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How Not To Allow A Blank Screen To Defeat You When The Words Go Missing

Some believe writer’s block is a myth, while others claim it has ruined their writing career. It can last a few days or many years. How do you deal with writer’s block?

Fortunately, I discovered writing challenges early in my blogging journey. I found them beneficial when staring at a blank screen and words failing to travel from my brain to my fingertips.

But there have been times when I have faced writer’s block when taking up a writing challenge. For whatever reason, the prompt does not motivate me to write. My creative cogs refused to budge, and even walking away from the screen and going on a walk failed to get them turning.

Has this ever happened to you?

Last week, I had one of those blank-screen moments while trying to write something for the weekly 99-word flash fiction challenge here at the Carrot Ranch.

After coming back from a long walk, I thought I’d be able to knock down the writer’s block wall, but it would not budge.

As the blank screen became a nightmare, I started panicking and thinking I would fail. Then I had one of those bright spark moments when I thought, write anything.

As the words began their journey to the screen, a story in my head began to form. I saw a woman sitting in a comfy chair, staring at her husband, who she thought was ignoring her again.

Why was he ignoring her? I asked myself. The words began to flow.

Then another question popped into my mind. ‘Why did the wife think her husband was ignoring her?

It wasn’t long before I had a story from two perspectives.

After writing both stories, I set them aside for 24 hours and allowed them to rest. The next day, I read both stories and began editing them.

I don’t know about you, but I never publish the first draft of anything or write and publish something on the same day. Didn’t I read somewhere from a well-known author that the first draft is always, umm, shall we say, something that attracts flies?

But although writer’s block seemed defeated, I now had another dilemma. Which of the two stories was I going to cut down to 99 words and publish?

I could have asked for feedback on which one, but I had a gut feeling about one of the stories and went with it.

Do you always go with your gut feeling when making a decision?

Given all the many pieces of flash fiction I’d written for the 99-word flash fiction challenge, I knew which of the two stories my readers would like the most. Another gut-feeling? Yes, but I saw a dark edge to one of the stories, something I always hope readers will pick up.

I cut the story to 99 words and weaved in the dark edge, trying to make it slightly more obvious.

You can read my piece of flash fiction, The Squeaky Husband, here.

A couple of days after staring at a blank screen with failure sitting at my side, I was having fun rewriting and editing a story born from writing a Christmas wish list.

Yes, that piece of flash came from writing my Christmas wish list. Any words help. It doesn’t matter what they are.

Writer’s block? What is writer’s block? Did it exist on that day, or was it something I’d made up because other writers believed in it?

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you conquer it?

Copyright © 2022 Hugh W. Roberts – All rights reserved.

About the Author

Hugh W. Roberts lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom.

Hugh gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues, including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping, and walking his dogs. Although he was born in Wales, he has lived in various parts of the United Kingdom, including London, where he lived and worked for 27 years.

Hugh suffers from a mild form of dyslexia but, after discovering blogging, decided not to allow the condition to stop his passion for writing. Since creating his blog ‘Hugh’s Views & News’ in February 2014, he has built up a strong following and now writes every day. Always keen to promote other bloggers, authors and writers, Hugh enjoys the interaction blogging brings and has built up a group of online friends.

His short stories have become well known for the unexpected twists they contain. One of the best compliments a reader can give Hugh is, “I never saw that ending coming.”

Having published his first book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016, his second collection of short stories, More Glimpses, was released in March 2019.

A keen photographer, he also enjoys cycling, walking, reading, watching television, and relaxing with a glass of red wine and sweet popcorn.

Hugh shares his life with John, his civil partner, and Toby and Austin, their Cardigan Welsh Corgis.

You can follow Hugh’s blog at Hugh’s Views And News and follow him on Twitter at @hughRoberts05.

When the Wolves Give Chase

Tips for WritersMonday tips for writers is more personal today. I’m not yet ready to write about my revision process, although I’ve made great strides using the storyboard, comparative inner/outer story timelines and a checklist of edits. I remain in the thick of final edits, a boggy area ripe with self-doubt, panic and snarling wolves.

Writing is not easy. And I’m not talking about the mechanics of writing or the craft; I’m talking about the inner strength and the tough skin you need to be a writer. Some days are a glorious dance in the daisies, but most days are spent fleeing from the wolves.

We each have our own wolves, nipping at our heals. My wolves find me vulnerable when I feel that my value is tanking. Value to me has to do with this buckaroo ideal of “hard work.” To be valued, you have to work hard, get your hands dirty, calloused. Have something to show for your hard work.

This weekend the horse-owner showed up. Immediately I felt embarrassed because my garden is in disarray with neglect. Something I made a conscious choice to do, but how do I explain to “hard-working” folk that I’m sitting on my backside, writing instead. It’s also unseasonably hot and dry so my yard is crisp and gasping despite the weeding and watering I’ve been doing. He doesn’t say anything, but I think he’s displeased with how we are keeping the place.

My wolves are those negative thoughts that can chase me to despairing depths. Really, I can’t give you a logical explanation for when the wolves give chase other than I’m feeling vulnerable. And I find that I feel vulnerable more as a writer than at anything else I’ve ever done. I feel like I don’t have anything of value to show for my hard work.

I’m not alone in this vulnerability. Tonight, my heart broke a little as I read a post from one of my favorite online writers. She said she was a crappy blogger. Immediately my wolves joined hers and they wanted to hunt me down for being a crappy blogger, too because I could totally relate to everything she was expressing. After all, I didn’t even log in on my blog for two entire days. I didn’t post or read all the #MondayBlogs.

Instead, I commented with something I learned from dog mushers. That if you’re going to panic, panic forward. It reminded me that we all feel vulnerable, lacking and afraid we aren’t posting, writing or revising up to snuff. We aren’t working hard enough at it.

Today, comedic actor Robin Williams apparently committed suicide. That breaks my heart even more. It also sends me in full blown panic: For the love of camp-coffee, if a successful creative still feels chased down by the wolves of negative thinking, what hope is there for me? Those wolves are vicious.

Thus we come to the importance of writer-care. It’s a little like self-care. Instead of beating myself up for not having obvious outcomes for the hard work, I’m challenging myself to rethink, to take care of my writer-self.

I’m working on my own masters. I’m learning an entire industry–actually two if you recognize that traditional publishing is different from Indie publishing. No one cracks the whip or sets the bar. I’m self-motivated to write, disciplined to learn and caring enough to share in the process with others. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.

I’m trying to recognize the wolves before they get too close. It doesn’t matter who you are, negative thinking or wrong-headedness creates a downward spiral. Challenge each other to notice what each is good at and don’t dwell on what we aren’t. Let’s tackle our weaknesses with the enthusiasm of learning.

And please, oh please…if you ever get so low in your despair, reach out of the mire! Talk to someone, have a list of people that you can call at any time and find something to get you out of the wolves’ den. If you go too far, there is help:

  1. Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the USA & Canada (1-800-273-8255)
  2. Lifeline Crisis Support Suicide Prevention AU (13 11 14)
  3. Samaritans Ireland (116 123) or Northern Ireland (08457 90 90 90)
  4. Samaritans Wales (08457 90 90 90)
  5. Samaritans Scotland (08457 90 90 90)
  6. Papyrus Prevention of Young Suicide UK (0800 068 41 41)

You matter. Your writing matters. Your creativity matters.

None of this, of course, is going to make writing any easier. Just commit to keeping check on the wolves from time to time. If you need a break, take one. If you let something go unattended to do something else, acknowledge the choice and don’t feel that you have to explain yourself to some cowboy who will never understand what it is to write anyways.

Remember this line from Song of Myself by Walt Whitman:

“I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood”

And I leave you with this fabulous bit of truth about writing not being easy by Sarah Brentyn.

Quote by Sarah Brentyn

So be kind to those who create; lift up and do not tear down; take a break without guilt; write with abandon and don’t ever let anyone rob you of your value as a writer. You are enough. Make the best of your gift.

And Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. May we follow in your light and learn from your darkness.