Who's afraid of the big bad writer's block?

Everybody is talking about writer's block, but there remains one big question: Does it even exist? So let me enlighten you, because I've gone through writer's block and it took me ages to unblock my mind. 


In my personal experience, there are two types of writer's block. The first one is when you sit in front of the empty page or computer screen and don't know what to write. In this case, you're not really suffering from a block but from lack of ideas. Strictly speaking, this isn't writer's block. It's just a (maybe very long) moment where you're out of inspiration. 


This type of writer's block is easily solved with the help of others or their books. 'The Writer's Treasury of Ideas' by Linda Lewis is highly recommended in all lack-of-idea cases. Also the Daily Mail and any gossip magazine at the hairdresser's. The horoscope, the Agony Aunt and even the miserable looking people in the underground, with their dripping umbrellas and uniform dark clothes can inspire you to overcome your temporary mental void. Or read the inspirational ideas in this blog!


I like to go to a coffee shop to write. At home, I tend to distract myself. I put the washing on, check my email or wonder if I should replace the cushion covers. At the Cafe, I feel forced to write as I've come all the way here to do just that. For me, coffee shops are writer's block free zones. Here, my mental void doesn't exist. Ideas flow naturally the more latte I drink. It has to do with the atmosphere. Just like your workplace has a work atmosphere. At the office, you wouldn't dream of saying: "Sorry, boss, I have working block today." 


So all you need to do is find a warm, relaxing and inspirational place to write and go there at the time of day when you feel the most productive. If you still need help, check out the books or articles you've brought along or observe the people sitting close by. What if the old lady over there ...? The ideas will come, no worries. Problem solved. 


The other kind of writer's block is much more difficult to handle, because it stems from some kind of mental shock. I ended up with this when my marriage broke down. I suffered from a complete block, not just a lack of ideas. For instance, I had just passed my test as a qualified TEFL teacher. But there is an additional test that allows you to teach in the wider community, not just in language schools. This test is dead easy, because the answers to the questions are at the back of the book. You just need to write them into the answer fields. But I had my writer's block and couldn't do that.


Imagine that you can't even copy something that's already written! That's how bad it was. As I'm a writer, this threatened my whole existence. How could I possibly earn money? Thank God I went to the Swanwick Writers' Summer School that year and booked a 1:1 session with the lovely Katherine Bolton. She helped me a lot with her good advice. A couple of months later, I had overcome the block - more or less. Now, three years later, it's totally gone and good riddance. 


So think before you lightheartedly talk about having writer's block. I bet that in 99.5% of cases it's just a simple lack of ideas.