coughs and stuffy noses. If you’re a writer who is serious about your craft, it may well be worth investing in creating the perfect writing environment for yourself.  

Are you hungry or thirsty? Too full even?

I now find it somewhat distracting to eat sugary foods during the process. This has taught me that writing ritual preferences can definitely shift with time…

I’m ever evolving when it comes to my writing and eating co-schedule. Being a night writer who works into the wee morning hours, what works for me has dramatically changed. It’s very rare that I can withstand writing on an empty rumbling stomach. However, while I used to find it mandatory to have a chocolate bar nearby, I now find it somewhat distracting to eat sugary foods during the process. This has taught me that writing ritual preferences can definitely shift with time and that you must respond accordingly.

Writing on an empty stomach only keeps your mind wondering off to that tasty treat in the cupboard. Yet being belly-poppingly full can make you lethargic and unproductive as well. Being proactive here would be to find your sweet spot beforehand to ensure you are not high on sugar and low on energy.

Are you alert? Can you hear me?

The bottom line is if you’re tired, the last thing you are going to want to do is write. I’m absolutely exhausted, it’s time to get writing– said no writer ever.

The con to being a night writer is the fact that sometimes I do get very tired. I have found myself jolting my head up at the screen after having nodded off for a few moments. I hate that feeling because the disorientation is a far cry from the focus needed to complete a writing session. The bottom line is if you’re tired, the last thing you are going to want to do is write. I’m absolutely exhausted, it’s time to get writing– said no writer ever.

Are you physically comfortable?

I admit to being a slight hypocrite on this one because when I get into the swing of one of my projects, nothing can stop or interrupt me. In fact, one writing session was spent working on my novel on a full bladder. Primarily, the ideas were flowing so freely that I didn’t want to miss out on anything. I stayed like that for probably an hour or more- but I would never recommend that. Authors can be the biggest procrastinators and that goes for a lot of writers in general so having a comfortable writing environment to keep you writing is very important.

Feeling physically uncomfortable can be used as yet another excuse to put down the pen or laptop so why make space for that outcome? I would advise that you prep meticulously before writing to avoid this- take that loo break, itch that scratch, cut that pesky hangnail, tidy your writing space- any silly thing that could take away from your full, devoted attention on your project.

I find that manipulating my writing space definitely makes for a better experience which fosters enjoyment in my craft. It allows me to seamlessly zoom into my projects in comfort. As a writer you need to learn what variables do and don’t work for you so that you can increase productivity and get the best out of your writing sessions.

How are you going to adjust your writing environment next time? Let me know in the comments below.  

Five Actions to Take When Writer’s Block Takes Hold

Any writer can attest to the fact that writer’s block is a tortuous predicament.

No writer ever wants it to happen to them but the truth is that if you are human, writer’s block is inevitable! The good news is that you don’t have to torture yourself by staying within its clutches. willing it to go away or metaphorically banging your head against the wall isn’t necessary- I promise. Back in March I wrote an article about how I find writing inspiration. The practices I mention can be used as back up tools when the dreaded writer’s block strikes. Any writer can attest to the fact that writer’s block is a tortuous predicament. that’s why it helps to step away sometimes and refuse to play ball. Step away? I hear you say. I can assure you I am not mincing my words with this specific solution to a writer’s universal dilemma. Here are my five suggestions for actions to take when writer’s block looms and dims your bright ideas.

Step Away!

When the thinking cogs aren’t working, never force them. Doing so merely adds to the feeling of frustration and helplessness at being unable to move forward.  It’s time to step away and reach for inspiration somewhere other than the crevices of your mind.

Go out for a walk and observe the weather and the smells carried by the breeze or the still air. Spot the signs of life as you walk past homes; something as simple as the whiff of laundry detergent or the aromatic spices of a homemade curry could spark an idea and set your writing wheels back into motion.

Have an Experience

Make a marked effort to experience something new: this is the fun part. You can be as adventurous or as in the box as you want. Been meaning to visit a different part of your city or refurbished establishment? A restaurant serving food you’ve never tried? Go! Drink in the sights and flavours, inhale life around you- feel the ambience.

On the contrary it could be something as simple as tasting that new Macchiato fusion you’ve been meaning to try. The flavours could strike a chord and catalyse a new idea- perhaps the sweetness reminds you of an indulgent childhood treat which could lead you to think about the associated emotions…think about what content you could conjure up from that single experience. Testing new waters in any capacity can stimulate new thoughts and thus ideas in the process.

Release Some Endorphins Through Exercise

Endorphins are the ‘happy hormones’ released after aerobic exercise. They lead to the onset of a positive feeling in the body that boosts energy, lifts the mood and can lower symptoms linked to mild depression and anxiety. It can also improve sleep.

Now think about the alleviation of all of these symptoms and the potential they have to hit a variable that could be leading to your writer’s block- Perhaps the stresses of life are clouding your creativity or tiredness is impacting your ability to conjure up or process new ideas. Raising your serotonin levels through exercise could potentially offer improvement in these areas. Even a slight shift in your mood could change your approach towards your craft during a writing session.

Read a Book

What better way to push Writer’s block to the side than to read the work of someone else who successfully beat it? They got through writer’s block and so will you once you give yourself the opportunity to step back, take stock and reup on your ideas.

Make Random Lists

Seriously. The more random, the better. List ideas could be anything from top ten desserts to five of your happiest moments to worst songs to dance to. These ideas might help you strike gold for your next article or scene/chapter outline. You could use the tiniest component from a list to help you develop your next piece of content. Forming multiple lists may help you to strike gold and even if they inspire nothing the first time around, you may go back and find that your next piece of content was staring at you the whole time- from that random list.

What do you do to help lift writer’s block and what action from this list are you going to try the next time it strikes? Let me know in the comments below.

Finding Writing Inspiration in your Everyday Emotions

Writers! Can you think back to a time when someone really disappointed you or elicited a strong emotion? Weave that into your work.

As a writer you have the advantage of finding inspiration in your everyday emotions. These emotions can be the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow or the lemonade in the evening, after a day of sucking on bitter lemons. Only If you know how to manipulate them. Nobody likes to feel like garbage but let’s be real, life is full of challenges and pivots and we will be tested. Find comfort in this one true fact: those negative emotions can act as the pieces of meat that tie the soup of your story line together.

Here are two ways in which you can turn negative emotions into inspiration for your fiction writing:

It can fuel a plotline

Remember that rude shop assistant you encountered the other day? The one who glared at you when you asked where the hummus was? They have the potential to be a fine resource of inspiration. I can see you shaking your head but seriously, hear me out. What about that commuter who knocked into you on Tuesday morning? If none of these scenarios ring a bell, think back to a time when someone really disappointed you or elicited a strong emotion? Gather your thoughts and squeeze that lemonade because you’re about to add a spoonful of authenticity to your work in progress.

Consider the following:

How did the scenario make you feel?

What is the physical description of the person in question?

Step outside of the scenario and consider or imagine (if you don’t know them) what type of person they normally are. Could they have been really stressed out or do you think this behaviour is a part of their normal personality?

What was the setting like? Was it crowded and claustrophobic or spacious? What was the lighting like?

Writing it all down and adding to your inventory

Now that you have a bank of inspiration from your experience/s sentences, begin to jot down notes and words.

Do you have a character in mind that you can project a similar emotion onto in order to push your storyline forward?

Did they feel the emotion from somebody else or did they elicit it?

What was their subsequent reaction?

If you’re unsure, begin to plot down possibilities. You don’t need to have a clear outcome from these exercises. They are merely designed to provide a source of information which you can draw from at any time.

Forcing your character into action

Now take yourself out of the scenario and transfer it to a prospective character. You can have a character in mind or create one. Remember, this doesn’t have to be a main character at all.

Think about what triggers their emotions? Is it the same factors which trigger yours? If not how are they different?

Think about where your character can go with this. Brainstorm the possibilities for embedding this into scenes or storylines. It could be a minor part of one scene or could be a major conflict which creates the story arch. It is all dependent on what you gain from this exercise of digging from past conflicts.

Turning reality into fiction

It takes a box of odds and ends to embellish a work in progress. Taking the good with the bad ensures that you’re collecting resources to draw from at all times. So how will you react to an unsavoury situation next time? Jot it down and think about how you can transfer it to your work in some small way. You can even file it away for future use if it doesn’t fit into your existing work in progress. Is there a situation that you can think of which could inspire your current work? Tell me in the comments below!

I Rarely Look for Inspiration in the Middle of a Fiction Project. Here’s Why…

As a writer, inspiration is something that I don’t often look for. I know it sounds strange as us writerly people are known for digging and delving through the crevices of life to find hidden gems that serve as inspiration. I, on the other hand allow inspiration to come to me in spontaneous form. I let my ideas flow at whatever ungodly time that they pop up and then capture them. Remember the BFG? Rahl Dahl’s giant who was also a dream catcher? He used a net to catch good and bad dreams to put into bottles and store in his cupboard. As an author I take a similar approach because forcing myself to conjure up ideas just highlights the fact that writer’s block is around the corner. Instead when my ideas and inspirations pop up, I take note and capture them.

Never Let an Idea Go!

It’s really important to never let an idea go as a writer. Many of us can attest to scribbling on receipts in the supermarket when our phone battery has died. Better yet, miraculously holding that idea in your head before you reach home looking vacant, mumbling to yourself and dodging conversations with others in the process so as not to drop your genius idea. I have been known to spend the wee hours of the morning writing illegible notes on my phone’s notepad when I should be sleeping. Worse still, when the notepad ran out of space, I made notes in the form of text message and sent them so that they would be saved – maybe that’s just my dramatic #writerslife, however you get my drift. Writers do crazy s**t to hold or retain ideas in our heads when pens aren’t near!

That spontaneous eureka moment of inspiration

One of the upsides to not looking for inspiration is the feeling you get when it appears. That magical eureka moment releases some serious endorphins and that feeling never gets old. A few recent instances stand out in my mind. Take for instance a period of writer’s block that came about a few months ago. It was regarding the main character of my upcoming novel and a male love interest. I wanted them to go on a date but the thought of conjuring up a samey restaurant scene- which I knew was needed- left me feeling really uninspired. I deliberated about the scene and even started to dread writing it which made me postpone working on the project altogether. I didn’t want to move forward without having written it because it was pivotal but I was also too uninspired to write it. The break I took enabled me to work on other projects in the meanwhile and though this may sound cliché, I allowed myself to trust the process. I didn’t know when I would feel inspired to press on with the scene without deeming it a chore but I didn’t allow myself to ponder on it.

Inspiration Will Always Come and When it Does, it Feels Great!

When the idea did eventually come, it was instant. I found myself looking out of the windows of a vehicle as it crawled through traffic one day and the road happened to be one lined with restaurants, most prominently South Asian restaurants. A lover of this type of cuisine, rich curry dishes in cartons began to spring to mind. Did I fancy a take-away curry that night? Nope. My main character and her man did though! Out of nothing, a hiccup in the construction of my novel was remedied without me once ever having to suffer the ails of writer’s block.

This recently happened again when my main character was returning home to get on with some errands whilst considering major life choices. I wanted to document her journey home from the address that she had previously been staying at but couldn’t think of anything other than a monotonous description of her walking through the street, holding her bags and possibly catching a train or bus. Then one day the idea of her bumping into someone significant came to me and I decided to zoom in on the details of their interaction opposed to her journey home, the prospect of which, even bored me to oblivion.

I make it a thing to grasp at ideas that pop into my head IN THE MOMENT during a work in progress. Never take it for granted- being a human being, you might actually forget it and that could be disastrous for progress. So, unleash your inner BFG and capture those ideas and treat them like the magic they are.