Writers Block – understand your enemy and defeat it

Not a lot of people know this, but I get quite de-motivated sometimes. Dispel your disbelief! I understand how someone would come to think that I spend my days surrounded by teetering piles of notebooks bursting with drafts of bestsellers in a cabin on a lake somewhere, having not interacted with society for weeks because I simply cannot stop writing. I would appreciate how someone would think I’m consistently battling with inky fingers, from scrawling yet another fantastic idea up my arm on the bus, for fear it get lost in the endless tide of inspiration spewing relentlessly from my tiny brain. It’s easy to see where you would get that idea from, considering I manage to detract from the hectic life of leisure of a student to blog on an astoundingly regular basis.

Well, I do only blog about once every three weeks but hey, those Jeremy Kyle episodes won’t watch themselves! It would shock you too, to know that I often suffer from crippling writers block. You would never know it of course, considering the fantastic calibre of writing which is invariably posted on my blogs. From my ground-breaking observations between Irish & Welsh boys, to my philosophical social commentary arising from whatever embarrassing thing I’ve done in a night club this week, it really is only a matter of time before I decide to stop giving everyone else a chance and submit the entire blog for the Pulitzer Prize.

I can see how someone would think that. But that someone would be wrong.  You see, writing about boys and alcohol never seems to be suitable material when tackling those heinous assignments they insist on piling on me. It is for that reason I’ve decided to regale you all with what it’s like when I get writers block. It’s my hope that some poor student drowning under a thesis shaped wave out there might stumble across this and feel reassured that, well, if someone as exceptional as myself struggles from it, maybe it’s ok for them to struggle with it, too. (That is most certainly the reason, and it definitely is not because I’m putting off writing an actual assignment which is due tomorrow. Definitely not.)

Ellen Coyne’s Guide to Writers Block

  • Get a FANTASTIC idea. Absolutely fantastic. An idea so fantastic, it actually scares you. ‘Why, Ellen.’ you think to yourself, ‘this idea is so fantastic! But are you ready to be launched from general obscurity into the glare of the public eye for your brilliance?’ You remember that story they told you in Art history about how Leonardo Da Vinci’s teacher quit because Leonardo was so damn handy with the ol’ paintbrush. Imagine the guilt you’d feel when your lecturer reads your absolute masterpiece and thrusts the whiteboard marker at you in sheer defeat. ‘HERE!’ he would yell. ‘Just take over, why don’t you? Teach them yourself. My years of industry experience and teaching skills clearly cannot compete with your raw genius.’ When the University find out about this, there going to want to create a big fuss, attract the attention of the national press and that bitch from school. Do you really want all that attention for your brilliance? Take a mere millisecond to consider this before deciding that yes, you definitely do. You must write this masterpiece at once! But wait, this is going to be your Fight Club. It needs to be handled carefully. What you simply must do before you begin writing, is create a very meticulous spider diagram of all your ideas and then colour it in with pretty highlighters. Take all the time you need. You can’t rush brilliance and this brainstorm needs to be very pretty. Your potential career hinges on it.
  • Now you may begin writing. But, you’re very tired. You spent a lot of time on that spider-gram. Take a moment to admire the spider-gram. That is one pretty spider-gram. Concede that now all your ideas are in delicately coloured bubbles on paper, so all that remains is the small task of writing. It can wait.
  • Sit down to try and write again. There’s something missing. It’s a cup of tea. All writers need a cup of tea by their side, so that when someone comes into the room you have something to hold as you stare at the screen with your brow knotted, scrutinizing your own brilliance. Go to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea. Bump into several housemates. Hold a mini-summit in the living room where you all discuss how you ‘should really be doing work. Ugh! I have so much work to do.’ Drink tea, occasionally shaking your heads at each other and saying ‘*sigh* so much work…’ Discuss in-depth all the things you have been doing, instead of doing work. Discover that Frozen Planet is on. Writing can definitely wait until after. Unfortunately, it’s the episode when the baby penguin is abducted by a large bird. You try to write, but your piece becomes a dark dissertation of the cruel world we live in where baby penguins can be abducted and eaten at a mere moments notice.
  • You are now ready. Decide that seeing as there is a tidal wave of pure talent ready to burst from you, you don’t want to disturb it with the tedious task of referencing mid-flow. Best to do all the research now and then slot it in, as appropriate as you go along. Google scholar all your revolutionary ideas. Discover with an air of smugness that none of these so called ‘academics’ agree with you. You are a true, individual marvel, you know that?  Genuinely start to worry about where the University are going to put the statue of you after you write this stunning example of brilliance. Write out your bibliography with ease. Reference: 1. Source: my brain. Congratulations, you have now finished all your research. Take a break.
  • Approach your laptop once more. It’s very lonely in here. No wonder so many geniuses go crazy. You had originally thought that it was from living with the burden of intellectual brilliance. Note that that’s not something you find you suffer from that much… Maybe you should go on Twitter to satisfy your social cravings. Run the risk of exhausting all your creativity by spending almost an hour constructing hilarious tweets about how bad your writers block is. This is networking, really. You need to engage many other people in ‘writer banter!’ so you have lots of ‘industry friends’ to invite to your book launch. Decide to do the same on Facebook. You’re keenly aware that none of your Facebook friends are writers but you need to make sure that they all know what you’re up to, so it won’t be too much of a shock when you return to your hometown a superstar, having had your novel turned into a massively successful screenplay. Decide while you’re on Facebook you may as well see what everyone is up to. Look at the clock. Somehow, five hours have passed. It’s much too late for writing now. It can wait.
  • It’s time to write your magnum opus! Catch sight of your reflection as you sit down. Jesus. Your piece will definitely benefit from you smartening yourself up a bit. May as well start from scratch and have a shower. Find a mysterious tub of face mask. Decide to give yourself a complete makeover and preen & groom yourself within an inch of your life. Return to your room several hours later. Now in your new cleanly state you realise how filthy your room is. Toy around with some ‘diamond in the rough’ metaphors. Decide to clean your room. Re-organise your entire desk space. Cluttered room, cluttered mind and all that. Sit down to write. Nothing. Curse yourself. True writers sit in grungey apartments brushing aside rodents and cracker packets as they complete their piece de resistance. Decide to go out, seeing as you’ve dolled yourself up anyway. You need to brush up on your drunken debauchery so that you have a lifestyle that will fill tabloids when you’re a famous author. You are going to put the ‘WILD!’ in Oscar Wilde. Your assignment on the contemporary problems facing today’s youth could do with some real world experience anyway.
  • Sit down in your hungover state to write. You’re still a little drunk, but this is a good thing. You shall be the next Hunter S. Thompson. Armed with some cringe inducing material from last night, you are now ready to write.
  • You forgot the tea.
  • The assignment is due tomorrow. You need to get started. Check your email. Perhaps someone has discovered you and has already sent you a grovelling email, begging you to come write for them in exchange for lots and lots of money. If so, you should probably hold off on writing this piece for free. You have to milk it, Ellen. Notice an ad at the top of your email account for journalism placements abroad. Dismiss fears of the emergence of an Orwellian empire, because clearly Gmail have been giving your personal information from emails to advertisers. Focus instead on an elaborate fantasy where you spend the summer uncovering groundbreaking stories in India, wearing a understatedly pretty headscarf with a monkey on your shoulder. Imagine the moment in great detail when spontaneous civil unrest breaks out and your image is beamed around the world as you’re held hostage by militant locals in exchange for the entire nation of Britain. Which is bizarre, because it was civil unrest. But no matter. Who are you to critique the mysterious ways of Indian rebels? You would of course manage to escape using some single-handed ingenious manoeuvre. So ingenious, you fail to imagine it yourself. Ponder what you would wear for that celebrated moment when you step off the plane to rapturous applause. David Cameron would come running over, sobbing and embrace you wailing ’We were so worried!’. Over his head, you would assure the assembled enquiring media that ‘that’s enough excitement for now! You’re going back to being on the right side of the story.’ Everyone would laugh. Discover you have no new mail.
  • The assignment is due in less than 8 hours, and all you have is a spidergram. Decide you should have a nap. You work very well under pressure. Well, so it says on your CV, which is probably the greatest piece of creative writing you’ve produced to date. You shall wake up with 4 hours to deadline and weave words with wonder. It is such a shame no marks are given for awesome alliteration.
  • 2 hours to go. Reach a stage of despondency and abasement so low that you identify with the every character in Trainspotting. Sob quietly as you flick through your University’s prospectus, trying to choose an alternative career path and wonder if you may have an aptitude for Commerce which you never discovered before. Maybe you should just swap to drama. They never seem to have to do any assignments, unless ‘assignments’ refers to performing interpretive dance routines in scarves and annoying everyone. Fight the impulse to post an ambiguous and depressing status on Facebook, such as a solitary sadface, in an attempt to get some much needed attention. Make a mental note of how this moment feels. It will be excellent material for the chapter entitled ‘the lows’ when you inevitably write your stunning autobiography.
  • Get a burst of motivation, energy, ambition, drive & inspiration. Chirpily knock out the entire piece in less than an hour. Print it off, absolutely beaming. Scoop up the paper as though it were your first born child and cradle it in your arms as you prepare yourself to read your masterpiece. Scan the page in confusion. Check it again. Re-read. This….is terrible. Scrunch it up dramatically, in a way which you feel would be characteristically typical of a passionate writer. 40% cap, here you come…