How to Conquer the Writers Wall

The writers wall is something I made up last month when I got stuck on the 3rd draft of one of my novels. Despite hours of writing, research, note taking and re-writing, I couldn’t get past the third chapter. It was a slightly odd feeling for me. Usually when I get stuck I just shrug my shoulders and carry on, knowing full well that a lot of what I’m writing will turn out to be utter rubbish. That’s okay because I can always go back and edit out the rubbish later. But last month I truly hit a wall. For the first time in a long time I got stuck.

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Writers Block is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I have never believed in writers block. The only block a writer has is the devil in their head whispering nasty things in our ear. When we let it, that whisper becomes a constant drumbeat of unconstructive criticism. It’s like sitting down at a bad writers group and having everyone around the table tell you your writing is s**t. 

Eventually you learn not to listen to that nasty little demon lurking in your head. Instead you begin listening to the other little voice; the one that is constructive and is there to encourage you to keep going. Sometimes I find it hard to distinguish between the two which is when my work begins to suffer, just like it did last month. So what do you do when this happens?

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Go around the wall

A wise man once said to me ‘You can’t edit a blank page’. I spent hours punching the wall I’d run into over and over. The wall remained stubbornly solid. I couldn’t find any weakness in it, so I sat back and had a little think. My strategy wasn’t working, and then I remembered something Einstein once said.

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

After hours of tearing my hair out and searching desperately for a way through the wall, I had forgotten one very important question; what happens if I try and go around it? Every wall has a corner or an end. They don’t just go on and on forever (no matter what some people would have us believe). If you can’t get through, why not go around?

There’s always a way around

Instead of being miserable writing something I had temporarily lost interest in, I wrote 3 short stories in the space of 3 weeks which I really enjoyed. Instead of watching some of my favourite TV shows after work, I spent more time reading new books (this month I can strongly recommend ‘A Man Called Ove’, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ and ‘The Paying Guests’). Instead of moaning about my temporary lack of success with one novel, I’m ignoring it for now and sending out new stories to magazines to see if anyone is interested in publishing them. I will return to the blank page of that novel I’m stuck on next month in a better mood and probably better equipped to find a new way around that particular wall.

Remember; if you can’t break the wall, simply go around it.

About the Author

John is an award winning science fiction, horror and fantasy writer. He is also a public speaker and consultant and has worked with Time to Change - a campaign to end mental health stigma - and for Wellment - an organisation that delivers mental health at work training. He loves science fiction, fantasy and horror stories and novels. His work has appeared in Vector Magazine, Ink Pantry, Sci-Fi Bloggers, The Huffington Post and more. His short fantasy "Thanks for Applying" won an Honourable Mention Award in the Writers of the Future competition in 2017. HIs short horror "By the Boiler's Hand" was longlisted for the 2018 James White Award and won an Honourable Mention in the Writers of the Future competiton the same year. John has spoken at several events including the Nine Worlds Geekfest in London, Bristol Con 2018, and the Moorfields NHS Trust. He has delivered masterclasses on ending mental health stigma in the workplace for Time to Change. He lives with his wife and a pile of books in the UK.

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