Overcoming Writer’s Block: Four Steps

Step 1: Have a cup of tea and two slices of malted sourdough with crunchy peanut butter (not too much, pretend there are only scrapings left in the jar) and thinly sliced banana. I will eat and drink slowly whilst chewing my food for longer than seems necessary, for this not benefits not only my stomach and gut, but my nose, sinuses and breathing. Don’t ask me why, just let me believe that I can do myself good by a protracted breakfast. I will not think about writing during this time. I will push away any guilt-inducing thoughts, the ‘I oughts’. I will not do the dishes afterwards, for to wash up after one’s breakfast (in the sink, I don’t have a dishwasher) is like running the washing machine at the end of the day for one’s smalls. Does anyone even call them ‘smalls’ anymore, or am I borrowing a word Jean Rhys might have used? Smalls. What if you’re a rotund lady, someone with the type of buxom figure that Beryl Cook lend the women in her paintings? Would they still be called smalls then? Who wrote that song…? The one about taking the National Express, and how difficult it is to make one’s way down the narrow passage of the centre of the bus, ‘if your ass is the size of a small country.’ No smalls there. I digress. Right, that’s breakfast done.

Step 2: Check my to-do list from yesterday. Review how much I have achieved. Feel bolstered with enthusiasm for the day to come. This is certain to gee me up, put pep in my step for what can be accomplished today. I have form; perhaps I’m not quite in Rachael Blackmore’s league but I can gallop through the work when I put my mind to it. Write to CR. Not done. Post a photograph of the light fitting that fell off the ceiling onto Gumtree. Not done. Phone JA about the toilet running for 15 minutes after I flush it and have him come fix it. Not done. Birthday card to VB. Not done. (It’s not until 27th, though, plenty of time). Stop forgetting to go to Zoom meetings. Not sufficiently specific for me to know if it’s done or not. Read the Borges, make notes and have something insightful to say about it by the time class comes. Half done. Get dressed before 3.30pm. Done (ish). Well, at least I have a list. There are many who don’t; those who stumble through life, no notion as to what they haven’t done in a day. What a way to live.

Step 3: Get a cotton bud and clean my keyboard. It is so distracting, all that dirt. How does it get there? How’s anyone supposed to write beautiful prose when their fingers are picking through the detritus of six months’ worth of desk snacks? Dirty habit. There’s something above the alt key that looks like… And they’re doing away with cotton buds. As their abolition is for the sake of the environment it’s one of those things you can’t give out about. The demise of the drinking straw, well that was no loss, but the cotton bud is a different matter altogether. I should bulk buy some in Poundland. (One to add to the to-do list.)

Step 4: You all knew what my step four was going to be. I’m so predictable. But just as the only cure for being tired is to sleep, the is only cure for writer’s block is to write. I think about people in rehab: survivors of car accidents, people discharged from long stays at hospital, those recovering from a stroke. Each of them do exercises, tiny repetitive movements that become imperceptibly bigger with each day, so that their muscles become stronger; then, after a long time and much dedication, they can walk, speak, lift something, turn in a chair. How hard must that be? How challenging, when you think you are broken beyond repair, to push on regardless? I once had a writing teacher who pointed out the fact that there was no such thing as ‘Nurse’s Block’ or ‘Binman’s Block’ or ‘Trucker’s Block’, yet writers have a notion that we need fabulous ideas and flowing inspiration, and if it escapes us, we say we’re ‘blocked’. Fabulous flows are few and far between, or maybe they’re not, once you get started. Think about the nurse, slipping into her white shoes and pushing through the swinging doors onto her ward. Think about the binman at 6am, shooing away the cheeky herring gull that has found half a cooked chicken carcass hanging out of the black bin. Think about the man driving the articulated truck, Morrison’s logo emblazoned on the side, hammering over the M8 at midnight on his way to catch the Stranraer boat. None is loving every second of it, but once they get started, it’s all ok. Point 4 in ten words: Whatever the block, just get started, it’ll all be ok.

3 thoughts on “Overcoming Writer’s Block: Four Steps

  1. You know I’m not picky (?) But feel that I must point out that ‘none’ takes a singular verb. ??

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