Tag Archives: writers block

Shut up and write something

Writers blockPhil: When you blog, it’s important (so I’m told) to do so regularly. That way you keep your readers interested.

Good advice, but sometimes finding a topic isn’t easy. Perhaps this should be called “Bloggers Block”.

BB is a syndrome similar to the sort of block affecting proper journalists. There is a deadline, I have to make a post today, but the screen is blank and so is my brain. Real journalists will have the same issue when the deadline for publication draws near. An editor will be hovering, wanting to know where the copy is. All I have is the Nolan nagging me – but she’s on holiday and unlikely to be reading this on the sun lounger.

I suppose I could give you another status report on Kate vs the Navy – the copy edited manuscript arrived this morning but I need more tea before I open that one up. Hopefully, this will all look good but it raises another issue – laying out the pages. In theory, I have the tools to do this properly now, let’s hope it’s quick and easy…

First, there is some work with glue’n’stuff in today’s programme of events as there is another editor waiting for my copy for work.  The stuff I get paid for, so I better do it.

And the sun is shining so I’d like to go out for a walk.

Oh well, perhaps another cup of tea will help. They say the solution to Writers Block is just to write something, anything. It seems that this also cures Bloggers Block, or at least fills up a little bit of the Internet.

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Wrestling with a gnarly problem


Candice: I’ve been trying to write a strategy document at work for weeks now – but have been struggling to find the right flow in it to get across what I want to get across and explain the thought process behind it.

I was trying to knuckle down to it at work this afternoon but was still struggling with the why.  So I went for a dip in the pool.  60 lengths later I’ve solved my problem and worked out what the structure should be.

Why is this?  Well I find I can switch off in the pool.  I’ve always loved swimming, and I find it bizarre when people say they find it boring.  Yes the going up and down can be repetitive, but after a while it can clear your brain and help you to sort out the things going round in your head.  In fact, I was so focused on that I actually lost count of the number of lengths I had done.

It seems I am not alone in using swimming to improve the mind.  A small study has been done in Australia to see the impact on immersing you in water on your blood flow. It seems that this can help cognitive function, ie what I have seen for years, swimming can help you think.

So next time you come up against a writing problem, take a break.  Go for a walk, take a jog or go for a dip in the pool and see if that can help you sort out your writers block.

What I need to work out next is how to swim regularly and have nails that don’t break all the time and hair that isn’t dry.  A small price to pay for some good ideas…?

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Write with passion or not at all

PASSIONPhil: I’m in the process of trying to extricate myself from a project at the moment. It’s all under discussion so I can’t say more on the specifics other than it’s a big project and would involve much writing.

I took it on over a year ago as it seemed like a good idea at the time. The problem is I really can’t get in to the job. After producing about a third of the text the rest seems like a mountain far too steep to climb. Planning sessions in the pub haven’t helped like they usually do – even with a list of sections to complete I sit at the screen with paralysed fingers. Honestly, I’ve never been so stuck.

All this has taught me something about myself.

Firstly, I need colleagues for sizable projects. I couldn’t have written The Book without Candice. We spurred each other on. Ideas were bounced around and imaginations fired. That’s what keeps the interest going. How anyone completes a novel on their own is beyond me.

Second, I need to care. Writing can’t just be work – plodding away poking the keyboard for a few hours won’t do the job. I’ve been told that you can tell how I feel about a project by reading the way I write it up, some just have a certain joie de vivre and sparkle that others lack. None of the work is bad, just some communicates a joy that others don’t.

This is why, despite a slight hiatus, I still bang on about The Book. We wrote it because the story was strong and the characters became friends. I can still read bits and marvel that I wrote them, even if it was with help. We wrote this with passion and therefore it is good. I look forward to the day when time will allow the rest of the series to be written. I want to see how things work out.

Sometimes writing is hard. At that point you should probably stop – the results will at best be leaden. When writing is easy, when words tumble from your head like Smarties from an upended tube.

That’s when the good stuff is created.

That’s what the readers will enjoy.

They can read dull stuff all day long – it’s what spreadsheets were created for.

What they want to read is passion on a page.

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Phil: My mind is blank.

Twice a week we endeavour to post interesting and amusing content for your delectation and entertainment. I know the idea is that we write about how progress is being made bringing our book to market but that’s a bit stalled at the moment so I haven’t got a lot to say. Maybe in a couple of weeks when we’re both in the same country this will change but for the moment one of us is on holiday and the other is looking at a couple of flatplans with his name on them so really needs to think about some work.

My blankness isn’t being helped by my own actions. On the radio is some comedy and I’m half listening to that and the creative bit of my head is therefore occupied. I am a man, I can’t multitask.

I’m also drinking Diet Coke. To be truly creative, science has shown that we should drink alcohol. This sets the brain spinning, at which point you need coffee to provide the power to turn those great thoughts into something productive.

Perhaps I should reveal some exciting snippets of NolanParker history. Such as the time we shared a desk. Well, not exactly share, more I took it over but Candice hadn’t really vacated it so I enjoyed a few weeks unable to store all my stuff as there were lady products in there. Specifically, a pair of leopard print shoes with a kitten heel. Some things you just don’t want people to think are yours. I couldn’t even try them on as they weren’t my size.

That’s not very exciting either. Still, we’ve learnt something today. If you want to be creative, drink a lot and listen to loud music. I’ll try to remember this for next time. Sorry.


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Writing food

Tea and ToastPhil: Regular readers might have spotted that we mention food quite a bit on this blog. It is true that we frequently discuss our literary ambitions over cake and so it would be wrong of us not to mention the subject occasionally. Besides, we want to be commercial authors and lots of people like cake so why not like people who write about cake too ?

Man cannot live by cake alone no matter what any French Queen likes to suggest. Sometimes he needs food that tunes his brain in to doing some work.

I often find myself sat in front of a keyboard, knowing I have a couple of thousand words ahead of me and not really feeling in the mood to let them flow from my fingertips. There is one sure-fire way of changing this situation:

Toast and Marmite.

The yeasty goodness seems to throw a switch in my head that gets the creative juices flowing. Two slices seem to be enough, and on mass-produced bread. The good stuff is a luxury and more suited to reading books in front of a fire than writing by the light of a monitor.

Does anyone else have foods that perform the same function ? Is there a list of writing superfood somewhere ? Is it likely to contain tofu ?


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How to write Chick Lit – Part 3

Phil stared at his Citizen Men’s Skyhawk Eco-Drive Bracelet Watch and sighed. Turning back to the Samsung SyncMaster monitor, he reread the words on the screen through the pair of Paul Smith Green Pironi Spectacles. Try as he might, the WordPress.com blog posting wasn’t going well. Sometimes words would tumble from his thoughts but not tonight.

Perhaps some refreshment would help. Strolling over to the Maharani Drinks Cabinet, a recent addition to the room from John Lewis, he contemplated filling the Villeroy & Boch Scotch Whiskey  tumbler with another measure of Fabulous Grouse but thought better of it when he saw the level in the bottle was already below the birds foot.

No. A clear head called for something less alcoholic. Heading to the kitchen, he leaned on the worktop of the Ikea Factum units to think what would turn the creative taps back on. Perhaps a Le Creuset Stoneware Mug full of Yorkshire tea would be enough. It was too late to consider firing up the Krups Nescafé Dolce Gusto KP 2106 coffee machine for a dose of concentrated caffeine. Anyway, that was the wrong sort of stimulation. Chemically induced hammering at the Logitech Wireless Touch K400 keyboard might produce lots of words but most of them would only be suitable for filling the Rexel bamboo waste bin that lived under the Alphason San Diego desk.

Opening the Ramsjo cabinet, he spotted the solution. Nothing soothes the fevered writers brown like a steaming Mr Men mug filled to the brim with Green And Blacks Organic Hot Chocolate heated up in a Sharp Compact Touch microwave oven.

The pastel green Smeg fridge illumiated the kitchen as he opened the door and and grasped a bottle of Waitrose semi-skimmed organic milk. Staring at a tin of John West Grilled Sardines on the shelf, Phil paused to ponder the next line of the blog post. As he watched the mug rotating through the tinted window of the microwave oven, he knew that this had better do the job.

It was his turn to post to the nolanparker.co.uk website and if he didn’t produce the goods, Candice would be pulling her Blackberry curve mobile phone from the depths of the Gabor  Modena Handbag and speaking very sharply in his direction. He could imagine the conversation,

“Parker, you haven’t posed anything today you hopeless…”, PING – the microwave finished it’s work and interrupted his train of thought.

Settling back down into the Berlin Leather Franklin Office Chair cradling his drink, Phil pondered the chick-lit he had recently read. The contents of Flawless by Tilly Bagshawe floated across his mind. Words and chocolaty aromas mingled in his thoughts.

Suddenly, the room lit up. His wife had returned in her Audi A6 and the beam from the Osram bulbs briefly illuminated the walls, freshly painted in colours chosen from the Dulux 50 shades of grey range. The sudden brightness crystallised his ideas. Not pausing to welcome Nikita, who he had met through the goodrussionbrideforsadgentlemen.co.ru website, his fingers flew across the keys.

He typed like a man possessed. Possessed with the spirit of chick-lit. Possessed with the sure and certain knowledge that if you copy the Google shopping search results, drizzle with a perfunctory plot and wrap it all in a pink cover, every woman will want to read your work.


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Becoming an ideas factory

Phil: Last week, Candice and I met up at Shakespeare’s birthplace to enjoy an over-priced jacket spud and pannini just across the road from where Willy S was born. Work on Book 2 has stalled and we need an infusion of imagination, inspiration and baked beans. The later came from the spud, the former from conversation. When we get together the ideas seem to flow so much more freely than when communication has to be by e-mail.

Maybe it’s just us, but while electronic chatter is good, it never seems to match the banter of face-to-face.

Anyway, the ideas we bashed around are for more short stories. We enjoyed writing Kate vs The Potter (have you read it yet, it’s free from the left hand side of this page !) and fancy honing our craft on a few more. Not just with the characters from the book either, the Grazzia story entry is going to be unearthed and re-worked considerably to be the tale we always wanted it to be. In other words, longer than the rules allowed. Hopefully this will allow it to breath a bit more. There are others too – I have what I think is a brilliant idea for a Dr Who episode – and since the look across the table wasn’t of the “you are mad Parker” variety, it might see the light of day.

Ideas are the writers stock in trade. Everyone who commits words to paper or screen needs to generate a constant stream of them. No ideas, no words, no work. That’s why we dread writers block.

The trouble is it’s either feast or famine. I write a column for a model-making magazine where each month I build something and illustrate the process step-by-step. This has been going on for nearly 3 years which means every month, without fail, I have to come up with a new project that fits the format. 6 weeks ago I was worried. I had run out of ideas. Without repeating myself I couldn’t think how to fill the pages. Then a chance find on a website, ironically of a photo I had taken, got me going again. A few days later I’d e-mailed my editor a list of possibles and since he sent me a parcel containing one of the raw materials I’d requested, I took this as an acceptance.

Elsewhere I was shocked to discover the similarly subjected blog I write was heading for its 2000th post. In 6 years, I’ve generated lots of words and possibly even some useful information. More importantly, it has kept my creative engine running whatever else I’ve been up to. On leaving a “proper” job I set myself the task of writing a post a day. That process forced me to be creative and more importantly, got me writing regularly. And if you’ve ever stared at the blank screen wondering what to say, you know that the best thing to do is bang the keys and see what happens. You might just be recreating the infinite number of monkeys writing Shakespeare experiment but who knows where it can lead ? The best thing about blog posts is they are supposed to be short and you can just check them on the Interweb without worrying too much.

So, my advice (if you want it) is, if you are struggling to become an ideas factory, get a blog. Title it up as an experiment or writing dump and then set yourself a target of 3 posts a week. Stick to this and you’ll find other ideas bursting out of your frontal lobes. Or at least enjoy the fooling around.


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Writer’s Block

Candice:  I can’t think of anything to write….

Seriously this week my writing mojo has been off and I haven’t been able to think of anything to write about in the blog. I keep starting themes and then either forgetting the idea or not thinking I can find enough to write about.  I will blame this partly on my job which, after the recovery week post holiday, has got abit busy again this week.  I had to present to the big cheese on Friday and that was a bit daunting (don’t know why, she was lovely but people do like to pile the pressure on).

Anyway, I was going back to Phil’s post about writing tools.  We had a lovely comment from someone who used to have a dictaphone by his bed but whispering in to it frightened the wife.  I can understand that but sometimes just being able to get that idea down when I’m on my way to or from the coffee machine, jogging on the tread mill or something would be good.  I have my trusty pad, lovingly covered with drawings of Ferragamo shoes, but its not always to hand.  But I have a Blackberry, which I believe has voice recording options, so I might have to give that a try.

I suppose it comes down to the fact I really want to get writing on book two. I’ve drafted the first chapter and I was really getting back into when I did that, but now it’s hard with everything else going on.  Phil mentioned a writer’s retreat, which I think is like a mini break without the passion. (Unless this is the one in the film Tamara Drewe ).  Me thinks that might have to be a consideration as this centres the mind and a week of pure writing would be lovely.  If not, we’ll have to find time to freeze in Solihull Library again!

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Nailing our banter to the page

Phil: Earlier today, Candice and I were sitting outside a cafe talking book stuff. As we performed experiments to see just how much tea there was in the posh teapots and munched down on our cakes (me, cherry shortbread, her croissant with a filling that looked like custard), the discussion turned to the synopsis. While we have one, and it’s hit a number of literary agents doormats, it is quite frankly, dull.

This is no good, we need exciting. A synopsis which brings our fun-filled book alive on the page. The problem was that I had read all the instructions I could find on writing this, followed them to the letter, and produced a document that sucked the life out of our prose. I knew it had to be redone and redone much better. I could even see in my mind’s eye how this could be done. Sadly the vision was a bit misty.

Not to worry, as we chatted, things became clearer. Bashing the idea between us, the biggest benefit of joint authorship, clarity arrived. My notebook pages are part filled with a rough plan. As I sat there, I could see myself banging away at the keyboard to write a first draft. Eventually we shut up and headed off our separate ways.

Back at home. faced with a blank screen, things looked very different. How was it that a couple of hour earlier, I knew what I wanted to do and now my fingers were frozen ? I had promised to get stuck in with the synopsis and when I said this was sure that all I needed to do was turn on my creative tap to let the good words flow. But when the tap was opened, the water of ideas was frozen. Working together and powered by tea and cake, the banter flows. One of the jobs on our “to do” list is find a way to turn this back and forth of ideas into something that can be shared. For the minute though, I was on my own.

This was bad news. Initially, I did what everyone faced with a similar crisis does at work – procrastinated a while on the internet reading some blogs and checking my e-mail. Naturally this didn’t help. Worse, being self-employed, I was only wasting my time and when I do that no money is raised. At least when you do this at work there is the satisfaction of getting one over on your employer !

To clear my mind, perhaps you are expecting me to say I say cross-legged on a cushion and chanted. Nope. Sitting like Buda and saying “Ommmmmmmm” isn’t my bag man.

Instead, after a bit of staring into space, I came up with the idea to write this blog post. It’s not much but any typing is better than no typing. I think I’ve now got my clarity back. In a few minutes I’ll find out.


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