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  • Sue Hawley

What I did when writer's block was more like a fortress

Every writer faces writer’s block at some point for various reasons. Ideas refuse to materialize, family issues consume emotional and mental energy, or a simple case of burn out occurs. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when it happens, (we’ve all heard about it) but it tends to shock a writer when it happens to them.

I wrote the first four books of the Peg Shaw series in under two years. The ideas were practically forming faster than I could type, spilling out in a constant stream. Famous for my yellow sticky notes, I had those suckers plastered everywhere just to keep up with the flow. I was on a roll! It never dawned on me the situation would, or could, change. Then it did.

The fourth book, Cold Hearts, Hot Secrets had been sent to the editors when tragedy struck the family with an unexpected death. A few months later we lost my sister-in-law to a long illness. But Death had not finished with the family as my grand-niece died suddenly and unexpectedly. I was in emotional over-load. Words refused to appear no matter how long I sat and stared at a blank page on my computer. Ideas were stubbornly nowhere to be found. Finally, I decided to wait until the shock of three deaths in less than a year had time to lose their emotional impact.

During my self-enforced vacation from writing, I read articles and blogs concerning writer’s block. To be honest, it didn’t help much. Everything I read was true and hit home, but didn’t cure me. The longer the block continued, the more anxious I became. Would I ever be able to write again? Were the ideas gone forever? When would my characters speak to me, if ever? I believe my own worry probably made the situation worse; rather than relaxing and allowing time to heal emotionally, I piled onto the already over load of emotions by worrying.

Then something happened. The old saying that ‘timing is everything’ is 100% true. I was listening to an interview and the author said she wrote everyday no matter what was going on in her life. Now, I had heard this a million times but it made a dent in my thinking. Two days later I heard another author say she wrote daily even if it was simply in her diary. I don’t journal daily, but for some reason those words hit home. The next day I took a deep breath and sat down at the computer and began writing. The ideas flowed, the sticky notes appeared to remind me of thoughts that had flown into my mind and I didn’t want to forget, and the story began to take shape. The block was gone!

Will I ever experience writer’s block again. Probably. Hopefully, next time I will be able to draw on the experiences and lessons I’ve learned. Relax; the ideas will come back. Take time to enjoy each day without worrying. Talk to my characters even when they refuse to talk to me. Take a deep breath and see what happens. If not today, then tomorrow. The walls of writer’s block eventually crumble and the story once again will write itself.

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