How to Overcome Writer's Block (and LOVE the Process)

The oft-quoted phrase ‘writers write’ is all well and good if you can bring yourself to do so, but what if you are blocked?

Blocking comes in many forms. Some people refer to it as Writer's Block but that needs to be deconstructed because it’s not a simple malady. There are many components that could lead a writer to feel blocked.

1/ Your family does not take your writing ambitions seriously
2/ You don’t have time to write
3/ You don’t have space to write
4/ You lack inspiration
5/ You are too exhausted
6/ You need to prioritise your writing

The first and sixth points have the same root. Your family (you can substitute this word with ‘friends’, ‘colleagues’, etc) does not take you seriously, so you don’t take yourself seriously. Our views of ourselves as writers can be nurtured or harmed by those around us.

Sometimes, criticism is helpful. Constructive criticism is crucial. If you are subjected to the ‘drip, drip, drip’ of negativity, however, your confidence and creativity will be eroded.

Any of the following ring a bell?
  • ‘Who do you think you are?’
  • ‘Ooh. Get you. Next JK Rowling, are you?’ followed by a snigger.
  • ‘Great, Mum. Happy for you. Where’s my supper?'
  • ‘Saw you writing your “novel” on your lunch hour, Tony. You’re wasting your time. Come down the pub with us.’
  • ‘You’re a writer? *Yawn*. Fascinating. When can I expect my free, signed novel?'*
  • 'I would write a novel too, but I haven’t got the time. You must have a lot of time on your hands.'
    * TOP TIP: The answer I give is: ‘You’re an Estate Agent? *Yawn*. Fascinating. When can I expect my free, signed house?’

    Of course, there are social media versions too, which tend to be variations on:
    •         ‘Call yourself a writer? You’re a nobody! *Unfollow*’
    Well ... this is all very unpleasant. It is no surprise that you feel blocked, especially if you are fitting your little nuggets of writing time around work or family, and struggling to stay inspired – and awake – squashed into the corner of a sofa, with a laptop on a tray, at 3am.

    Stop.  Listen. Your writing deserves to be read. For it to be read, it must first be written, and edited. You need to take a stand to create a space in which it is safe for you to be a writer. It doesn’t matter if you have never been published. If you are putting pen to paper – or tapping out words on a keyboard – you are a writer.

    Find Space, Time, and Your Muse

    I got this idea into my head a few months ago, and I set out to look for a place that offered writing retreats. I’m not talking about the big, organised writing retreats, where you meet up with loads of other writers. What interested me was the idea of a personal retreat. A bit of personal time and space. That is what you need, to write.

    I found it closer to home than I had anticipated. Not only are these wonderful cottages close to where I live, but Charles Cawley and Lorna Philip, the lovely people who run Country Holiday Lets, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. I approached them and suggested the cottages would make marvellous writing retreats, and they not only agreed, but furnished me with fascinating writerly facts that proved my hunch. Each of them helps a writer in a different way. In this first post about the retreats, I'll share two with you, along with the ways I think they will help writers the most. See which would help you.

    Surround Yourself with Books

    Imagine yourself in a book shop. You are breathing in the scent of beautifully bound books. On the shelves are the classics that inspired you to become a writer. Now you are in another book shop. Now another. Each one bustles with people who, like you, believe in the power of books. You buy the book that inspires you the most, go back to your retreat and, filled with the kind of self belief the writer of that book had, you write your own.

    Having never been to Hay we would certainly go back again to get a proper look at all of those amazing book shops.

    Hay-on-Wye, on the Welsh/English border, is the location of the Hay Festival for good reason. The place is full to the gunnels with books.

    Imagine staying in your own elegant retreat as the fresh air, and sounds of the river, play through your open window. That is what 25 Millrise offers.

    Charles tells me that The Shepherds Teashop in Hay on Wye is a good place to sit outside and write. Click for a beautiful description of the area, and more pictures of 25 Millrise.

    Millrise was one of the nicest places I think I have ever stayed! The house is really well finished, very comfortable and in a lovely location! I would go back and recommend it to others! 

    Write in a Cottage Where a Book Was Written

    When you walk into a building in which the writer of a classic novel once breathed, something happens. You get inspired. You see what they saw when they wrote, you look out of the same windows. You inhabit the same space. Your writing echoes this.

    The cottage was fantastic, so well presented and so very comfortable. The time seemed to stand still, due entirely to the relaxing atmosphere of both the cottage and surrounding countryside. An inspirational kitchen garden to look at and enjoy - everything was an absolute delight. Our first break for many years but one we shall repeat thanks to finding you on-line. All being well we shall be in touch in early 2011 to sample one of your other cottages, such is your high standard. 

    When I was a child, I studied the book On The Black Hill so I was elated to discover that the cottage in which Bruce Chatwin wrote some of its most brooding chapters was also one of the cottages in the Country Holiday Lets stable: The Coachman’s Cottage.

    Set in an area of the South Shropshire Hills, one of the most beautiful areas in England, the cottage is perfectly located to explore the castles of the area. See more about the cottage here.

    I hope you enjoyed this introduction to writing retreats that inspire me. Part two will be posted shortly, but if you are inspired by either of these retreats, I advise you to act before they are booked up. First, ask yourself these questions:
    •         How long do I deserve to give myself for my writing retreat?
    •          Do I deserve more than one writing retreat in 2011? If so, how long will they be, and at what times of year?
    •          What do I want to accomplish? (e.g. Write/finish a first draft; edit a manuscript; come up with an idea for a book; research for a book; immerse self in books, etc).
    For more information, go to

    Diana M  – (11 January 2011 at 20:11)  

    How lovely ...It's so charming and restful..I am no writer but think that the surroundings are most important to not have interruptions and to stay focused..maybe? I can smell the lavender...and I can taste the scones and clotted cream with strawberries..maybe some blackberry jam? with a nice cup of java..that's the ticket!! You go girl...:)

    Rebecca Woodhead  – (11 January 2011 at 20:24)  

    Aren't they beautiful? When I put up the pics of the first one, and noticed the little writing desk, and imagined the sound of the river I thought... Hmmm. I NEED a writing break! (Hubby's arm will be twisted. I've dropped many hints about Hay-on-Wye). :)

    Stephanie  – (11 January 2011 at 23:16)  

    I would love love love to have a week in one of those places and just write!!! Heck, I'll take a Holiday Inn room with wifi, as long as it was quiet and I had no household responsibilities to battle!!

    Rebecca Woodhead  – (12 January 2011 at 00:21)  

    Thanks for commenting, Stephanie. Do it. Even if you just schedule in a few days. I like the idea of sitting at that table in the garden there.

    I was thinking of going to one of these cottages with my husband, but I might just go on my own. Writers need to get back to themselves to create. You know?

    Part of the reason I went looking for these chaps is because I think I need to do some really intensive writing on my third book. Web switched off. Me and my manuscript. I need to live it, dream it, breathe it in. I don't think I could do that in a Holiday Inn, but I could do it in a cottage in which an author wrote.

    CountryLets  – (13 January 2011 at 14:21)  

    Hi Diana, you don't have to be a writer to enjoy the country cottage experience as you said, cream teas and relaxation in beautiful surroundings is what it is all about, get out there and enjoy the countryside, any excuse will do!

    CountryLets  – (13 January 2011 at 14:39)  

    Hi Stephanie, I am with Rebecca on this one, do it! Too often we put off our own wants and needs to prioritise the family. Time for yourself and your needs every now and then is goof for you and the family, you will come back a new woman!

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