September has been yet another crazy, busy, hectic and chaotic month with the Royal Adelaide Show, a fairly intense work environment, family commitments, the health not being on its best behaviour, a weekend dash to Melbourne and taking on the organisation of a reunion of my Advertiser colleagues. Phew!
So it is somewhat fortuitous that my local writer’s group, Writers of Adelaide, has set writer’s block as the topic for this month’s blog chain.
Initially when the topic was set, I thought, somewhat smugly: “Hah! I don’t experience that.” However as this crazy month unfolded, I started to wonder if this initial reaction was in fact actually correct. Somewhat evidenced by the fact that I am scrambling to get this written by the end of the month deadline now only hours away. Thankfully it is a long weekend so if I have to be up until midnight to post it up on time, then so be it.
Writer’s block is for me a somewhat interesting concept. While my initial reaction to the topic does have some truth, as I had no choice while as a journalist and now working in government media and communications, to always deliver a story or some form of writing to a deadline. There has been no room for writer’s block.
Over the years, I found some articles and stories to be very easy to write, while others have been like extracting blood out of the stone; but at the end of the day the goods have been delivered and pretty much to time. Even when writing university essays writer’s block was a rarity, again thanks to the deadline, although I must confess to successfully negotiating many an essay extension while in academia.
So staring at a blank page or screen waiting for some form of inspiration to strike hasn’t seemingly been an issue, I think partially because I’ve always had notes of some form to work off and thereby providing me with a starting point.
So while my professional and academic writing seems to have escaped the writer’s block curse, I am now starting to wonder whether I have been experiencing it with my personal/creative writing and not realising it.
Like many an aspiring author, I have started numerous writing projects over the years that have never been finished. Each time I have blamed the realities of life and while on one level that is true, could it also be the case that I didn’t ultimately believe in the project?
I am also starting to think that the form of writer’s block that has impacted on my personal/creative writing may in fact been because I haven’t developed a discipline to this area of my writing compared to my professional work. It is after all amazing how the need to pay the bills can be an incentive!
At the beginning of this year when I reactivated this blog site I made a somewhat scary New Year’s Resolution with my January blog – In fear and trembling or the latest attempt to overcome procrastination. At the time I declared I would finish the first draft of the existing work in progress by the end of this year. While there have been quite a few competing priorities along with way, it still seemed like an attainable goal until the end of April when my brother’s untimely and sudden death occurred.
It was to be another 10 weeks before I felt able to return to my own writing again, describing that period through with my July blog – Creativity through tears. Now thinking about those recent weeks in the context of this post, while I didn’t recognise it as writer’s block at the time, I am now realising that it was indeed the case.
In doing some preparation for this post, Googling “grief” and “writer’s block” produced a plethora of articles detailing the grief/writer’s block link. There are too many to list here, however if you are interested in the topic rest assured they are easy to find. That Google list also provided me with the solace that I was not alone in experiencing this problem.
When I returned to my desk back in July, instead of bashing myself up over the writing plans going AWOL, I decided to be kind to myself resetting my self-imposed WIP deadline to mid 2019 and committing myself to the writer’s group blog chain initiative (the latter ensuring there would be at least a monthly blog on this site). While I have kept up the blog chain commitment – even if it is at the 11th hour this month – the WIP is however been a bit of a struggle, not through the idea but in the time commitment to progress it.
So in thinking about writer’s block and my own writing I’m starting to think about the need to implement some discipline to the personal/creative writing space, following this timeless advice by Louis L’Amour:
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” – Louis L’Amour
Earlier this year when I was far more diligent about the WIP, it did flow and even now, despite the hiatus of recent weeks, I still believe in it, probably more so than any other WIP I have commenced. So as we roll into October I am going to try some new tricks that I have come across this month to instil structure and discipline to my writing process and in turn hopefully kickstart the manuscript back to life.
The first idea came to me courtesy of A.J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window (by the way an amazing debut novel), during his author event at Norwood Town Hall earlier this month. He discussed his schedule of writing every night, after finishing his day job as a book editor, from 8-11pm. After this talk, chatting to friend and local author Victoria Purman who interviewed Finn that night, she made me realise how quickly I could get a word count up by such a regime. Which made me think my initial WIP deadline is do-able. Thanks Victoria for the push!
The other idea, which I came across thanks to another local author Lia Weston, is the following Prolifiko article she shared on her Twitter account – #100DaysOfWriting – the gentle approach to writing productivity
This article looks at how British author Jenn Ashworth came up with the #100DaysOfWriting challenge. The idea she said was more of a whim than a significantly planned concept. The exercise also started as she was coming out of a period of grief.
She posted the idea on Instagram with the #100DaysOfWriting tag. It was not to be about about productivity, hitting goals or word counts or even nailing her then work in progress, for her it was about an approach to falling back in love with writing. As she said:
“Every day for 100 days I would turn up to the book. There was no obligation to write for any amount of time, or to a word count every day, but just that I would turn up. I hoped that after these 100 days, I would’ve made friends with the book again, maybe finished it, maybe got over my terror. I put this up on Instagram, kind of as a way of holding myself accountable. I thought if I sent it in public, then I’ll have to do it.” – Jenn Ashworth
During that initial challenge others joined her and the #100DaysOfWriting is now a well established movement on Instagram, and has expanded beyond writing to include all forms of creativity.
I feel that both approaches by A.J.Finn and Jenn Ashworth are not only attainable but provide a practical path to instilling discipline to my own personal/creative writing. As tomorrow -1 October – doubles as a public holiday here in Radelaide, it provides me the perfect starting point to give the #100DaysOfWriting writing challenge a go. I might not get the first draft of the WIP completed but I should be well advanced on setting up a far more disciplined approach to this craft that I love.
So follow me at my Instagram site @fontyk for daily updates on my progress with the challenge along with weekly updates here at Crossbordertales. Stay tuned…
I am the last of the Writers’ of Adelaide group to make the blog chain. To see how the rest of the group have tacked this common aspect of a writer’s life please visit their blogs:
- Jefferson Retallack – https://datageddon.wordpress.com
- Simon Di Nucci – http://writing-the-message.com/
- Ryan Peck – https://adelaidedad.com/2018/09/21/writers-block/