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Writer's Block: The Case of the Missing Nut

Updated on June 14, 2013

"I set myself 600 words a day as a minimum output, regardless of the weather, my state of mind, or if I'm sick or well. There must be 600 finished words — not almost right words." — Arthur Hailey


But what do you do when you can't even write a single word? And so it was with me the other day, when mental constipation sent me reeling out into the streets, searching for inspiration.

As I was passing by a bus stop, something hit me like a bolt. I turned around, as the sound of metal hit the pavement. A man, sitting alone on a bench at the bus stop, started laughing hysterically. As there was no one else around, I had wanted to reprimand him but stopped short, when I realized that he had no arms. Who could have hit me with that bolt? I wondered.

I squatted down to scrutinize the damned, bloody bolt. Being hit by a bolt is such a banal affair, hardly the stuff that would interest, much less, excite readers. But being hit by a nut would be a totally different kettle of fish altogether! And I thought: "If only I had been hit by a nut, instead!"

No problem! I could still tell everyone that I was hit by a nut, instead of a bolt. No one would know, anyway. But then I suddenly remembered Cygnetbrown leaving a comment in Billybuc's hub, "Writing Carries With It A Responsibility", citing Ernest Hemingway:

"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know."

Yes, I must find that nut, or else forget about writing the hub. Going on all fours, I combed the area like a police detective at the scene of a murder crime. For a moment, I thought I was Sherlock Holmes. The man at the bus stop watched me in amusement. He reminded me of someone and all of a sudden, I began to wonder whether I was acting like Mr. Bean.

Bus Stop and Blind Man - Mr Bean

"What're you searching for?" he asked.

"A nut," I looked at him expectantly, hoping to find one.

"Look in the mirror."

"Which mirror?" I asked.

"Any mirror!"

Any mirror? That would be a piece of cake! I was about to turn to leave, when I saw him kicking something toward me, saying: "And here's another."

Something hit my forehead. I bent down to see what it was and you won't believe it! It's a nut! And so here it is... the hub about the day when I was hit by a nut. Only one sentence is true. The rest are a figment of my imagination. But that's good enough, isn't it? After all, Hemingway said: "All you have to do is write ONE true sentence."


What is Writer's Block?

Jeff Bollow, author of "Writing FAST: How to Write Anything with Lightning Speed", says: "You can cure writer's block instantly with one simple sentence, and that is to give yourself permission to write garbage" He added: "The truth, however, is what you write probably won't be garbage but by giving yourself permission, you remove the block."

What actually is writer's block? As the name implies, something is blocking your creative flow. But what is that something? That something is the need for perfection... the need:

  • to be good;
  • to write well; or
  • to choose the right idea, or story, or even words.

Basically, writer's block is the need to avoid looking stupid. So to remove the block, simply remove that need for perfection.

In other words, writer's block is an emotional issue — a psychological inhibition — that keeps you from being able to write. It is a symptom, not the cause. The cause, in most cases, is, as pointed out earlier, "performance anxiety", also known as the "fear of failure".

How to Cure Writer's Block

"Give yourself permission to write garbage and then strengthen what you've written afterwards. That's how to cure writer's block instantly every time. Try it now and let your ideas flow." — Jeff Bollow

Writer's Block Instant Cure

How to Write FAST

Here's Jeff Bollow's method to remove writer's block:

  1. Open your file, exercise book, or whatever you're going to write on.
  2. Think about what you wish you could write, if you weren't blocked.
  3. Set the timer for 3 minutes.
  4. Give yourself permission to write garbage.
  5. Go! Write as much as you can in 3 minutes.

If the words still don't flow instantly, go one step further and make yourself write garbage deliberately. That's all there is to it.

Now, the skeptic in you might probably say: "But I don't want to write garbage. I want to write quality." And as you start writing, you might even hear a little voice inside your head that says: "This is awful. That sentence is terrible. Why did you choose that idea? You're not good at this. Stop now! You're going to look foolish." That voice is the block. It is the critic voice.

Truth is you do need that voice. It actually has your best interests at heart. That voice is your last line of defense against looking foolish. The critic voice doesn't want you to be judged poorly by putting garbage out into the world. The actual problem, however, is that it is interrupting. It is jumping in, before its turn. The critic voice is trying to criticize something that doesn't even exist yet! And that doesn't protect you. That blocks you.

Writing, according to Bollow, is a 4-stage process and getting your idea onto the page is only one part of that whole process:

  1. Giving shape to your idea by turning it into a story, mapping out what you want to say;
  2. Getting your story onto the page;
  3. Editing to ensure that those words express your idea effectively; and
  4. Fine-tuning your readers' experience.

Writer's block happens when you blend the parts together. So, how do you silence your inner critic?

Here's how: You make a deal with it, telling it to give you a chance to voice any criticism it has LATER, before you show it to anyone. Trying to write and to edit at the same time is like pressing the car accelerator and the brake simultaneously (or alternately), as explained in my earlier hub, "The Easiest Way to Write an Article". You know that you can't drive a car any distance with this method, so what makes you think that writing is any different?

"Once your critic voice knows that you are not being reckless, it will go quiet and let your creativity flow", says Bollow. But you must give the voice its chance to be critical afterwards because if you don't, and you send a sloppy first draft of your writing out into the world, that critic voice is not going to trust you anymore and the block will return.

Overcoming Writer's Block, How to By Justine Tal Goldberg WriteByNight


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    • KenWu profile image


      5 years ago from Malaysia

      As always, splendid!

    • savvydating profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent ideas. I am going to implement them NOW! That critic inside has it's place, as you mentioned, but to let it stop us from writing is foolish. I can hardly wait to begin using this freeing method. Great hub, and so easy to read. Up, awesome, interesting, useful.

    • Shinkicker profile image


      5 years ago from Scotland

      Great read Walter , well written and interesting plus a funny anecdote about the nut.

      Regards writers block, I have the same experience. Just sit and write anything and sometimes ideas begin to come.

      Voted up

    • simondixie profile image

      Nancy McLendon Scott 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      And so often, what begins as "garbage" can become something entirely different after we "clean it up!"

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      Simondixie, thank you for dropping by... this hub started off as a joke for a comment in Billybuc's hub and ended up becoming what it is, after I accidentally bumped into Jeff Bollow's video. It's enjoyable to write garbage once in a while, especially when one is not in the right frame of mind to write anything serious, LOL.

    • simondixie profile image

      Nancy McLendon Scott 

      5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks for some wonderful information and inspiration. This is so true----I tend to wait for the moment(s) when I can write the way I want to write----but the point is to write AND to "Give yourself permission to write garbage" because I can clean it up later.....Thank you---reading this hub puts an entirely different perspective on writing---and now maybe I can get some of those projects finished.

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      Robbie, being with Wikipedia for more than 2 years, all my personal websites doesn't use the word "I". That was why I found blogging so difficult. This hub is actually my first, experimental hub with Billybuc's advice.

      I can see from your hub collections that you are more toward non-fiction writing like me. I use to hate fiction when I was younger because my teachers told us that in a developing country like Malaysia, we should focus on science instead. A developing country does not have the luxury to indulge in arts, they said. Looking back, that's bad advice. We need both.

    • profile image

      Robbie C Wilson 

      5 years ago

      Hi Walter,

      I have two natural voices when it comes to writing, one comes easy which I use for writing my informative and almost document style hubs and another which I am struggling with when I write free form fiction etc. I will use your advice and see if it helps my fiction writing. Your writing style is very good, it is light, fun and very engaging.

      In terms of finding your niche, I also really struggled with this when joining HubPages. I wrote about what I am interested in and passionate about. I stumbled a few times, coming up with ideas that just didn't work before finding a niche that did. Just have fun, experiment and see what works for you.

      You will learn so much on this journey, when I look back at my first hubs from a year ago and compare them to what I produce now, the difference is massive and much improved.

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      Billybuc, this devil-may-care style of writing was actually triggered by your advice to me a day or two ago about finding my natural voice in writing. I didn't have the confidence that this hub would be featured. My fallback position was to move it over to Squidoo, which I had joined much earlier than HubPages, but have only one lonely lens there. By the looks of it, HubPages is more liberal than what many people think.

    • WalterPoon profile imageAUTHOR

      Poon Poi Ming 

      5 years ago from Malaysia

      Hi Robbie, from balloons and condoms to writer's block, I'm still finding my niche... Thank you for your kind remarks. This approach was triggered by Billybuc's advice to me to find my natural voice in writing just a day or two ago. It's not my usual style of writing, and I plunged into it with a devil-may-care attitude, thinking that if HubPages do not take it too kindly, I will try to post it in another writing site. But by the looks of it, HubPages is more liberal than what many people think.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are quite the writer my friend. You have an easy going style that flows well, and it is a pleasure to read a good writer. Thank you for the go find that nut.

    • profile image

      Robbie C Wilson 

      5 years ago

      Fascinating title Walter, certainly made me click and have a read. I like the approach to conquer writers block. The next time I get it, I will try this approach for sure. From Balloons to Writers block, no topic is off limits!


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