Sunday, August 10, 2014

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 3: Writer’s Block.

Sometimes you just can’t do it. You try, but there’s nothing there. You stare and stare at an empty page or blank screen and it just stares back at you. And the more you think about it, the more you worry, the worse it gets.
Writer’s block, they call it.
Some folks in the literary business bemoan the fact that such an affliction can befall would-be writers. Then they devise all sorts of remedies and exercises to rid you of the malady: Go for a walk. Change your routine. Consume caffeine. Do something else, instead. Try free writing. Or visualization. Whine about it to fellow writers. And so on.
Some of the best writers I know don’t believe in writer’s block. And if they do, they ignore it and write anyway. It’s probably no coincidence that many who pay writer’s block no mind come from journalism or advertising or other disciplines where deadlines are an everyday occurrence. When something has to be written, it’s your job to write it. So you do. You collect your thoughts (quickly), fire up the computer, and clack away at the keys until you’ve finished writing, rewriting, and revising the work at hand. Then you turn it in and get on to the next job.
Whether it’s an advertising agency, a newspaper, a public relations firm, a magazine, a marketing department, or any number of other places were your job is to write and getting paid depends on doing the job, there’s just no time for the angst and anxiety and anguish (and absurdity) of writer’s block. And what you learn by writing on demand carries over to writing in what may be less demanding circumstances—a novel, say. Or a short story. A poem. A magazine article. A biography. You write.
Assuming there is such a condition as the dreaded writer’s block, there can only be one cure for it: get to work. Write.


  1. There is a lot of truth in what you say Rod, especially the part about professional writers not allowing themselves to get blocked. I can't say writer's block doesn't happen. I've experienced something like it a time or two. Like when I had trouble deciding how a scene should play out; or which direction to take a plot. It's part of the creative process. For me it never amounted to much. As you say, you just write through it. People I know who complain about it, tend to obsess over it. That's the trouble comes in with all the formulaic gimmicks and remedies.

    1. You're right, Paul. I think everyone who writes has to wonder now and then about what comes next. As you say, it's part of the process. But I don't buy the idea of all the angst and anguish and inability to write. All you have to do is engage your mind and activate your fingers.