Writer’s Block – Myth or a Real Condition?
Writer’s block is generally recognized as a serious condition among professional writers. Not just novelists, but journalists, performers, songwriters, copy writers and others who write creatively all fall victim from time to time.
First recognized in 1947 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler, the term refers to a “condition” that can range from a complete lack of ability to write for years on end to a temporary inability to be creative to one’s satisfaction.
Writer’s block has been described in screenplays, novels, the news and in blogs.
Novelist Stephen King used it as a lynchpin in “The Shining.” Main character Jack Torrance was paralyzed by writer’s block, which eventually led to madness. Or did it?
Was it the lack of ability to write or was the sheer isolation of the Overlook Hotel that led Mr. Torrance to kill? Or, was writer’s block just another bit of fiction employed by King?
I feel that writers too often use writer’s block as an excuse for not doing what, at that moment, does not come easily. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of putting down one word at a time and allowing yourself the freedom to write badly until your muse comes to the rescue. At least this way, you have some material to build upon.
Yes it’s true, finances, family and spousal relationships, the wrong environment and other factors can affect your ability to stay focused on your work as a writer. But if every writer waited for inspiration before putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – there would be little in the world to read. (And a lot of us would be very hungry!)
When I posted my opinion about writer’s block on Facebook and LinkedIn, I received a lot of feedback. Here’s some of what other writers had to say about it.
“If inspiration doesn’t come to me, I chase it with a stick”
“I think writer’s block is a genuine experience. Although given such a label makes it sound like some kind of affliction. I have it myself from time to time … usually when I am stuck on the direction my plot should take. It doesn’t last long. I never stress about it. I write around the problem and return to it later.
“I write full time, everyday, but there was period where I would go to my studio and literally just couldn’t find the words, or a plot to put down. The more I tried the harder it got. I didn’t believe in the existence of writer’s block until then. It ended the same way it began. I went to my studio and just started writing and completed my usual two-thousand words per day.”
“Neurology has proven that when an individual is stressed or threatened, a part of the brain stem called the Reticular Activating System will shift control from the cerebral cortex to the limbic system. Without significant input from the cerebral cortex, the individual is temporarily deprived of the ability to perform nuanced analyses and creative thought. Moreover, the individual is rarely aware of this shift and often attributes the resulting inability to perform her or his usual creative thinking as lack of willpower, character or ability.”
“There is definitely a thing called writers block, but I believe that something in your life causes it. I have writers block, and mine is caused from someone close to me, offering his opinion on my grammar, and English – Over and Over again.”
“I was full of creative ideas and was writing so good. I slowly began to think about my grammar, and correcting it, and finally, all I could think about was my English and Grammar so much, that I had no room in my mind to create a new novel. I now have writers block. “
“Discipline makes me write – sans the mood. Pen to paper and everything turns out alright.”
While I do not claim to have all the answers, I believe that those who stop writing because of “writer’s block” are left with only blank pages, rather than material to improve upon. Some of my best wok has occurred when I have forced myself to pluck out one word at a time. When I find my writing not up to my standards, I rewrite and rewrite until I am satisfied. Giving in to any temptation or excuse not to continue will only leave me with nowhere to go when I return.
For those who suffer from writer’s block, I sincerely wish you all the best. I encourage you to persevere and not give in. Imagine all those who go through life each and every day with physical and mental disabilities. They often overcome their handicaps, and I wish you Godspeed in overcoming yours.