Breaking Blocks


Writer’s block.

I get a tremor just writing the words, as though I need to cross my fingers or turn around three times to ward off bad fortune.

I’ve been fortunate in this regard but then, when you’re getting paid to write for other people and have a deadline, writer’s block is an affliction you can’t afford to have. I’ve posted previously about how I’ve had to write about things that lie outsideΒ  my sphere of interest, and how I’ve had to work out the angle – I also have a little trick I employ to get myself going. I set a timer, either 15, 30 or 45 minutes and, once it starts, all I’m allowed to do in that time is write. I can’t check Facebook or emails, make a cup of tea or do any of the other things I might faff around doing to avoid writing. If something unavoidable happens like the phone ringing or a knock at the door, I pause the timer and then come back to it. I’ve found this remarkably effective and on several occasions find myself still writing once the timer is finished, the words in full flow.

So I wonder if the same would work if I had *whispers* writer’s block. Sure, I’ve had times when ideas are at a lull, where I’m not sure what my next blog topic will be or when certain scenes need a few days to gestate before I can get them on paper. But it hasn’t stopped me from writing. I try to write something every single day. There are loads of excellent writing prompts and challenges out there in blogland – if I’m stuck, I find one of those and give it a go. Or you could write about something that interests you, a hobby, something you saw on TV, or even about how you’re feeling at that exact moment – the important thing is to set the little timer and focus on writing and writing alone.

I’ve trained in martial arts for many years, and in my youth did try breaking blocks of wood with my hands and feet. I say try – I actually did break the blocks, except for one kick that went astray and led to me running outside to stick my bare foot in the snow, the sting from my flesh hitting wood intense like fire. Because the key to breaking blocks, you see, is to think yourself past them. To visualise your foot or fist on the other side of the board and hold that image in your mind – your body takes care of the rest.

And so perhaps the same holds true for *shh* writer’s block. If you think yourself past the block, rather than focusing on the block, you’ll break through it to a place where you can write again. And, instead of using your foot or fist, use your words. Start writing about anything, just pick a topic and write, focusing through to the other side.

So what do you think, fellow writers? Have you any experience with *crosses fingers* writer’s block you’d like to share?

20 thoughts on “Breaking Blocks

    • I did a style of Tae Kwon Do very similar to karate, then I moved across to Shukokai karate. Now I practice Goju Ryu karate, though I’m only a year or so back into training – had about twelve years off. I can’t believe you did karate too! Karaoke, Blackpool and now martial arts – it’s spooky how much we have in common πŸ™‚

      • Wow – yes, it’s interesting how many different paths there are. I was moving a lot so my choice of dojo was due to where I happened to be at that time. I even trained in an old whaling shed at one point – it still had two old whale rib bones against the wall! What was it made you change over?

      • The guy who ran the Shorai club was a world champion and it was closer to my house. He was only short, but completely ripped! Your old dojo sounds amazing – mine was in the local working men’s club haha!

      • Yes, I trained with a world champion too – he was lean and wiry and could shut anyone down with a single kick πŸ™‚ And the whaling hut was probably my most interesting dojo – I’ve done my share of gyms and community centres too. My current one is private, in the shihan’s back garden. It’s like a normal British back garden then there’s a deck with an ornamental tree and pool with carp, and a traditional wooden room with screens – it’s like a little piece of Japan. Do you think you’ll go back? Is there somewhere near you?

      • There’s a few. I need to get a bit more fit first – the running is seeing to that at the min but it’s something I’m thinking about later on…

  1. Ha ha – have I ever told you about how I sometimes imagine I have a gun to my head that will be fired if I stop writing? It’s a idea I got from the internet somewhere and it’s a bit crass but it works for me. And even if what I spew out is absolute rubbish there’s often something I can do with it!

  2. Great advice about the timer, Helen.

    When I get writers block I start looking at photos, be them my own or photos on somebody else blog. It usually helps start the creative cogs and a story starts to come out. However, I would find it extremely difficult to write about a subject I have no interest in.

    • Thanks Hugh – I find the timer idea can be applied to lots of situations, like dusting for example πŸ™‚ I love the idea of looking at photos as well, what a nice way to kickstart the thinking process. And in some ways, having to write about things not necessarily in my sphere of interest has been good for me. I often learn something in the process which otherwise I wouldn’t have πŸ™‚

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