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Writer's block and the Walkabout

Lilly Birdsong By Lilly Birdsong Published on November 2, 2015

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It happens to us all. We might not want to admit it, but everyone goes through it. Duh duh duh… I’m talking about the taboo Writer’s Block (of doom!)

This can be one of the most challenging aspects of writing - particularly when writing on a deadline!

Sometimes to me it seems as though the closer the deadline is, the harder it is to actually write on command. Even if you say to yourself - just write! ….sometimes you then stare at the screen and gape. An hour later, you may say to yourself…. What just happened?

Getting back in the groove can sometimes be difficult, and seem to be impossible.

I have my own method that almost always works for me. I’ll call it The Walkabout.

The Walkabout

To me, going for a walk is one of the best remedies to this - but there’s still a bit of a science to it. Just simply going out and taking a leisurely stroll may help you to relax, but is it going to inspire you?

Here are a few things that I look for when I go on a Walkabout.


When you walk around, consciously think about the environment about you. How does the environment affect the story of the people who are interacting with or passing through this environment? Here are a few key points to actively look for:

  • Weather
  • Temperature
  • Time of day
  • Setting (Urban? Country?)
  • Buildings around you
  • Type of ground beneath your feet

As an example, after work today I went to a night class that I’m taking. Our classroom was in a building on top of a steep hill. When exiting the building, the temperature had dropped significantly, it was raining, and there were leaves on the ground (it is Fall, after all). Also, it was night time, and the lighting was poor. As I was walking down the hill, my classmates were walking faster than I wanted to, because since it was wet, dark, and there were leaves on the ground, I was worried about falling down and twisting my ankle. (I had already sprained my ankle the week before…) Plus, we were all huddling together to combat the cool temperature.

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Think about how that walk would have been different if it was a nice, summery day, with a pleasant temperature. I might have enjoyed taking a leisurely stroll down the selfsame hill.

People Watching

Without being creepy, or stalking anyone, take the time to observe people. Go to different places, and see how different places attract different types of people.

  • What kind of people are simply passing through this location?
  • Are people stopping to talk with each other?
  • Or do they simply pass each other by?
  • Is anyone loitering here?
  • Are there any homeless people?
  • What age are the people that are walking around?
  • Do people seem friendly? Guarded? Happy? Irritated?

Continuing with my analogy from before, as I was walking down this treacherous hill, I was having a debate with myself about whether to take the bus home, or the metro. Because of the rain, I decided not to wait outside for the bus, and went for the metro instead.

In the metro station, there were of course many people in transit, who were on their way from one place to another. Most people were not talking with each other, although there were some groups of friends hanging out waiting for the train. There was also someone who was playing the guitar and singing to make some money. Also, a homeless man was walking through the station, jangling a cup of coins to get the attention of those in transit to ask them for money.

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When I arrived at my home station, there was someone standing by the gates looking lost, like he may have been waiting for someone, or unsure of where to go. There were groups of youngsters hanging out in the metro station, waiting out the rain. Business people and students on their way home were pushing through, quickly walking from one place to another.

Despite the rain, I didn’t see a single person with an umbrella. Had the weather been unpredicted? Or had we all simply not bothered to check?

To bring it all together, on my Walkabout, when I’m feeling a Writer’s Block, I think about all these things. I take a look at the world around me. Guaranteed, paying attention to the little things makes me think about my stories in a new way.

You can even start to ask yourself - what’s the story of the young musician, playing for pocket change in the metro? What’s the story of the homeless man? Or the youngsters waiting out the rain?

Thinking of these stories can provide you with lots of material to spark inspiration. In fact, you may have so much material to work with that you end up having to scale back your story!

Hopefully this gives you some ideas to jar you out of your Writer’s Block. Write on!

I am a Sci-Fi writer. I love drinking whiskey, hanging out with my 2 cats, and kickboxing. Check out Children of RIVA if you're interested in my work. Oh, and in my spare time I work ... Show More

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