When it happened, after three years of writing, it took me by surprise. One day I was happily writing away and then the next day... blank. There was absolutely nothing in my head – no ideas, no little seeds to germinate. Just emptiness.
I couldn’t believe it. Surely I hadn’t succumbed to the dreaded writer’s block - I'd thought it was something made up... fictional... like my stories. Not wanting to panic, I pulled out my little book of ideas, knowing that in it would be a wealth of story nuggets that I could mine.
Running my eyes down the list of ideas accrued over many months, I felt a sense of relief and sat down at the keyboard to write... again nothing. I couldn’t form a story out of anything. Never mind, I thought, I’d get out one of my history books and have a browse – many of my historical stories have started this way... again nothing. Just the cursor blinking on my screen.
Since I started writing for magazines (two and a half years ago now), I’ve never had this happen. When people have asked me, Where do you get your ideas? and How do you write so many different stories? I’ve always looked at them in surprise and told them they are just there in my head, bubbling under the surface of my consciousness. Except now they weren’t!
So what is Writer’s Block? It’s simply losing the ability to produce new work and the most common causes for this are:
· Running out of inspiration
· Being distracted
· Adverse life circumstances
· Pressure to produce work
· Feeling intimidated by precious successes
I put on my psychologist’s hat (yes, that was my degree many years ago) and thought about which of the above might apply to me. I realised that it was the last two and I'll explain why.
I believe that bringing out my romantic short story collection Room in Your Heart, and having such lovely reviews for it, has made me worry that I will never be able to produce work like that again. This, along with the pressure I've put on myself to keep up my output of short stories, has caused the big freeze.
So what did I do about it? Well, I decided to give myself a complete break from writing short stories for a bit and concentrated instead on my serial, as I knew where that was going. I completed the fourth instalment and then gave myself permission to switch off. It was such a relief.
Then one day last week, while at my mum’s house, I was sitting looking out at the willow tree in her wonderful garden when out of the blue, a story came to me - just like that! Not only that but it was fully formed (unheard of for me). I wrote it up as soon as I got home and sent it.
I hope the magazine likes it but, if not, I won’t mind because I’ve learnt a valuable lesson: to be kind to myself.
My ideas had not gone, they were just resting.
* UPDATE* I sold the story!
* UPDATE* I sold the story!