blog 30: (or blog 29 unblocked!) In which I REALLY DO outline 10 sure-fire ways to beat writers’ block!


1. Get someone to give you a short, sharp whack to the side of the head with a blunt object. I know that this particular technique works well whenever I get a fuel blockage in the lawn mower so I’m pretty sure the same principle should apply to ideas stuck in the brain. (Just a word of caution. Make sure the person who you choose to administer the blow is at least vaguely fond of you.)

2  Ummmmmmmmm … aaaaaaaaaaaah … WHAAAACK!!!!!! Hey, I know! You could think of your favourite writer and ask yourself what they would do in the same situation. So if you’re stuck for ideas and you’re writing an action novel ask, ‘What would Matthew Reilly do now?’. If it’s a fantasy ‘What would Tolkien do now?’.  If it’s a short story, ‘What would Margo Lanagan do now?’. If you’re like me you might ask, ‘What would Markus Zusak do now?’.
Of course no matter who you choose, the answer is always the same, “He/She would probably come up with some really brilliant idea that would dramatically advance the plot, reveal character and totally enthrall their readers.” So, yeah, just do that.

3. Throw in the towel. Stare at the blank page/computer screen and say, “Oh well that’s it then. I’m stuffed. I got nothin’. What a joke. I’m not a writer. What was I thinking? I must have been crazy to start this story! I’m gonna eat some worms.” (Warning: This option does not come highly recommended.)

4. Look on your writer’s block not as a problem but an opportunity! Eg. ‘Hey while I’m temporarily bereft of ideas, I’ll have time to make myself a cup of coffee!’ Or, depending on the extent or your blockage, ‘Hey I’ll have time to clean the house/build that deck/study to become a doctor/find myself/complete the map of the human genome!

5. Blame external factors for your inability to come up with any decent ideas. ‘It’s too hot/cold/mild to write!’ ‘How can I be expected to think of any good ideas and watch Beauty and the Geek at the same time!’ ‘This computer’s crap! I need an iPad. I bet Tolstoy never had to put up with equipment like this!’ ‘All my teachers let me down. They should have MADE me pay attention in class. That’s their job!’ ‘I blame my external factors!’

6. Steal an idea from another book, preferable one by a long dead author who can’t accuse you of plagiarism. So for example: Not enough drama, emotion and tension in your children’s adventure story? Then why not have your protagonist lose a leg to a great white whale? (Tip: Maybe make it a beige whale in order to disguise the actual source of your inspiration.)

7. Use the ‘come back later’ technique. If you hit a difficult point in your story and you’re not sure exactly how to proceed just type in the line – Insert something interesting here  – and move on. This leaves you free to write the rest of the story and then ‘come back later’ to finish that tricky bit when you’re good and ready! However if your story ends up sounding like this …

Darius felt his stomach churn as he entered the grounds of his new school, Desolation High for the first time. Insert something interesting here. ‘Phew,’ sighed Darius on his last day, ‘I’m glad those five years are over!’

… you may still have some work to do.

8. Start asking ‘What if?’ questions to stimulate storyline ideas. What if my main character inherited a million dollars? What if he/she had to face his/her greatest fear? What if he/she isn’t what he/she seems? What if he/she has a secret? What if he/she is a transvestite?

NB: Types of ‘What if’ questions you should avoid – What if I never come up with another good idea ever again in my entire life? What if I totally suck at writing but everyone is too nice to tell me so? What if Hey Hey It’s Saturday comes back on TV again?

9. Use the power of positive thought. Repeat the mantra: “There is no such thing as writers’ block. There is no such thing as writers’ block.” Which is true. It might just be that you’ve entered a time in your life where, for whatever reason, you may not be able to think of any good writing ideas for a very, very, very long time. If ever.

10.  Recognise that writers’ block might actually be a good thing.  (This one’s a bit ridiculous but I’m running out of ideas here.) Have you ever thought that having to stop and think for a while, even a long while, might actually be a good thing? That maybe you don’t actually “suffer” from writers’ block, but rather “benefit” from it. That all it means is that you’re pig-headed and determined and passionate enough about your writing to want it to be the very best it can be and that the ‘block’ part is just you stubbornly blocking out anything that’s not good enough to be part of your work. Surely the worse thing you could possibly be as a writer is “easily satisfied”. Perhaps it’s more like “writers’ quality control” than “writers’ block”. But however you label it, isn’t it a good thing that you’re willing and able to tell your muse in no uncertain terms, “I’m still here you bastard and no matter how long it takes, I’m not going anywhere until you and I come up with something worthwhile!”


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16 Responses to blog 30: (or blog 29 unblocked!) In which I REALLY DO outline 10 sure-fire ways to beat writers’ block!

  1. Nicole Cody says:

    Great list, Michael! Thanks for your great blog – always get a laugh as well as some new ideas on writing. I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. All the best for 2012.


  2. Thanks for the major belly laughs, Michael! Especially love the insert something interesting here idea. Am so stealing that one!


  3. Priceless. One just can’t buy advice like that, even with Mastercard. I wonder if one could buy their way out of Writers’ Block… Anyway, thanks again Michael; I’ll just get back to finishing my deck now.


  4. Belinda says:

    Michael, I’m pretty sure that your number 4 suggestion is how the ‘god particle’ has finally just been discovered. They guy working on that was actually having a break from writing because he was ‘stuck’.


    • mgbauer says:

      Yes some of us use writer’s block to uncover the mysteries of the universe and some of use it to write a blog about writer’s block.


  5. Carol Warner says:

    I certainly laughed at some of those points. Conclusion: NO! I’m NOT giving up!


  6. Melissa says:

    Awesome list 🙂 I often wonder what to do to overcome writer’s block – and I have 2 little boys who are always looking for an excuse to whack me over the head with a blunt object… or a football thrown inside!


  7. K says:

    Thanks for the laughs!
    Was good to read something interesting while waiting for inspiration 🙂


  8. kathleennoud says:

    Actually, there are some really cool articles on the topic of your tenth point there. That relaxing and living and taking time out from writing is all part of the grand sceme of writing something fabulous. If I can find the articles, I’ll send links. Also, your semi-circular writing desk is ridiculously cool.


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