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Is Writer's Block Real?

Updated on May 2, 2013
What is writer's block?
What is writer's block? | Source

What's Writer's Block?

So what is writer's block? Writer's block is the inability to produce new work usually when writing professionally or as a career. We've all seen a writer with writer's block in either film, television or cartoons. "It was a dark and stormy night," the author says aloud as he writes and then stops. Nothing else comes to mind. He's blocked. Pro writers and everyday bloggers say they have experienced writer's block. There is a mysterious allure to writer's block that I find attractive-- mostly because I've never experienced it.

My vintage typewriter
My vintage typewriter | Source

I have a journalism degree, but I'm no journalist

Personally, I talk too much. This equates to writing too much. I've never had a problem with writing. Granted, this doesn't mean anything I write is interesting, intellectual, or note-worthy. I'm not comparing myself to any of the great minds who have suffered at this mystery ailment. I have offered the literary world very little. Writing online is the closest I have come to using my very dusty journalism degree. When my husband and I moved into our first house, I wanted to hang it proudly on the wall, but never did. Before this, I managed a video game store, made waffles, and taught classes for the elderly on how to use computers and e-mail (I'm skipping a few jobs in between).

I was never really a writer. I wrote for my parents' local newspaper sometimes and wrote a book in college that I never had published. I don't really mention either of those, ever, except that they're slightly relevant to this topic. And even though I have a pretty journalism degree, somewhere in this house, I never wanted to be a writer. I had to switch majors back in 2001 because my college lost accredidation for the computer programming degree I was working on. Luckily, I made it out alive taking very little math and science (which I'm so-so at) but these days I wish I would have taken a painting class or perhaps underwater basket-weaving.

My antique Underwood typewriter.
My antique Underwood typewriter. | Source

Procrastination: friend or foe?

Is writer's block just procrastination? Laziness? Unwillingness?

Thinking of what I wrote back in college (I won't call it a book, since it technically isn't), I wrote it as part of a requirement for an Honors Colloquium. BUT- I wrote it in about two months without any roadblocks, or writer's block. I had two semesters to finish it, so I don't remember if that deadline served as any kind of fuel or focus. Either way, I finished it well within that time frame.

Speaking of time frames, what about NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month, if you're unfamiliar, is a web-based project wherein participants write 50,000 words of a new novel between November 1 and 30. If writer's block is a true terror and running rampant, how do writers become successful nanowrimos?

For me personally, I think I am the most creative and productive when the heat is on. I have always been a professional procrastinator, and at the very last minute, I have produced some amazing results. I often wondered how my work and creativity would differ and maybe even suffer if I had efficiently used all of my time wisely. Sometimes, I cut it really close. Each time I told myself I was done with procrastinating and that the next time would be different: I would start on time and do a little bit every day until my deadline was near. This never happened. I don't know if I was just opposed to the change, lazy, satisfied with my current strategy and results, or all of it. I've never participated in nanowrimo, by the way.

Writing Trouble and Trouble Writing!

While I don't think I have ever suffered from writer's block, I have had my fair share of writing troubles.

  • I have nothing new or fresh to offer-- this isn't a block so much as it is that everyone's a writer these days.
  • It's all been said before, and much more eloquently at that.

These facts became doubly true when I was starting a personal blog last year and names like "nothingnew" or "saidbefore" were already taken. Am I in denial? Are these symptoms of writer's block? My biggest problem is writing too much. Editing. What do I cut out? What should I leave in? Instead of a block, I've usually got a raging river.

My antique typewriter
My antique typewriter | Source

Writer's with the block often ask themselves:

  • What's the point?
  • How am I going to develop this character?

Writer's block is not:

  • Due to a lack of skill
  • Due to lack of commitment

But is it from a lack of focus? There is even writer's block software on the market that can help you brainstorm, organize, and ultimately write-- but do you really need to pay money for that? I have fond memories of sitting in grade school and working as a team with my classmates while we did brainstorming exercises on the chalkboard. I still do the same thing (with a pen and paper) as an adult to help me narrow my scope and decide what ideas to include and which to forego.

I have had the most writing inspiration with misery as a muse. This supports my self-serving theory that people have more passion for their dislikes than their likes. At the end of the day, I'm happier to be happy, even if it means my writing and inspiration might suffer. What am I trying to say? Well what would Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette write and sing about if their lives were all lace and potpourri?

Writer's Block in Popular Media

Without writer's block as a theme, think about how different Stephen King's The Shining would be (both the novel and the film).

Harry Potter author, J. K. Rowling, experienced writer's blocking while working on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. As the fifth book in a series of seven, what would have happened if she never overcame her writer's block?

Typewriter typebars
Typewriter typebars | Source

Heather Says

In the end, I think I want to be made a believer. I hate to diagnose the boring and unmotivated with writer's block, and I hope I haven't done so because it's clearly a misdiagnosis. I love statistics and research, but sadly very little exist when it comes to writer's block. So tell me all about it.

  • Do you have writer's block?
  • Have you had writer's block?
  • What is it like?
  • What do you do to overcome it?
  • How does one ultimately find writing help and writing block help?


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