What are some practical things a writer can do to overcome writer’s block?
The most important thing is to work out WHY you are having trouble doing the writing you want to do. Is it because of fear (that you’re not good enough, that no one will be interested, that you don’t know what you want to say)? Are there logistical reasons that make it difficult (ill-health, too many other responsibilities, not enough time or space, not enough money, too many ideas)? Is there not enough support (or active sabotage) from others in your life, now or in the past, for your writing ambitions (parents, partners, children, bosses, workmates, friends)? Once you have diagnosed the blockages then you can start to work out ways around each of them.
Some writers are overflowing with ideas and have no trouble with writer’s block. But with so many ideas, they may find it difficult to finish one writing project before beginning a new one. How can a writer stay focused and finish what they start?
Prioritising can be a real challenge. I know some people who have brilliant creative ideas about every hour but cannot follow through with any of them. I know others who are stuck on projects they will probably never finish but they won’t allow themselves to abandon those projects and start something new. Again, understanding the reasons for these times of ‘stuckness’ is really important. I was stuck with an idea for a second memoir for about three years, unable to make real progress. The subject matter was painful and I was avoiding immersing myself in those painful memories. Then I gave myself a strict deadline to either progress it or abandon ship. Now it is half finished and I know I can complete it.
When writing your memoir, Shy, were there any fears or doubts that made the writing process difficult or even come to a grinding halt? How did you work through this?
All the way through the writing process I feared that no one would be interested in a story about me. I tried to persuade myself that the topic of shyness was potentially of interest to countless other shy people and that they might find the researched information in the memoir useful. Once I stopped thinking about it in terms of my anxieties and my fragile ego, I could get the thing finished. When it was published I received many emails from shy readers who HAD found it useful so I think I will try that trick on myself again.
Dr Sian Prior has been a writer and broadcaster for 25 years. A former ABC Radio presenter, a continuing Fairfax columnist and an award-winning short story writer, her first book, Shy: A memoir was published in 2014. She holds a PhD in Creative Writing, and now teaches non-fiction and feature writing at RMIT University and runs workshops for Writers Victoria and The School of Life.
Unlocking Creativity will take place on Sunday 22 September at Writing NSW, 10am-4pm.