Last updated on 5 January 2018
Yesterday I attended a writing session “What’s the story, Morning Glory?” at the State Library Queensland Cafe. These sessions are once a month and they’re a chance for me to stop whatever it is I’m working on and allow myself to write freely, loosely guided by a writing prompt provided by a representative of the Queensland Writers Centre. I tend to focus on fiction writing at these sessions, as it is completely different to my usual type of writing, leaving my mind to be creative, reflective and wander into ideas for a story. I generally feel more productive about my day when I’ve done this before heading off to work. This little something for me, this time out to explore ideas and thoughts, put me in a positive headspace for the day ahead.
Yesterday morning the prompts didn’t arrive until over half way through my session. I had relied heavily on having a writing prompt to write myself out of this mojo slump I’m experiencing. My mind was, and still is, seemingly blank or just simply spent. Having two writers happily chatting away about their memoirs nearby was both disheartening and distracting as I desperately tried to scrape together a blog post.
Without a writing prompt, this is what I came up with yesterday morning, as I wrote about not having anything to write about.
On Thursday evening I sat in front of my laptop for about 25 minutes. Nothing. I have lots of ideas for #blogjune but I couldn’t feel any of them. My ideas didn’t grab me, didn’t muster enough passion to to be able to execute them well. If my ideas weren’t grabbing me and if I was to put in half an effort, the resulting post sure as hell wasn’t going to grab you. I hope my writing mojo is just on holiday. But it has me wondering where it goes and why. Being a person who is prone to over analysing things and always asking ‘Why?’, it baffles me how I don’t have an inkling of an idea or thought I can meaningfully tease out.
This has happened to me more than a few times, much like everyone I suppose, and no doubt during this #blogjune challenge. For me when this happens, it usually passes quickly enough to not impact my writing progress too much. (I probably use the word ‘usually’ a little loosely given my recent experience with writing my literature review. But I think that was a separate issue.) I can’t help but wonder, or reflect on the cause of this….okay, let’s call it ‘writer’s block’. (I really dislike the phrase) Is it a sign of burnout? Is my focus elsewhere? Has the passion been extinguished by what I have on both at and outside of work? Do I just need to stop (writing) for a while until the mojo comes back? Actually, I think this is probably the worst thing any writer can do.
The best thing, the most productive thing to do is to just write. Start with a word. Then another word. Go for a sentence or two and before you know it, you have a paragraph. I’ve read previously about this sort of advice for writing. At first I was sceptical. But I’m sharing with you now that it works. This is what I’m doing now. I started writing an entry in my journal. I have ‘Day One’ on the iPad. Then once I had written enough to get me going, I’ve hopped over to my blog. Writing your way out of a writer’s block brings back some inspiration. My mojo hasn’t instantly returned, evidently as I write about not being able to write. But writing your way out of a writer’s block may trigger little bits and pieces or leads to follow. Writing anything that comes to mind find pieces of string or paths you can choose to chase or hunt down. You never know where a piece of string or path might lead. Take a path and run with it, exhaust the idea until you can’t write anymore about it. The key to this exercise is to find a space, a journal to hand write in, an app, private blog, whatever, where it is safe to do this kind of writing. I say ‘safe’ because this space needs to be free of judgment, not just from other people, but also yourself.
I recommend purchasing yourself a nice, little notebook, a special pen or download a writing app that is pleasing to you. Allocate this space as your safe space. I have a paper notebook for my writing journal, which is usually carried in my handbag, and ‘Day One’ on the iPad. I use whatever I reach for first. Make sure this space is away from your usual writing or work spaces, such as a separate notebook or an application that is especially for this purpose. This is your safe space that is free from the harshest judge of your writing, you.
The next time you suffer ‘writer’s block’, remember, just write. Anything.