On Writer’s Block

The Wall – getting over the block.

Scared of facing your dreaded MS?
Think it’s rubbish?wb1
The weather outside is frightful, the fire delightful, the house silent, and your glowing monitor beckons you to open that doc…but you can’t.
Not yet.
Not until you’re ready.
So you work through the familiar list: Tea, toast, dither, dust, hoover up, tea, dither, clean kitchen, more tea, more dither. Now, are you ready?
Walk. Fresh air. That’ll get you ready.
More tea. Dither.
Four hours have passed and you still haven’t opened that awful, rubbish manuscript.
Call it writer’s block. Call it fear.
I call it The Wall.
It exists in my mind, old and worn red-brick, from the nape of my cerebellum to the tip of my cerebral cortex, an imaginary divide twixt myself and my muses.
On this side of the wall (where I do my dailies), lives my wonderful autopilot. He takes care of pretty much everything without me having to think about it. Idly pulling his levers, Joey (that’s his name), has an easy job. Years of practice, working at a machine forged by millennia and billions of replications, Joey can do it with his eyes closed. In fact the only time he needs to open them is for emergencies. You know, when that snarling dog comes bounding over, or there’s an accident of some sort, or some pretty lady smiles at me. Against the right wall of my frontal lobe is the meds cabinet. There’s allsorts in there: adrenaline (for those emergencies), a whole caboodle of hormones and pheromones and endorphins, and probably some other weird stuff I’ve never heard of; each `fix` housed in a big bottle with a plunger. And when that hooter goes off and Joey’s eyes snap open he knows exactly which plunger to press. He can fix me in almost an instant.
Joey may have it easy, but he does work long hours. My self, on the other side of the wall, does very little in comparison. I sit in the dark for the most part, only switching the light on when it’s time to open that doc.
But why is it often so difficult to pull the cord, to illuminate my muses in a radiant glow, slap high fives and tallyho down the road to writers’ paradise where the words dance and the rhythm sings and the heart soars with the enlightenment of it all? Why is it often so damn hard to light the light and slide down that gushing water tube into the theme park of writing delights where Mickey and Minnie eagerly await? They’re full of ideas. Full of ‘em. So why the feck am I mopping the bloody kitchen floor?
I’ll tell you why.
I rely on him, see. Too much, probably. I sit there in the dark while my numskull plays the levers. In joey’s little room, Joey is unswerving, Joey will not rest until his chores are placated.
Bless him.
He’s even made some posters and pasted them on the wall:
~Your writing stinks~
~You call that a novel?~
~ Warning: crossing this wall is bad for your health~
~Joey’s room rocks – be there or be square~
He’s even gone and sawn up the ladders. For your own good, he says. Your MS stinks, keep away from it, stay here, let me do the work. Forget writing.
So you glare at him. You’re sick of Joey’s place, you want the theme park of words, want the golden place – so very badly it hurts.
Now scream (step one).
Push Joey out the way and yank on that horn. (the one labelled `vent`)
Go on. Do it. Doesn’t matter where. Let it out. Scream. Cry. Why oh why. Etc.
Feel better? Yes, Joey is now sulking, and looking at you warily. Rip down a poster, and then another. Hold up a finger to Joey. He’ll stay put. Trust me. Now show him how good you are, conjure up a new ladder, tell Joey he’s got the day off and hop yourself over that wall. Pull that cord and see the light.
I’m standing at the top of a very steep water slide. Below, my very own writerly theme park where anything can and will happen – a wondrous sight, and it’s bathed in sunshine.
I jump, ride that slide, right into the arms of my waiting muses. There’s Mickey with my laptop, holding it open like it’s a gameshow prize. His fat gloved thumb hovers over the `open` button. I tap his hand and the doc opens and in I fall to ride the ride once again.
Giving your Joey, your numskull, time out, works wonders for your writing.
Joey can keep his putdowns to himself for awhile, because that’s where they belong, with Joey, in the autopilot room.
Once you’re in your theme park of course there is no limit to what you can achieve. Every character you have ever created lives and works here, and so does your muse, or muses if you have more than one.
So what now? You’ve vented, you’ve put Joey to sleep, you’ve gotten over that wall, you’ve took the ride down the slide to paradise, everything feels warm and wonderful and all your characters from past and present are smiling and applauding, but what now?
Use them. Get them to read your latest. Listen to their critiques. Find your muse, pull him off the ghost train and ask nicely for some inspiration. Capitalise – make more muses – five is a good number. Ask each in turn as you ride the big wheel, as you charge around on the dodgems, ask them to point the way.
Have fun in your own personal Wonderland, and be safe in the knowledge that all the answers are there just waiting to be found.
No, wait!
I hear cries of derision, cries of `no that won’t work for me` – ah, that’s your Joey, see – whenever Joey is awake and functioning he will continue to hang those posters and saw up your ladders.
Put him to sleep, tie him to his chair if you have to, just get over that wall, pull that cord, and see the light!
Create your paradise theme park. Create your muses, give them flesh. Two characters from Kimi’s Secret are now fully embedded muses in my own personal aMUSEment park. Kimi herself, so young yet so wise, helps me a great deal with her ever-questioning attitude. You too can do this.
Make your muses work for you and the wall becomes easier to get over.
Create your own paradise and scaling the wall becomes a breeze.
Understand Joey and the wall becomes smaller.
Understand that pangs of self-doubt are really only your Joey keeping you on a leash.
Understand all that and your writing will come alive.
YOU can do this!
(disclaimer – technique won’t work for trolls – that’s another mindset)
Leave a comment


  1. Vow..so well written, great lucidity and amazing truth.

  2. louisewise

     /  November 23, 2013

    Oh God! I HAVE a Joey. He sits next to me sometimes. 😦

  3. Now you know what to do… imaginary duct tape… and if that doesn’t work shove him a copy of fifty shades (he’s easily distracted)

  1. On Writer’s Block | Louise Wise

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