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5 ways to overcome writers’ block

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By Ian Ellard 16 October 2012

Writing is wonderful; writing is terrible.

These statements are true for the same reason - because it's all in your head.
You can do amazing, impossible things when you're writing. You can climb inside another person's brains. You're allowed. You can invent kites and cars and talking caribou. You're allowed.
And then it stops. The dreaded writers' block hits you. You sit there with no arms to write and no brain to think, like a massive mango. You might feel afraid; you might feel nervous; you might feel angry; you might feel a bit apathetic, like there's nothing doing if you don't have the Muse.
Writer's block affects everyone in one way or another. If everyone wrote a perfect sentence whenever they tried, there would be no value in the work - writing isn't just imagining.
But some people write through: they know this bit might not make the edit, but they do it anyway. And who knows? Some of what comes out might be useful: it might make it into your next novel; or it might just have been a bridge.

Tips to see you through and help you overcome writers' block

1) Run away. But do come back. Exercise summons up the blood and gets you oxygenated, yes, but a run or a bike ride will also help you feel like you've achieved something. That feeling is catching, and you'll soon find the confidence to write again.

2) Ask your characters. "It comes down to interrogating your characters," says Rebecca Lee, a Faber editor. "Do you know them well enough? What would they do in that situation? Your characters can fix your plot for you in many cases."

3) Write something - anything. Sometimes the blockage can almost feel like it's physical. Get your fingers going by copying out a passage from the nearest book, or by writing 200 words about a breadbin named Brian. Anything to get you going.

4) Reread, reread, reread. If you're working on a longer piece, go back to the last bit that you feel you got right. Read from there until the voice on the page is echoing in your head.

5) Treat yourself. Remember this is supposed to be fun. If you're blocked, turn away from the page and indulge. Have a bath, if you like, or watch 30 Rock. Some people go to Spain. That seems to help, too.

In the coming months we will be asking writers far and wide for their tips to beat writers' block. If you have a failproof method, get in touch, on Twitter, on Facebook, or by contacting us.

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