Escaping the Writing Desert

I don’t believe in writers’ block. But I do believe in the writing desert. It’s a place where words turn into dust, where mirages of stories dance before your eyes, but vanish as you reach out for them. Being in the writing desert doesn’t mean you don’t write, but you write in circles, like a desert fox chasing its tail.

It would be easy to surrender to the writing desert’s shimmering sands. It’s a place where there is no rejection, no fear. But to stay there would mean betraying tha talent that lies inside you, and thwarting your writing voice. If you stay in the writing desert, you will wither.

No helicopter is going to come and rescue you, so you need an escape plan. I’m going to share my one with you, in the hope that it will help you formulate your own.

 1. Write for Yourself

A lot of writers eject ideas from their subconscious before they’ve had a chance to form because they’re afraid it’s not what the market wants. They’re paralysed by the thought of how daunting the publishing process is and lose heart because they feel their ideas are too puny.

The best action to take is to turn your back on publication. It may seem counter-intuitive, but in the long term, it restores your confidence. Give yourself the freedom to write what you want, and write for a set amount of time each day or each week. You’ll establish a writing rhythm, which will keep a channel open for publishable ideas to flow through. The act of writing itself is powerful. It is an act of faith in yourself.

 2. Write Around Yourself

You can never entirely escape yourself when you write, but if your writing is too introspective, you’ll remain in the quicksand. Expand your reach to the world around you, to the people you meet and the places you know. Draw a map of that world with your words. Use your writing to push past your assumptions and understand that world better. You won’t be taking yourself entirely out of the equation, but you’ll turn your life’s experiences into stories that readers will relate to.

3. When You’re Not Writing, Just Live

When you’re not writing, it’s tempting to spend a lot of time fretting about the fact that you’re not writing. But it’s better to shove writing to the back of your mind when you stop writing, and immerse yourself in the richness of the world around you. Pay close attention to your surroundings. Eavesdrop shamelessly on conversations. This will add texture to your writing, so you can create that 3D effect that allows readers to feel they’ve entered a whole new world. And trust that while you’re getting on with the business of living, your subconscious is churning away and will produce a brilliant idea for a story when you least expect it.

This is not a failsafe escape plan. But it at least ensures that you will write in a straight line, instead of in circles. And if you walk that straight line for long enough, you will end up in the abundant lands where your stories reside.

What’s your writing desert escape plan? Feel free to share your tips.


3 thoughts on “Escaping the Writing Desert

  1. The writing desert: what a great image and much more evocative than the block which I always conceive as a block of wood. Your suggestions for getting beyond it are so sensible – sometimes it’s quite handy NOT to feel like writing so we can get on with the rest of our lives. Your first point is also useful to me at the moment: sometimes a string of rejections leads to forgetting why we wanted to write the first place. Right now I’m musing over a new project that I’m hoping is going to be fun.
    Off to share this now on Twitter – I don’t think you’re there, are you?
    Will leave you with a link to a post I did last year on accepting block as part of the process:


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