Picture yourself driving through the countryside, it’s a beautiful day. The birds are singing and the wild flowers are blossoming, each road you take, leads perfectly on to the next. You are so carried away with the smooth journey and your surroundings that you did not notice some time ago that you must have taken a wrong turn because now you no longer recognise your surroundings. You decide to pull in at the next farmer’s gate to do a U-turn to retrace your steps in the hope of finding a familiar landmark. What happens next is where your real problems start, the car in which you travel will no longer move, it is stuck firmly in the mud. You have all the tools you need to get yourself out of the situation; you have four wheels, an accelerator and fuel. Yet no matter what you do, you’re stuck. In the same way writers block occurs, you’re happily going along with your story when you grind to a halt. Again, you have all the tools you need, a pen and pad or a keyboard and screen but nothing happens, just a cursor flashing in the top left corner. It is often like a monitor in an intensive care unit waiting for either life to burst back into your story or death to slowly come and end the piece you’ve been happily working on.
What is the answer? There are many suggestions, one is reading, the more you read the better. Read everything you can get your hands on, not just your chosen genre but everything within reach, magazine articles, love stories, horror and crime. In today’s frantic world, we often hear the remark “I’m too busy to read, I can never find the time.” There are plenty of opportunities to pick up a book or an article that may inspire you. I try to read everywhere, including the toilet but my favourite place is the doctor’s waiting rooms. I hate visiting the doctor and waiting rooms I despise, looking round at individuals all sick and feeling sorry for themselves. I always bring a book and while reading I create a shield around me where I do not have to sympathise with the other patients. Unfortunately, the last time I visited the doctor I entered the waiting room and my worst fears happened, I knew somebody sitting there with an empty seat next to them. I had to go and talk to them; I could feel the book in my pocket screaming at me, “Open me! Read me!” Oh friend how I wish I had listened to you, for as I didn’t know this person well, the conversation soon dried up and guess what, it was the longest wait for the doctor ever.
When I was sixteen I went to work for London Underground, while working there I remember one of the best bits of advice I received, it was from a man named Freddy Hut. He was sixty-four and fast approaching retirement. Freddy had quiet interesting stories to tell about his past, the most famous, or in famous, of them was, he used to do boxing for the Kray brothers back in the early sixties. He was a proper old east London character and daily would tell everyone he met in his rough gravely voice, “You’ve got two ears and one mouth, use them in that order.” I think what this translated to was ‘Always listen twice as much as you speak’ this I think is great advice for a writer. Everywhere you go gives you an opportunity, whether it is a small gathering of people, a wedding reception or presentation in a grand banqueting hall to study people. Listen to the people talking around you and the way they act. This can give you great inspiration for developing characters and dialogue, each face tells its own story. Pause for a moment every time you are in a crowd look and listen you never know what may inspire you, I feel there is only one exception to this rule, doctor’s waiting rooms.
Sometimes when your car is stuck in the mud, you have to think out of the box to get free. Many people have suggested putting bits of cardboard or an old blanket under your wheels to enable them to get grip. You may get your feet and hands muddy doing this but eventually you will become unstuck.