Is Writer's Block a Myth?

June 28, 2009

I don’t believe in writer’s block.

I know, it’s a confession writers aren’t supposed to make, akin to standing up in church and announcing that I don’t believe in the Devil.

So I’ll add a caveat: Maybe writer’s block exists for fiction writers, who have to make up plot, characters and everything else they put to paper. If I had to create a tale from a completely blank slate, it’s quite possible that I’d stare into space and see a wall forming, brick after brick of, well, nothing.

But as a nonfiction storyteller, I’ve never found myself at a loss for what to write. The pieces are all there, waiting to be put together. And if they’re not, if there’s a void, I always have at least a vague idea of what information I should gather to fill it.

Sometimes it takes work to figure out exactly how to write something, where to begin or which pieces to leave out. And sure, there are days when I just don’t feel like writing and have to force myself to do it. But in my experience, that’s not writer’s block — it’s writer’s laziness.

Am I the only one who thinks writer’s block is a myth? Not according to some of these responses from writers when I twittered about the topic:

  • I find, magically, that newspaper deadlines cure writer’s block. When you gotta write, you do. (@blytheterrell)
  • I talked myself out of believing in writer’s block. Part of me still really does, but I refuse to acknowledge that part. (@Elle_Parker)
  • If you journal (or write morning pages) every day, writers block doesn’t happen. Habit primes the pump. (@blogbooktours)
  • I love writers who say they can’t afford writer’s block! Bills to pay, groceries to buy — can’t succumb to blockages. (@QuipsAndTips)
  • My old boss said writer’s block does not exist. Boredom and hangovers do. (@justwriter)

You know who I’d like to hear from? Writers who suffer from writer’s block, who believe in some variation. Please stand and profess your faith!

Do you believe in writer’s block?

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    0 Replies to “Is Writer's Block a Myth?”

    • Of course there’s writer’s block, but you’ve got it wrong about what it is. Block is not about being unable to write, but being unwilling to write until something seems fresh and new. I should think that might aflict nonfiction as well as fiction writers. In fact, last time I read the newspaper, I thought at least some of the writers should have been suffering from block 🙂

    • poprice says:

      Yes, I think it exists… but it’s more like a stage or a sign that I haven’t processed everything fully OR have insufficient information/research. For me, it’s often a sign that I need to step back and do inventory, make sure I’m ready. And that’s what housecleaning works so well… nothing to do but clean and think!

    • I don’t get writer’s block. Ideas are everywhere if we open our eyes and ears and keep thinking.

    • Karen Walker says:

      I have never experienced writer’s block, thank goodness. Like you, I question things, take time to gather thoughts or information, but inability to write–uh uh.
      Karen Walker

    • Helen Ginger says:

      Maybe it should be called writer’s pause. You have trouble thinking of where to go in the plot. There are things to do to get passed that. Take a nap (I tend to dream up the solution.) Let your mind wander and write down your ideas. Talk it out with someone. You’re just pausing to regroup.


      Straight From Hel

    • J.M. Reep says:

      I don’t often experience it, but when it does occur to me, it’s partly a matter of “pausing to regroup” (as Helen, above, phrases it) and partly a matter of anxiety — sometimes I worry that I won’t be able to write the next scene/chapter/story/etc.; I worry that I’ll fail.

    • alan chin says:

      I don’t believe in writer’s block. A writer may come to an attitude that what he/she is writing is crap, but the only way to work through that is to write, which is what I do. Then I go back and throw out the crap, while hopefully saving the gems.
      I think with many writers they get to a point where they don’t care. I’ve not gotten there yet. I have the opposite problem, I care too much and I don’t have enough time in the day to write everything I want.

      alan chin

    • Alan – One of my first writing teachers, Jeff Arch (Sleepless in Seattle) said writer’s block is simply the fear of writing crap. He said to combat it – just write crap.

      I have. (But hopefully am a good enough self-editor that I toss it out.)

    • Typically, I’m in the kinda camp. Both yes and no. I think your distinction between fiction writers and non-fiction is sound. I’ve done non-fiction things and you’re right, it’s more a question of how, or organization and structure than what.

      As a fiction guy”¦.well, I can get stuck, that’s true. But, usually not for long. My technique to get unstuck is revision. In that processes I see things from the characters perspective again and can usually pick up the thread. After all, I’m simply writing down what the characters say, thing, or do. They drive the action. So”¦should be easy, just find one of them and watch.

      Best regards, Galen
      Imagineering Fiction Blog

    • Jennifer says:

      Writer’s block…that’s such an interesting topic. Have I experienced the glaring blank page, the gnashing teeth of a story that simply refuses to be born? Absolutely! Do I ever lack material to write? Never! I have too many story ideas. But I do have times when I sit to work on a project when there is no flow. When the characters are out to lunch, when my villian throws a temper tantrum and hides beyond my margin settings.

      When I stop thinking about my current project and just let my fingers fly across the keyboard, I find little gems of ideas for nonfiction articles or, quite possibly, another book in the making.

      Whenever I’ve confessed to having writer’s block, I think it was more an admonission of fear: fear of not begin good enough to put my words on a page. It has never been for lack of ideas that my pen refused to move!

      Thanks for this great post!

    • Elle Parker says:

      I think writer’s block is something that you can talk yourself into, and that can be paralyzing. However, that also means you can talk yourself out of it if you want to. I did that a few years ago, and I haven’t really had it since.

      Elle Parker

    • Ami says:

      I don’t really believe in “writer’s block” either. I think what I would consider writer’s block is really just a product of anxiety and fear, as several commenters have already said. For me, being “blocked” is more of a lack of motivation or a feeling of overwhelm or anxiety about a project. There’s no real block–if I sit down in front of the computer and start writing, something will come out. The problem is I avoid the chair when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

    • I think I’ve been afflicted with bouts of writer’s block but it may actually be “writer’s laziness” or my inability to focus when too many other things are going on at the same time. Usually a nice long walk takes care of it.


    • Enid Wilson says:

      Now how can you talk yourself out of writer’s block? I’d love to be the fly on the wall when the conversation takes place.

      Bargain with the Devil

    • theoldsilly says:

      I keep several WIP’s going so if the stuff isn’t flowing fresh and vibrant on one (writer’s block isn’t not being ab le to write – it’s not having GRAND inspiration at hand), then I can just switch gears and write on another. Works for me. 🙂

      The Old Silly

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