Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Writer's Block

Some people believe that writer's block doesn't exist and to them I say "Lucky you. Be careful about peeing in the Universe's cheerios.** It may come back to bite you in the butt." For the rest of us mortal writers there are times when the words won't flow, the ideas won't come, and the energy to write is gone.

Those who use writer's block as an excuse for not having written, well they need to either stop calling themself a writer or do something about the blockage.

There is no one size fits all solution to dealing with writer's block. For some, bashing on through works, others need a different approach. To determine what approach is going to work, one has to figure out what is causing the blockage.

There are a lot of things that can cause writer's block: physical illness, mental illness, extra stress, traumatic experiences, the perfectionist monster, the worthless piece of scum monster, the lack of discipline monster. the procrastination faerie. (Yes, procrastination is a faerie instead of a monster because it lures you into playing just one more game of minesweeper, posting one more thing on a forum, etc.)

Once one has figured out what is causing the blockage, one can choose the sword to use to defeat it. The bash on through sword doesn't work very well against the perfection monster. The perfection monster sneers at the writer's puny efforts and points out all the flaws in the work that is being bashed out. It's probably more effective to either tell the perfection monster to shut up and go stand in the corner or send him out for a beer. Another powerful sword to use against the perfection monster is the "permission to write absolute crap". I use that one myself quite a lot.

There's no magic cure all for writer's block, but determining the cause of the block will lead one to the appropriate sword to smash it.

** Shamelessly borrowed from Heather who coined this phrase.


  1. Put me in the "I don't believe in it" camp, but for different reasons than you might think.

    What I don't believe in is the condition called "writer's block". As in, an all-encompassing "can't write" card that can be played to excuse lack of productivity.

    Off days? Outside stress? Crippling perfectionism? Lack of discipline? Absolutely. Stuff happens, and it definitely impacts the desire to write or the ability to do it easily. The concept of writer's block, IMHO, has a tendency to take the responsibility off the writer to move past whatever's keeping him/her from writing. ("It's writer's block, nothing I can do...") Every one of those things can - and do - hinder writing, but it is up to the writer and no one else to move past it and write ANYWAY.

    So my only objection to the umbrella term of "writer's block" is the implicit acceptance that the only thing that can be done is to wait for it to go away. And we're obviously very much on the same page about that aspect of it, since as you said, those who can't be bothered to move past it need to either do so or stop calling themselves writers.

    In short, I absolutely believe that things happen that make writing difficult. I just balk at "writer's block" because it seems to be too easily accepted as a "get out of writing free" card.

  2. We're on the same page.

    The only problem that I have with saying "I don't believe in writer's block." Is that, to me, it is dismissive of those who are struggling with being unable to put the words on paper and are searching for a solution to their problem.

    We all know the whiners who would rather wallow in self-pity than do what they can do to solve their problems. They are the same ones who when offered suggestions to help them out of their predicament, reject whatever is offered.

    I guess I prefer thinking that a person who says they have writer's block is looking for solutions to break it and not whingeing to get attention. The whingers are pretty easy to identify, they reject whatever one suggests to help them out. I've found that beating my head against a wall is more satisfying than trying to help them. *shrug*