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Writer’s Block

Sometimes (well, most of the time honestly) my own brain is my biggest saboteur. Last year sometime I decided I wanted to write about my experiences with some games. I wrote about Hollow Knight and how completing it was kinda life-changing, and I wrote about Outer Wilds and how streaming impacted my experience and enjoyment of the game.  I then played Death Stranding and that game is so… different and yet familiar… I had so much that I wanted to say about it, so many thoughts swirling around in my head. As I was playing, and shortly after, I made about 2,000 words of notes to prepare to write about it. I sat down on multiple occasions to write about it and just… could NOT wrangle all the swirly thoughts and messy lines of notes into anything coherent. I couldn’t even work out how to start it.

So… because in my head the next blog post I was going to write was about Death Stranding, and I couldn’t formulate my thoughts into a blog post about Death Stranding… my blog was jammed. Any time I came close to thinking up a new topic to write about, some nasty little voice went “NO! you gotta write about Death Stranding!” so I just… didn’t write.

I kinda hoped that the post I did a little while ago about party games would help free me up a bit. It didn’t. I then hoped maybe I could use the new year to trick myself but unfortunately, my utter disdain for contrived traditions and arbitrary dates won out and despite thinking privately to myself that maybe “a blog a day” was the big ambitious project I needed for the year, I rebelled against it as a very notion.

But, ultimately, I really want to get back to writing. I feel like (and this is just a personal thing, very much not saying this applies to anyone else) when I am writing frequently I am a more interesting, more articulate, more thoughtful person. So I’ve spent several days coiling myself up to spring into writing this post that doesn’t even actually go anywhere. So if you have spent your precious time reading this post, I am very sorry for wasting it.

I’m trying to force myself into it. Somehow. Doing it here publically on my blog is purely for my own edification also – I struggle to write in a journal or whatever because I can’t get over the “pointless” feeling of writing something nobody will ever read – I am working on this in the background but for now, you all get to share in my reentry into the realm of writing.

If any of you have any thoughts, tips, advice, hacks, or words of encouragement, I would really love to hear them – drop a comment below.

21 replies on “Writer’s Block”

I have no ideas or hacks I’m afraid, but I enjoyed this little insight into what goes on in that little head of yours. And I think you’re a wonderful writer so I hope you find more inspiration to write because I love reading your stuff x

I think writing daily, whether on a public blog or in a journal (or just a scrap piece of paper) is never a pointless exercise. Writing doesn’t exist just for other people, it can also exist just for yourself. In much the same way (and I’m aware this probably cuts both ways) you don’t just play video games for other people, you needn’t just write for others either. It’s a great way to clear the head and get subconscious thoughts down on paper.

I think trying to write every day is a great idea, whether it’s 200 words or 2000. Once you start, you’ll probably find a lot starts coming out, even if you just start with “this is my daily writing exercise”.

I dunno, I’m not a psychologist, but it sounds like writing for yourself might do a lot of good, writer’s block be damned.

Yeah – I definitely need to make an effort in this regard. It feels like I need to overcome some kind of mindset thing there.

When I write, I try and break things down. I don’t necessarily start at the beginning – I write a paragraph that I know I can write – it might come later on. I find this breaks the blockage. I’m normally not doing narrative writing – most of what I put down is scientific content, but I find this works for me.

Ooh that’s a great idea. There are definitely parts of my thoughts about Death Stranding I could write, even if it isn’t the beginning of the post. Thank you for the idea.

i think of writing as being a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle – where i usually find the corner pieces and do the edges, because they are easy and get me going. then pick an area which needs more thought but it moves me forward. Rather than starting at the top left and then only progressing when I’ve found the right next piece.

Person who somehow makes a living from writing here: I have tried a million different hacks and there are a few that I’ve found quite useful.

The saying “to write something well you must first write it badly” is a bit of a cliche, and isn’t always true, but I find it very useful. Writing is writing. But editing is also writing, and it’s the writing that comes closer to the final result. The first draft of anything substantial I write is called HACKTHRU and that’s exactly what I do: hack through it like a terrible hacking hack.

(I mean this in the crudest possible sense, by the way. The first draft of the intro to my book was something like “This is the intro to the book. It will say What The Book Is. It will say Why The Book Is. It will have a bit about Newcastle near the end and it will finish with [joke]. Maybe?” Sadly the joke never made it, but that was it: intro done, on to the next bit.)

A related piece of advice is: don’t overplan. Again, not always important, and certainly different for everybody. But frequently I discover what I want to say, what I think, as I go along.

The other thing, which I was told ages ago by my first editor after running into a very similar problem to your Death Stranding one, is to embrace the great freedom of writing. Anything’s a piece. Your notes are a piece. Type the 2,000 words up, stick them up, call it “Argh, Stranded” or something. Then it’s done, and you have the freedom to do something else for a bit, before either coming back to it in a couple of weeks and writing some follow-up bits or, alternatively, never thinking about it again.

Finally, I just popped back to read your Hollow Knight piece, and I thought it was really good. So was this one. And so, not to sound pompous or patronising or irritating or glib or anything, but: keep it up! Hack on through. It’s worth it. It’s always worth it.

A x

this was meant to have paragraph breaks! dear reader, please imagine them after the first “useful”, “hacking hack”, the closing of the brackets, “thinking about it again”, and “worth it”.

Thank you Andi, I sincerely appreciate it. Not overplanning is something I _really_ need to work on, and it’s something I tried to embrace here. And the point about “anything’s a piece” is very interesting. I still have the notes so maybe I will do just that.

I really appreciate the feedback on my writing from someone I look up to! If you’ve ever got any constructive criticism or suggestions, I am all ears.

I’ve always struggled with writer’s block when it comes to things I really truly care about getting right, and I’m proud of you for pushing forward and getting this out to try to break the cycle a little! My favourite thing to do when I’m REALLY stuck is just write out a huge jumble of roughly what I’m aiming for, then edit it down and make it make sense. I’m a better editor than I am a writer, and getting it all down on paper feels like a huge movement towards the goal and usually motivates me the rest of the way!!

Thank you. I find it really hard to separate the writing and the editing and tend to write a bit, then edit a bit. It feels slow and clunky but I really struggle to move on from something unless it’s right. Must try harder!

I perpetually regret not trying to write more. Great post Alice, really cool seeing peoples replies. Hope to see more, I’m sure you can you do it you talented so and so!

Thank you <3 and remember it's not like it's too late. You can start trying to write more this week.

First of all, I find the concept of a 473-word blog post about having writer’s block mildly amusing! I totally get it though. Writing is hard, even for professionals, so don’t knock yourself about it.

Reading the other comments, I can’t really expand much on what Andi said, it’s good advice. Myself, I tend to write random notes, and then bullets, which eventually expand into paragraphs. At this point, it will still generally be awful, and I will need to rewrite it all, but it’s not a blank page anymore, so it feels much easier.

Finally, believe in yourself. I bet whatever you put out would be awesome, nothing you have so far would contradict that!

Yeah it really was the only thing I could think about whenever I opened up anything to write. When you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Thank you so much for the kind words.

Unfortunately I’ve been beaten to my words of wisdom by several of the previous comments, but for the purposes of reinforcement – my preferred approach is one of “just write down whatever comes to mind about the subject, regardless of structure and format”. My pieces of board-games writing have almost always been constructed as a series of disparate paragraphs spread out across a Word doc that, once I can see them together and get a sense of the content I’m trying to say, I can start stitching together and editing into a coherent whole.

The only time I really have a more clear framework in mind to start with is when it’s more of a list piece and the framework is directly imposed by the set of elements – and even then, I’ll write the entries in a random order, jumping back and forth to whatever I feel like.

The other thing is just writing *something* down, even if it doesn’t feel right or good – I find that it’s like rubber-duck debugging in software: by simply encompassing your thoughts in some manner you get a better view of what the issue is. Even if you end up deleting the entire thing afterwards in order to rewrite it it’s a valuable step in reaching that point.

That all said – this is coming from someone whose form of writers’ block is more often “what can I write about” rather than “this is my topic, how do I produce words about it”. But hopefully there’s some nuggets of experience that can prove helpful nonetheless!

Thank you Simon, really appreciate the tips. The comparison to rubber duck debugging is actually really useful and a neat way of thinking about it.

[…] I took a moment to be vulnerable with folks and talk about my writer’s block and how it was caused (at least initially) by Death Stranding. I was really heartened by the […]

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