Posted by: valtyler | July 23, 2010

Writer’s Block

Philip Pulman doesn’t believe in writer’s block.

Neither do I.

I do confess to rare days when I go flop-bot (thanks to James Herriot for the description), when my desire to write totally deserts me. But hell! I am a pro! I shrug it off and get stuck in! Mostly, this works. I suppose can’t resist my own stories.

But there are times when I fail to be ignited by the flame of my own creativity, and so I give up. Writing with flop-bot always produces total rubbish that will be discarded the following day, and so I do something else instead, but not housework. You may be interested to know that housework is never the answer. It’s altogether too depressing. But craft is different. Usually my workbench is littered with partly completed stained-glass, pottery or patchwork projects and I return to one of these. While my fingers work, my soul is gently reignited and I my old passion returns.

More often I simply get stuck. My characters might  be in a situation that needs resolving or might need to move from one location to another and I don’t know how. The dogs are usually the answer here. They don’t have insight, or if they do they don’t communicate it to me, but they do take me for walks across the hills.

I live in one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in Britain along the Welsh/English border. I am surrounded by lush fields, hedges and hills all demanding my presence, and the dogs are always more than happy to oblige. They take me walkies. On one occasion it took eighteen months to solve my literary problem (that was one hell of a long metaphorical walk!), but it isn’t usually so dramatic. Sometimes we need go no further than the top of the drive, a brief 400 yards each way, and sometimes it takes several miles. We return with my problem solved and a spring in my step.

Philip Pullman doesn’t believe in writer’s block.

I wonder what he calls it?

If you look slightly to the right of centre, you will see the chimneys on our house. As I said, we live in the middle of nowhere.



  1. You are so right! Nicola Morgan wrote an interesting piece once about humans being able to think better when we have the open sky above us. Apparently, there is some scientific evidence that this is true!
    So, yes, walking the dog is one of the best ways to solve problems. Which is good news for me as my dog is very energetic and needs 3 walks a day…

  2. A big, big topic! Having just finished painting a room – six coats of white – I realise what a perfect activity it is for nourishing creativity – staring into nothing but whiteness day after day – the conscious mind switches off and something else takes over. Knowing how to switch on and off has always fascinated me. Walking, painting, fiddling, tidying up. Anything but writing!

  3. One of my characters once spent about three months unable to open the kitchen door and come out, because I couldn’t hear him talking. He did come out in the end. ‘Who on earth…’ is what he said – (I just looked it up to remind myself) I have no idea why ‘Who on earth….’ took me three months.
    But then after that the story moved pretty fast, I remember.

    Val, housework is NEVER the answer . Except to a messy house.

  4. Going for a walk is always beneficial for me.
    I sometimes find that when I don’t really feel like writing but force myself, the initial dross I produce often leads to something useful which may then even lead to something else.
    I have a book of quotations alongside me as I write. Sometimes, browsing through that gives me ideas.
    I find it so hard to get a balance eg Summer Hols, i tend to overdo the writing. I did six hours yesterday and wore myself out.
    When I’m doing my proper job (teaching), as the year wears on, my energy wanes and writing falls by the wayside.

  5. I used to go to a keep fit class to music and I often found that in the middle of the floor exercises I would have an idea and would have to scurry away as soon as the class stopped to scribble it down.
    should probably go and join another class!

  6. Good to see you here, Val. Walks and writing – yes, if I don’t have at least one decent walk per day, my creativity goes into decline. If I don’t have a full day-walk pretty regularly, same. Only trouble is, when I’m not writing well, I don’t allow myself the day-walk, like I haven’t earned it or something. Downward spiral ensues.
    Wise up, Mal. You know what’s good for you, so get out there and do it!

  7. I have the opposite problem to writer’s block – writer’s diarrhoea. And I don’t have enough time to get it out. Does anyone have a cure for this please? 🙂

  8. PS – if anyone fancies more prevarication or daydreaming in another middle of nowhere (more on the edge really), I got some housework needs doing…..

  9. There’s a not very good article by Robert Winston on today’s BBC newspage on how to overcome writer’s block (suicide seems to be one option) But I also found mention of a condition called Hypergraphia – a compulsion to write ….

  10. I’ve pretty much written a novel every year since 2000, usually starting in the Summer Hols. I’ve just completed a final draft of something called “McCoy’s Last Case”. And now, for the first time in ten years, I have no clue what to write next. I have lots of ideas but don’t know which one to go with and so I’m temporarily ( I hope) frozen. Hopefuly, one of the ideas (or something fresh) will get me fired up.
    On a slightly different note, I was talking to a Literacy Advisor recently and I suggested he write a book. He said he couldnt see himself getting past the first page because he’s too much of a perfectionist and would keep editing/redrafting – a different sort of writer’s block.

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