AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

October 30, 2011

Chris James’ Guaranteed Cure for Writer’s Block

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 10:14 am

The worst affliction for writers comes in many forms.  Perhaps you’re stuck wondering if your readers will buy planet Earth being swallowed by an intergalactic donkey in a bad mood, just to give your hero the reason to fall in love with the heroine; maybe you need to show the boy and girl’s rising ardour but want to avoid heaving breasts and throbbing members. After some time, the blank white screen starts to mock you. But you take control. You’re a writer, dammit, and you will write.  The first sentence creeps out from your fingertips, but wait: that’s not the verb you really mean. You check your computer’s thesaurus and see what it has to offer, but nothing seems to fit the tone, the phrase, so you ponder and think about recasting the sentence. It’s no good: 15 minutes of your writing time has escaped you and your word count for the day is five.

When you sit still to write your motor cortex gets bored very quickly, and recent scientific research has shown that the creative parts of our brain, which house our imagination, are stimulated by activity in the motor cortex (the bits of the brain that control physical movement).

The solution is to keep active, and the best way to do that is to have a family.  No, really. Once you have children running around the place, you’ll never look at your writing time in quite the same way. The effect of their arrival is twofold: firstly, when you become a parent you [should] realise you’ve become immortal. In the normal scheme of things, they’ll survive you and your driving need to produce an opus that outlives you, lessens.

Secondly, the inordinate amount of attention they need/demand* (delete as applicable) keeps vast swathes of your brain very busy, which activity allows the other bits to quietly work out the answers to your story-telling problems, and usually let you know them when you least expect it.

To continue this analogy, imagine getting up at 6.00 am and not being able to visit the – a-hem – restroom for the next 16 hours? More to the point, imagine the relief when you finally do. You woke up with a knotty character, plot or dialogue problem, but the answer came to you while you were driving one of your darlings to playschool.  Through the day you turned it over and refined it in your mind; at work, dealing with those problems, back at home, coping with the 50 things a parent has to manage. Then, when the house finally falls silent and the logistics have been handled, you sit down, switch on your computer and – ahhh; those 500 or 1,000 words slide from imagination to fingertips to the outside world and you feel satisfied for the first time since your day began.

So, have writer’s block? Then have kids!

Unless, however, after 16 hours on the go the first thing you do when you switch your computer on is check your social networks, send that email to a distant friend, and tell all your Twitter followers, “#amwriting”. But dealing with all of that, of course, is the subject of another post. Ω

Chris James tells stories about the future by extrapolating from the present. 

DIMENSION RESEARCHER – Lucas Hunter has the best job in the universe: exploring and investigating alternative realities. From the first trip he realizes something is wrong. A strange American is chasing Lucas across the continuum; from Soviet Warsaw in 1944, to Muslim-dominated Europe in 1911, and on to Nazi-controlled England in 1967. Lucas soon understands that his superiors have betrayed him, and the world is on the brink of the first trans-dimensional war. Amazon

PICTURED: The Palace of Culture, Warsaw, Poland, where most of CLASS ACTION takes place.

CLASS ACTION: A murder case, but the murderer is already behind bars. A new technology, which is ripping society apart. One man, on whom the fate of a continent will rest. Amazon

  Chris James is originally from Hampton Hill near London, but now lives in Warsaw, Poland, with his wife and three children. Chris never suffers from Writer’s Block. Visit him at



  1. Sad but true.

    If you have a family, there is almost no logical way to get writer’s block.

    Comment by G — October 30, 2011 @ 10:49 am

  2. I can see Writer’s block as being like constipation. I did get a lot of writing done when my son was young, but I was also younger and more energetic and went without sleep a lot of times. I get a lot more writing done these days when I have a bit more free time.

    Comment by charlesgramlich — October 30, 2011 @ 11:36 am

  3. Hi there, thanks for commenting. @G: It IS true, but that life balance of parent and writer is one of the nicest things. I always feel a little sad when I read on those writers’ forums all the younger ones fighting with their block – I tried suggesting once that they should get on and have their families, but they weren’t too impressed!
    @charlesgramlich: Yes, I couldn’t resist the comparison. But silence for the actual writing is a must, and often parents can only get that in the middle of the night.

    Comment by Chris James — October 30, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  4. Love the picture! I’m not quite sure how you do it, juggling everything you do and still write the books that you’ve published (so far). Sounds like you have a hectic life but what a solution for writters block!

    Comment by Natasha (@bluefuzzybug) — October 30, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

  5. I loved reading your article and can relate completely as I also have three children as you know. My way of dealing with writer’s block or translation block (that happens too, believe me), is to procrastinate, but intensively and creatively. For example, tidy-up and cleaning up a room involves painting walls and assembling furniture. Other, more normal tricks involve going for long walks or hot baths. Quirina

    Comment by Quirina — October 31, 2011 @ 2:33 am

  6. Great story. I too had to work around kids. Now that they are grown, I find that if I take a walk with a notebook, I get loads of ideas, dialogue spews forth, and I scribble madly. Then hurry home and get it all down.

    Comment by marsha cornelius — October 31, 2011 @ 3:04 am

  7. I, too, have kids, but the best tip I got from this could apply to anyone…

    “Ironically, the cause of this may be that you have too much writing time.”

    There’s nothing like a deadline, or small window of opportunity, to kick you up the butt! Sometimes, say, on a day off, I don’t get as much writing done as I do when I rush home from work, sort the kids out, then finally settle down at the computer. And, yeah, the ideas usually come when I’m doing some other activity.

    Excellent post, Chris – all the best with your endeavours.


    Comment by Col Bury — October 31, 2011 @ 4:59 am

  8. Hi Natasha! The picture came about because I was telling Chris we needed a really great pic to lead his article with–and the ones I’d found were good but not great. Pulling out all the stops, Chris rounded up the family and came up with this shot on a moment’s notice. Needless to say, I’m impressed!

    Quirina and Marsha, I so glad you can relate. Thanks for sharing your own tips.

    Col. how nice of you to take time off from your own busy blog and story publishings over at Thrillers, Killers and Chillers. Chris is actually out filming a You Tube piece for his books this morning, and that’s why he’s not answering personally just yet. In any event, thank for your excellent comment.

    Comment by ashedit — October 31, 2011 @ 6:12 am

  9. Quirina and Marsha: Thank you both for your compliments. I came across this point when researching the brain tech for Class Action. More and more research is linking phsyical movement with intelligence levels and creative ability; it really seems that if we don’t move our bodies enough, our brains have a much tougher job to come up with ideas!

    Col: Thank you as well! I think the thing about a deadline would depend on whose it is. If you’re established with a mainstream publisher and a lot of people are counting on you to get the story out, that must be motivating, but if you’re an indie and publication is a question of self-discipline, it would be quite easy to get “too tough” with yourself if, in fact, your story just needed a bit more time to churn in the back of your head.
    Btw, the Youtube shoot referred to above went much better than I expected, so there’s a definitely a surprise in the pipeline!

    Comment by Chris James — October 31, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

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