A lot of people have been asking me how to cope with writers' block.


          I think the first thing to bear in mind is that it's nothing magical.  It's simply fear and indecision.  You're frightened to start in case your writing is bad. You're scared of wasting time working on something that's no good.


         You're in a dither - should I start like this?  Would it be better to start like that?  All writers know what it's like.


          Usually, if you can MAKE yourself start, this fear evaporates.


          Ah - but that's the trick. How do you make yourself start?


          Begin by accepting - no, embracing - the fact that you WILL get it wrong first time.  And the second and third times probably.  Just make your mind up to it, and stop worrying about it.


          EVERY professional writer writes and rewrites several drafts of everything.  NOBODY gets any piece of writing perfect at the first attempt.


          As Beckett said, 'Fail again. Fail better.'



          Having said that, I still often find myself unable to start writing. I have wasted days in really wanting to write, and yet finding every excuse not to start. Every writer I know has done the same.


          One of them - Anne Cassidy - told me about THE TIMER TRICK.  I didn't believe her.  It sounded like a silly game to me, a bit of psycho-babble.  (Sorry, Anne.)  One day, in desperation because I had a deadline and hadn't written anything for nearly a week, I tried it. And it worked.  It shouldn't work - but somehow it does.


          Here's how it goes.  First, decide how long you can bear to spend writing.  It might only be ten minutes.  Or five. It doesn't matter.


          It might be 15 or 30 minutes, or an hour.  It's up to you.  I find that some days I can face the thought of an hour or even two hours.  On other days five minutes seems like too much.


          Having decided how long, get hold of some kind of timer.  Doesn't matter what kind.  I use a plastic kitchen timer in the shape of a chicken - but it can be an alarm clock, an alarm on a mobile, or whatever.  But it's important that it can be set to a certain time, and will make a loud noise when that time is up.

         Now get ready for writing.  Put the drinks and snacks of your choice to hand.  Open your laptop - or set out your paper and pen.


          Have any notes or research books you need within easy reach. Give yourself no excuses to stop once you've started.


          Now set your timer to your decided time.  And until the bell rings, you WRITE!


          Don't dither, just write.  You only have X minutes.  Don't worry about whether what you write is good or not.  Just write!  Put down whatever comes into your head.  You can improve it later.


          When the bell rings, you can stop if you want to.  That's the bargain you made with yourself.  Even if you only set the bell for five minutes, you'll be surprised at how much you can get written in that time - and once the bell rings you can stop.


          Go and do something else entirely. Forget the writing.  If you like, you can set the timer for another five or ten minutes later in the day.  Or 30m or 45m or whatever.


          But what I usually find is, that when the bell rings, I'm in the middle of something, I've got lots of ideas - and I carry on writing. Sometimes for hours.  Because once I've got started, once I've jumped in and made those initial decisions - then the block melts away.


          And once you've got SOMETHING written down - doesn't matter how poor it is - you can look at it on the paper.  There it is, spelled out, and you can see better how to improve it.


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