The Villain of the Piece | Figuring Out How To Write a Novel and Defeat Writer’s Block

My villain (well, one of them), just turned up in the writing and everyone is running around screaming. Great. I’ve been waiting to write this since the beginning. So why is there a sudden drop in motivation to write?

I don’t believe in writer’s block – it’s part of everyone’s “How To Write A Novel” journey, but I disagree with that idea that it’s just a thing. I think it’s a generic excuse for other underlying problems that surface when you’re involved in a project. It’s too easy to say “I have writer’s block” and just stop there and wait for the subconscious problems to fall back asleep.

The last blog dealt with the “Akrasia Effect” and that sense of upper limiting oneself. I thought that because I’d written about it, now I was fully aware of this pitfall. Unfortunately not. These are my own personal villains (as much as I love some of them) that I’m looking at as the cause for derailing my writing:

  • Not enough time
  • I have a business to run
  • I have a wife and a daughter
  • We have guests staying with us
  • I have this blog to write
  • There’s a bazillion other things to do
  • I have plenty of time left in the year
  • Now I’ve written the good bit, what next?
  • I can’t find the right music for writing
  • And also can’t find the right place to write
  • I got a new mouse and it’s not the same
  • I’m writing on the laptop, not the desktop
  • It’s too bright outside

And on and on and on.

Sheesh I’m just upending my head there to see what comes out. I’m a fan of tackling this kind of self-defeating cycle with the following rule:

Write each feeling down on paper. Then start straight after it with “Because…”

Get a little bit more information. Think through each of the points and add more detail as to why, the motivations behind the base feeling. I had years of anxiety and panic attacks in my early twenties and this is one of the tricks that I employed. So much of panic and overwhelm comes from the simple idea of something, without any kind of logic behind it.

  • Not Enough Time” = Panic
  • Not Enough Time because I’m not balancing my time properly” = Less Panic

  • Now I’ve written the good bit, what next?” = Panic
  • Now I’ve written the good bit, what next? Because I need to focus on the aftermath and then find my next highlight to write” = Less Panic

James Clear’s recent blog on The Four Burners was an interesting read and highlighted some of these issues about work/life balance.

Though primarily directed at business, the feeling of spinning so many plates was familiar and I wondered how could this apply to writing? Well, in a nutshell (help I’m in a nutshell etc etc), to be successful you have to eliminate one of the burners. Work, Family, Health or Friends. It’s a bit of a brutal system. I’m not sure I agree with it, but the principles of sacrifice are there.

So if Work = Writing and I’m driving to success, then Family is obviously too important to shift. But Health is already becoming a bit more flexible. I’ve already started by getting up at 5:30am and starting to gain those beautiful sleep-deprivation bags under the eyes. Onwards and upwards.

Thanks for reading

– Tom