Confessional Classic: No Sympathy for Writer’s Block

This week we’re dusting off some old posts that we think deserve another go-around. It’s been almost a year since I first wrote this segment on the dreaded notion of Writer’s Block, and I still stand by it. It can still be read at its original post on January 15th, 2010. I present it today with only minor edits. The content remains the same.

No Sympathy for Writer’s Block

What exactly is writer’s block? Let’s be honest here. I’ve stared at this page for at least twenty minutes before typing something out. Is that writer’s block?


Not being able to put into words what you want to write. Is that writer’s block?


A term used to scare the bejesus out of inexperienced writers?

Now we’re getting close.

Writer’s block is a feeble excuse to get out of working on the creative project you set out for yourself. It’s the crutch used to avoid dealing with the real problem at hand. “Did you finish that story you were working on?” “No, I’ve got writer’s block.” “How’s that article coming?” “Writer’s block.” “Finish that dissertation?” “No, writer’s block.”

Get over yourself. It’s a load of crap. And if you buy into it, it’s your own fault. There is no such thing as writer’s block.  If there was, don’t you think the pharmaceutical companies would be all over that?

Okay, so what now? I still can’t write.

Now that we’ve kicked the WB theory out the window, we can dive into the heart of the matter. The Amys already covered some of the aspects commonly associated with “writer’s block”.

Fear is a biggie. Ms. McLane tackled that on [1/11/10]. Ms. Nichols explained why it’s more like getting stuck. Both posts are incredibly insightful. If you haven’t already, check them out.

You now have some idea what’s causing the real troubles. What do you do about it?

Tough love.

First things first. Sit your ass down and start typing. I don’t care what it is. It could be that story you’re working on, a letter to a prison pen pal, or hate mail in response to my post. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re writing.

Set a goal to write at least 500 words a day. It doesn’t matter what you write about. Stream of conscience writing is fine. Doing this keeps you in the practice of writing. You should be so accustomed to writing that if you miss a day, you become less tolerable than a smoker having a nic-fit. In all honesty, if you’re not already like that, why are you writing?

Let’s address your current project. How’s that going for you? Did it fizzle out? Stop dead in its tracks? This might be hard to hear, so brace yourself.

You’re not ready yet.

I emphasize yet. Maybe your mind just hasn’t grasped the full spectrum of what it is you’re trying to create. It happens. Or maybe your craft isn’t that good yet. That’s something nobody wants to hear.

Am I being mean? Yes. Do you need to hear it? A resounding yes.

Think about it. If you can’t grasp your story yet, you risk doing it an injustice by portraying it poorly. And if your craft isn’t up to par, don’t thrash a good idea by taking it on before you’re ready. That’s writing suicide.

But whatever you do, don’t scrap the idea or project. As long as you’re writing daily, your craft will get better. You’ll eventually understand what you’re trying to say and be able to convey it clearly.  File it away for future dalliances. Why not work on more than one project? If one comes to a stand still, jump to the other one. Neil Gaiman does this.

There’s another kind of writer’s block that I won’t get too far into today. I call it avoidance. This is where I suffer the greatest. I had this preconceived notion that to write well, I had to devote a solid block of time everyday. If I couldn’t have that, then I couldn’t write at all and wouldn’t. Stupid, I know. [The week of January 18th, 2010], I, along with my fellow PLCers, will tell you how we deal with avoidance.

It all comes down to this. Writer’s block is nothing but you, the writer, blocking yourself. So get over yourself, and write the stories I’m dying to read.