I only started having problems with writer’s block when I hit my 30s. Most writers know the symptoms all too well. Do you have a fantastic idea for a story but just don’t know where to start? Do you find yourself staring at a blank screen for hours? Do you feel like a failure and doubt whether you will ever be able to write anything of worth again?
I had an epiphany when I realised the true source of the problem: that I didn’t need to write. I had a fine job that paid the bills. Writing was a bonus extra – fun, but in no way essential. I thought of writers who have inspired me. Young Philip K Dick (who I tweeted as) lived in squalor – a leaky house full of mice – and he hated the idea of a standard 9-5 job so much it pushed him to write to pay the bills. Kurt Vonnegut was similar: he desperately wanted to quit his PR job working for General Electric and knew his only escape was selling cynically targeted short stories to mass-market ‘slicks’.
This led me, a number of years ago now, to crystallise my first piece of advice for aspirational writers:
Find Your Need
Find your need, and once you’ve found it, put it in front of you. Literally put it in front of you. Staple your energy bills to the front of your writing journal. Blue-tack The Guardian’s ‘Top 100 novelists’ to your wall (you need to be in there). Take a photo of the rejection letter from that pompous editor you need to prove wrong and save it to your homepage.
But that’s not enough. Continue reading “Feed That Dog! – How I smashed writer’s block and you can too”