Thursday, 17 February 2011

How to write when you just don't want to

I notice with pride and alarm that the last post I published was the 30th post I have written for this blog. I started blogging in September, after I finished writing my thesis. My blog posts seem to generally run to a page of A4, roughly 500 words, so even a historian can work out that I’ve now written nearly 15,000 words for this blog. That’s 5,000 more than my undergrad dissertation, 5,000 fewer than my MA thesis. That’s a lot of words, and I’ve reached one or two conclusions.

The ThinkerI don’t care what anyone says, non-fiction is easy. Without an idea, you cannot write fiction. Without a clue, you can still write non-fiction.

I’m not saying that it’s necessary or advisable to hammer out whatever comes into your head, but I find that in non-fiction, whether writing an academic essay or a slightly whimsical blog post, the act of writing itself is a great way to overcome writer’s block. I was never any good at planning essays, and I certainly don’t plan what I’m going to write on here - and you can’t tell, can you?

Sometimes I have a couple of ideas about what I want to say about a particular subject, and that helps things along. Sometimes I just sit down in front of my old adversary, Document1 – Microsoft Word, and start writing.

The point is that writing your thoughts down, just like saying them out loud, helps to develop them. And writing them down has the added bonus that you don’t seem quite as odd as you might if you said whatever you were thinking out loud.

I’ve also found that the process of writing this blog helps to crystallise in my memory the books I’ve written about. It’s an alarming feeling to read a book, then think back to it a few months later and realise that you can remember virtually nothing about it. The process of writing about a book, of setting down a few thoughts about it, is an excellent way of remembering it. This seems to work even if you take my magpie-like approach and just write about what you found interesting, rather than trying to produce some kind of coherent review of the book.

I know that writing about books is a niche market. I know that not everyone likes books, and I know that not everyone who likes books likes or has read the same ones as me. But at this momentous stage, I’d like to say thank you to my loyal following of five – count ‘em – subscribers to my blog.

Now, any thoughts on how to get over fiction-writer’s block, anyone?


  1. I read your blog every time you post. Now how's that novel coming?

  2. Fiction writer's block - I love to believe in it but it doesn't really exist. Hard work is how to get over it. Sitting writing anything, or 'continuous writing' as it is called, is indeed a good trick. Like anything it really comes down to hard work. Of course this refers to writing. Writing well... now there's something different. That requires ideas and inspiration. Keep lots of note pads full of ideas - however small or crap - and you might just find some of them link up. Then once that is done - edit, rewrite and edit some more. It's a bitch but it makes all the difference.

  3. Ooh, I think blogging is about the worst cure for fiction writer's block. Apart from anything else, it tends to take up time you could be using to, err, write fiction...

    That said, do continue it...

  4. @Jane-O: Thanks for your support... You know exactly how the novel is going!

    @Paul: I have tried some continuous writing, the kind of thing where you get up in the morning and write a page of A4 on whatever pops into your head. Surprisingly helpful, but not always practical in everyday life. I do have several notepads though, perhaps I should trawl back through them and look for links. But yeah, write, write, write, seems to be the key.

    @Theodora: I agree with you about blogging, but it's a helluva lot better than writing nothing at all!

    Thanks for your comments, guys.

  5. Well don't worry Ed. Editing other people's work will be ever so much easier ; )

    PS- I also like that one of your 6 followers is yourself.