When you next sit down and find you can’t write or decide you don’t want to write, don’t think ‘writer’s block’ ask yourself:
What does my writing need now?
What do I need to do to reconnect me to my original story intention?
It could be you need to stop and review the direction of the story or you need to gather new input to fuel the next stage of your writer’s journey on this particular piece of work.
If these questions do not produce a positive result perhaps you need to delve deeper and ask:
What am I feeling now?
What do I need that my writing is not giving me?
If you listen to the answer to this question you might find that you need to put writing aside for as long it takes to give yourself what you really need to get back to the story.
Taking a walk or a swim may help; any form of exercise or movement will get you in good spirits and in this state, new options will present themselves. Seeing friends may inject you with fresh energy and optimism. Having fun may be just what you need. Laughing is a wonderful tonic. Or taking a break from the house and where you live; this may provide you and the writing with a fresh sense of perspective. Travel always proves a good investment.
Many of Agatha Christie’s novels were inspired by around the world travels with her first husband Archie Christie. When he asked her for a divorce after fourteen years of marriage she was devastated. I can only assume to pacify herself, she booked a last-minute trip for herself to Baghdad.
‘All my life I had wanted to go on the Orient Express […] trains had always been one of my favorite things,’ Christie says in her autobiography. ‘Now I was going by myself. I should find out now what kind of person I was – whether I had become entirely dependent on people as I feared. I would have no one to consider but myself. I would see how I liked that.’ It was on this adventure she met her future husband, an archaeologist.
If Agatha Christie had not listened to the innate calling of her heart and taken courage, we would have been robbed of her collection of mystery and crime novels. ‘Murder on the Orient Express‘ was influenced by this train journey.
The essence of what you need will transpire from good listening; to yourself and in some cases someone who is empathic and compassionate to your circumstance. When you talk to someone who has experienced a similar experience it often helps.
Listening you will find is the key to overcoming most cases of inertia.
Listening is an acquired skill. If anyone tells you you’re not a good listener, thank them, and get busy with learning this technique; it will serve you well in all areas of your life.
It does not take much to be a good listener. Ironically, the skill is quite straightforward and relatively easy. There is little mystery to it. All you have to do is offer up your commitment and your undivided attention; this is what makes the technique of listening to others and one self, a challenging but rewarding skill. Most people find it near impossible to sit quietly and listen to the person sitting in front of them. Let alone, listening to the voice that emanates from inside of their own selves. But when you practice and master this skill you will see your life change for the better, also your inter-personal relationships and of course your writing will benefit.
Let us focus on listening to others.
In essence, it takes motivation. If you decide to be a good listener you will succeed.
Just have in mind that to be a good listener you will have to do things differently to the way you did them before if you want to master this skill.
To be a good listener requires:
These are quite good life skills to master so anytime would be a good time to make these attributes habitual.
Listening is elective and can be mastered by anyone.
Let us start with the basics; so you can start today.
You have to make the other person’s voice the primary voice; you do this by concentrating solely on what the other person is saying.
You must restrain yourself from interrupting with comments or preparing a response while the other person is speaking. That means when the other person is speaking you look at them face to face, and you listen to every word they say.
Unless the person stops to ask a question your primary task is just to listen: concentrate 100% on what the other person is saying and how they look. What they are also saying with their eyes and their body language; for that is also speaking, the body and soul and the heart speaking in a language that also has significance.
Sometimes you may find the person who is speaking to you is saying one thing and their body language is saying something else; there is no conflict there for you; you will be receiving two messages. The conflict lies with the speaker and this is where your patience and compassion will come in handy.
You’d be amazed how much information you will gather from these techniques. Information that will help you understand the person who is speaking on a superficial as well as fundamentally profound level.
Listening to your own self requires a similar level of kindness.
Spiritual teachers or people with a mystical intuition will tell you that all human beings are born with innate wisdom; an inner knowingness of what is good, true and right for themselves. A lot of people spend a lot of time ignoring or denying the voice of reason that emanates from within their own selves. This occurs mostly because they don’t like themselves or they don’t trust themselves. Instead, usually from a young age they rush here and there trying to find someone to guide them or help them; when they could help themselves if they listened to the wise voice that resides inside of their own self. Instead, they invariably and totally entrust their lives and their choices over to family or friends or strangers; how odd. This choice long-term usually proves to be an error of judgment, and this person spends a lot of time untangling their minds and lives from the voices and people of their past.
No one knows you like your own self.
Trust in your own self requires listening to the self. To that voice inside your head or your heart or your soul or your body; yes, your self is talking all the time. Are you listening? Do you know how to listen? Are you giving enough respect to your own self?
Co-dependency is an addictive behavior pattern; not a healthy one. Relying 100% on another human being to make decisions for you and to determine who you are and what you should be thinking and how you should be conducting yourself is not 100% healthy. This is called in simple terms, controlling the life and mind of another human being.
If this is something that rings true for you do not worry. A person can break the habit of co-dependency and embrace a life of interdependence which is a healthier option.
One can learn to master the skill of listening to their own wisdom and to the wisdom of those who sincerely care about your well-being.
Listening is the first step towards personal and professional actualization.
Admittedly, one needs to be a focused, disciplined and determined person to break the chain of addiction or to root out an inappropriate or damaging habit such as ignoring your own innate wisdom in favor of advice from someone who does not know or care absolutely about your deepest needs and desires. Only you can know this.
Experts in the field of modern psychology and loyalists of Ancient Wisdom say it takes 30 to 90 days to instill a good habit in your life. Once you have accomplished this goal, you may have to adhere to good practices all your life to keep the new good habit safely in place.
There is no better time than the present moment to put a good habit into your life. If you are a writer or would like to be a writer, writing on a regular basis needs to be a habit. When you are in motion with your writing nothing feels better and then your whole life takes on a happy disposition. Sometimes you just have to write even if you are not sure where you are going with the story; if you place your trust and faith in the craft it will lead you to where you want to go. That trust and faith
Sometimes you just have to write even if you are not sure where you are going with the work at hand. If you place your trust and faith in the craft it will lead you to where you want to go or need to go. That trust and faith are really you; the internal you. The soul of you that is destined to be a writer. You have to trust your own calling. You can only develop this trust and faith if you listen to that calling; if you listen to your innate wisdom.
One way to form and nurture a truly meaningful relationship with yourself and another human being is to listen. Respect for the soul of man is the key to friendship and loyalty.
Here is some advice for a writer who struggles with writing daily; a writer who feels any sort of resistance when they sit down to write; or believes they have nothing to say (which is not true); or doesn’t know what to write today; or they simply feel they are not good enough to sustain a writer’s life (again, not true); or for an aspiring or an experienced writer who has been told by someone that they are wasting their time on all this writing business (which is none of their business, it is only your business where and in what to invest your time and energy.) Listen to yourself and take your own counsel.
Listen to yourself and take your own counsel.
Maybe resistance or taking the advice of others has become a habit for you. If that is the case all you need to do is become the captain of your own day. Start navigating your day on your own terms in your own way.
Believe in yourself.
Imagine a writer’s life.
Imagine yourself holding your first book or your next book.
Imagine yourself reading your first article or your next article.
Map a way forward to where you ideally would like to be.
Here are a few suggestions and thoughts to help you on your way:
List the things you need to do to start your story, progress your story, to revise and edit your story. If you are not sure, talk to a more experienced writer further along the path than you. Then, go about gathering what you need and slowly but surely gather your self-assurance through action and results.
Seek out writing groups locally or online to sustain your writer’s journey. A new online or local fellow writer could be just what you need to not feel so lonely on this initially solitary pathway towards fulfilling your writer’s dream. Have in mind, when you prepare to publish you will begin working with an agent and then an editorial team in a publishing house. When you publish, you will have readers. There is a lot to look forward to on your writer’s journey. Don’t give up; focus on one step at a time as well as the vision. Realize along the way there will be wonderfully devoted literary-minded people to meet who may become your guides and helpmates.
Research local or online part-time or full-time courses you can take to improve or advance skills to support your writer’s life. Your self-assurance will flourish when you learn new skills such as revising and editing. If you would prefer to self-study you are in for a treat; there are some fantastic books available to you. (Be in touch for a reading list.)
Sooner or later you will find resistance or negative self-talk that you picked up from someone else or you have allowed to live in your head for the wrong reasons, will become a thing of the past.
Writing is a skill.
Completing an article or a novel is a skill.
Completing a piece of writing or a manuscript is an accomplishment and it will make you feel happy and good about yourself.
Don’t give up.
If you want to be a writer ideally you should be writing regularly not talking about writing or thinking about writing.
If you have access to the internet (at home or at the local library) you can read up on the lives of writers for no cost at. This information will guide you; when you see how other writers made progress you will feel enthused and forge your own way forward.
If you live near a library you can pop in a see what books they have about writer’s lives or the craft of writing. New authors work is often displayed near the front of the library. Whenever I read work by a first-time novelist I feel renewed in my own conviction to write fiction.
Today, there are so many opportunities for writer’s to find fellow writers in different communities all over the world. Many universities now offer online writing courses which offer one way to form new relationships with new writers.
Yale University offers free OPEN courses in a variety of subjects including literature. The curriculum includes video recordings of lectures, a transcript, a reading list and links to further reading.
There are universities that offer every semester free online writing courses which provide a fantastic opportunity to benefit from a structured course of study with reading lists, assignments and a community of readers to give you constructive feedback on your work. Some of these courses are accredited such as from the renowned University of Iowa International Writing Program.
A writer needs to nurture the character trait of humility if they want to advance in their craft. Self-study or further study can be a good investment; a means to enhance self-assurance or simply to open up new vistas in your writing.
You can never know too much.
You can never read enough.
You never need to feel alone or lost on this fantastic journey of being a writer.
All you need to do if you get stuck or feel like you don’t know what to do next is to reach out.
There is nothing wrong with asking for help or seeking inspiration from other writers or creative professionals.
Vulnerability – genuine need – is not a weakness. Permit others to give to you. Don’t be shy. Today you might be a receiver, tomorrow a giver. One day soon you may be able to return the kindness and help a fellow writer. A thread of kindness can begin with any person and weave into many people’s lives.
If you find yourself experiencing a semblance of ‘writer’s block’ (which technically does not exist) don’t sit there feeling sorry for yourself. Don’t waste time berating yourself. Get busy, get connected and get back to the writing. Like breathing, writing gives us writers the life we love. Word-by-word the work gets done. Breath-by-breath – and by choice – the writer mindfully carries on.
Credit: Agatha Christie pondering the work in her study at her summer home, Greenway, Devon, England.
Note: It is well worth a visit to Greenway. It is a most beautiful island and a delight to explore. In the main house, I particularly enjoyed listening to audio recordings of Agatha Christie talking about her writing method and her writer’s life.
Agatha Christie penned seventy-three published works. She is named the best-selling fiction author of all time; with approx 4 billion copies of work sold.
The Essence of Writing; Agatha Christie
Distance and local learning: Oxford University
Distance learning: Yale University
Distance learning: University of Iowa
The Faber Academy for Writers, at Faber & Faber, the British Independent Publisher in London, England and online.