Writer’s Block – Fact or Fiction?

I was talking with a writer pal of mine and he lamented he had just gone through a bout of writer’s block. I scoffed at the notion, having never experienced it myself. A little later, I mentioned it to Kate, who argued that yes, it was a real phenomenon. To her, there has been more than one instance of staring at a blank page, uncertain how to write a class assignment.

I’ve also heard of writers who haven’t published for year’s claiming they have been horribly blocked.

From my experience, it may be true that you’re blocked on the one topic or assignment but not blocked from writing. I trained, as it were, as a journalist, always on deadline. Writer’s block was not acceptable and you had to put words on paper, editing as you go or rewriting afterwards. As a result, I have become a strong first draft writer, never hesitating to get started. Also, I tend to think about what I intend to write before actually committing words to screen. Once I start, it tends to flow.

I also have several things going on at once, so if I can’t think of a good hook or opening for Project A, I can easily turn to Project B and something will come. To my way of thinking, people blocked tend to be blocked only on the one project, not on writing. So, yes, students like Kate may experience trouble with the specific assignment and its attendant deadline.

Writer’s Block can also be a crutch, and an easy out when stumped. There are some who torture themselves unable to write Project A and only willing to write Project A. Until they write Project A, all other works stops. Therefore, they let themselves be blocked.

Now, as it turns out, my pal used Block as an excuse for laziness and a little crisis of confidence as some of his more recent works have not sold as yet (they will, they’re good) and public recognition has been limited at best. Still, he has ideas aplenty, all clamoring for attention so I know he’s not really blocked. Sometimes, that’s where a swift kick in the ass from editor, agent, spouse or friend is required.

7 comments

  • Terri

    I’ve always thought of “blocks” as signals that my research in a particular area wasn’t complete yet. Right now, I’m having trouble figuring out the set of circumstances involved in daily life on a planet with no magnetosphere. As that’s a pretty all-encompassing aspect to the plot, moving forward on it is difficult until I figure out more of the details.

    So, for me, it’s not really “blocked” as much as it’s “stuck in the mud.”

  • Scavenger

    I dunno. I’ve felt a creative block for a while. I want to write something..I have some ideas, but they just kinda fall apart when I try to develop them, with them mainly winding up as neat little scenes but nothing that holds them together. I really probably need to find a collaborator to help delvelop these things.

  • I think in the last three years that I’ve been trying seriously to publish, I’ve had writer’s block three times. In my own experience I agree with you, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, and other writers that block only happens when I’ve either not thought through a story well enough, or I’m not willing to work on Project B while Project A simmers.

  • Like others have said, writer’s block is most often a symptom of not having put enough thought into a story before I started writing it.

    The other problem it represents? Writing a story I don’t care about. That’s real torture. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen too often of late.

  • Korean Avenger

    Admiral,

    Sorry I missed your birthday recently.

    Email me when you can, eh? I need to solicit you for advice, and well, I wasn’t sure how to reach you.

    And at least yer daughter is in Redskins territory….

    WDC

  • I’ve never had Writer’s Block either although I find journalism easier to write than fiction (which is why I’ve been sitting on a couple of comic ideas for a little while now). I relish the deadline as it motivates you and forces you to write, whether what you deliver is something you’re 100% happy with or not…

  • David S.

    It’s interesting that most writers that dispute The Writer’s Block Syndrome, in various print and spoken mediums, tend to be people who have a background in journalism or TV writing. Essentially, people who have been paid to put out a steady flow of product to sustain the medium that they work in out of possible fear of job termination. Does that distinguish them from a novelist or a short-story writer who tends to use writing as a means of escaping the tedium of their non-related nine-to-five? Or that rare literary creature who MUST write to maintain his/her sanity by channeling those “incredible ideas” onto their computer screens/typewriters?

    This is an open question to all interested parties on this blog.