Writer’s Block: Is it an affliction or an excuse?

According to Wikipedia “Writer’s block is a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite.”

Writer’s block….is it real or is it a figment of our fertile imaginations?  I am of the opinion that it does not exist. For many, the inability to sit down and write something that they feel is worthwhile is what they are referring to when they use this term. This, in my opinion, is not being blocked. There is always something to work on, something to write. I don’t think there is a writer out there who cannot write at all at a given time; it’s just that their opinion of what they are capable of writing at that time is that it is not up to par.  It may be that they are trying to write on a specific subject or a specific story and nothing is coming to them that they feel is valuable. That is fine, that’s life; that is not writer’s block. Some of my best writing comes when I force myself to keep my bottom firmly planted in my computer chair and crank out a few words at a time. Other times I produce pure junk which has to be tossed, but it often takes giving yourself permission to write badly before the cream rises to the top. For those who DO believe in “writer’s block”, perhaps there is a good reason you are “blocked”?

There are times when “writer’s block” comes in handy. Perhaps it is that your story needs to go in a different direction, but you just can’t see it at that time. If you keep going, you may see that the path you have laid for your character is a dead end in your story, or you may realize that the action you just wrote was out of character and doesn’t ring true. On the other hand, you can move on to another project and let the muse find you when you are truly ready to see where your story needs to be heading.  Sometimes the inability to write may just be your brain’s way of saying it is tired and needs a break. Trying to force yourself to continue may cause you to write pure, unadulterated crap…but that’s ok. Look at what you wrote and see if there is anything salvageable, see if there are any ideas in there that you might be able to develop at a later date. It is amazing how our minds work, there may be a hidden gem in that garbage you just wrote; something that just needs a bit of polish. The point being, when we think we cannot write, that may be the time to just let whatever thoughts are rattling around in your head out…you never know what you might discover.

Many of us have certain rituals we follow when we sit down to write. You may sharpen all your pencils, you may need your cup of coffee on the table next to you, you may need to walk around your chair three times for luck before you sit down. Whatever ritual you may have, if you are “blocked”, one strategy may be to forgo or change your ritual that morning.  Sometimes doing something different can spark those creative juices. There are certain “exercises” you can do to get your thoughts flowing out onto your keyboard. I looked around the internet a bit and found some interesting sounding ideas.  One person suggested talking to a monkey. Yes, I said a monkey; I would imagine that he meant pretend to talk to a monkey…unless he lives in a zoo. There is something to be said for the absurd and unusual…and if you are truly feeling blocked, wouldn’t you try anything to get past it?

Most of the time, the hardest part of writing is just getting started. We sit and look at that blank page on the screen and we get intimidated. The best way to get rid of that is to not have a blank page. Try typing 5 words on your page. They don’t have to have anything to do with what you want to write about, they don’t have to be related in any way, they just have to sit on that page and take the intimidation of that blank page away.  What is so scary about a page that has already been written on? Now move on and write something. You may even find that your subconscious has gifted you with the perfect word to begin your story. Another idea is to write the middle or the ending instead of the beginning. You may not end up using it, but at least it will give you an idea of where you want your story to go. You can back track from there to find the beginning; as a matter of fact, it may be that what you thought was the middle of your story ends up being the beginning.

As you can see as far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as writer’s block, just a writer’s inability to give themselves permission to just write.  So what are you waiting for? Go write!








4 responses to “Writer’s Block: Is it an affliction or an excuse?

  1. “pure, unadulterated crap” is my usual starting point 🙂 The story starts to come together as I rewrite and edit. I like to work on different projects simultaneously, then when I get ‘blocked’ on one thing I can do something else. And that often spurs the creativity on the first thing. It’s a funny old thing the creative mind. And I don’t really believe in writer’s block either, it’s another excuse for procrastination and I have quite enough of those thank you.

  2. Great Blog Darlene! This was a great blog to bring awareness to the weird hiccup us authors experience far too often! I loved your perspective! Keep up the great job!! 🙂

  3. As a veteran theater director, I view writer’s block the same as I view stage fright. It is a condition that exists if you give it the power to stop you. While

    I have definitely experienced some times when I needed to get up from the computer and hug my kids, or walk the dog, or whatever, because the writing juices are not flowing, but that hardly qualifies as writer’s block. When training young actors, here is what I have always advised: If you are prepared, there is no reason to be afraid of an audience, and if you are not, you would be a fool to not be nervous.

    With writer’s block the same applies, if you are writing simply to meet a contract and the story, article, curriculum, whatever is not in you, then you overstepped your talent and when you get stuck it is only natural.

    So sharpen your skills, practice your craft, and don’t bite off more than you can chew, the trick is to maintain the tension between this and still taking risks and writing the thing you are afraid to write, but know you need to.

  4. I really needed to read this information. I do get discouraged with the flow of my story line (getting it onto paper). I’m going to the end of my story right now and write the conclusion before going any further. I am always amazed by the discovery of my own imagination.

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