The Dreaded Writer’s Block



I’m not a big believer in writer’s block. I think we play all kinds of games with ourselves and one of those games is to use the idea of “writer’s block” as an excuse not to write when the writing gets tough. What I do believe in is showing up, shutting up and writing – even when, especially when, the writing gets tough. But, that being said, I do appreciate that for some writers, this bugaboo we call “writer’s block” can become a serious problem. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson posted a terrific entry on ways to leave your writer’s block behind, so if you’re looking for tips, check it out.

What I do believe in, much more than writer’s block, is something known as creativity block. Lisa Rivero posted a marvelous entry recently about creativity block. Here is the beginning of her post. See if anything resonates for you:

photo of dead leavesIs your writing stuck? Mine has been recently. Oh, I’m still writing, thank goodness, and on a daily basis, but much of what I write feels as lifeless as last fall’s leaves that have been uncovered recently by the melting snow. The words just lie there, soggy, crushed, faded, leftover from another season.

When this happens, I know that the words are not the real problem. The “block” is occurring on a level far deeper than the surface of a sheet of paper. It’s a creativity block, which is, at its core, a meaning block. We can’t write with passion and power about life’s moments, especially the small, most important moments, unless we feel those moments are meaningful, unless we live them fully.

So, fellow writers, let’s share what you do if/when you’ve experienced writer’s block or creativity block. What has worked for you to get the pen moving?

8 thoughts on “The Dreaded Writer’s Block

  1. Hi everyone – just wanted to pop in and say thanks for the mention of my blog post on ways to leave your writer’s block behind and that I love the ensuing discussion. Here’s one thing I do to give creativity a boost: use fragments that pop into my head first thing in the morning as a writing prompt. In fact, I have a new weekly blog post about that called First Five Fragments for Friday. I have a small notebook beside my bed that gives me a place to put the things that come to mind before I even get my feet on the floor in the morning. It’s sort of a twist on Julia Cameron’s method of using morning pages.

  2. Glad to see this post got people going. We will post a link from Pam’s blog to The Lyon Review shortly. Whether you call it writer’s block or creativity block, it is a very real phenomeon. I must admit that I suffer from it more than most–and indeed the more my writing matures, sadly for me, the worse and more painful the blocks get. I think mostly it’s because I have set far higher expectations for my writing now than I did when I first began writing fiction. When one doesn’t really know much about craft, nor has much expectations as what the end result will look like, it was far easier to just throw the words down on the page and then edit later. All too often now I imagine the entire piece whole in my head, but when I sit down to do the actual work, I’m left only with the feeling of what I wanted, not the words themselves, and the words I do get down on the page are so much less that I imagined, that I completely shut down, in one instance for as long as two years. Whenever I look at writers who are 10 or even 20 years younger than me publishing far more pieces, I grow furious with myself about all the wasted months and years. But sooner or later I come back to the computer, the story or novel still with me and try again. It is a terribly slow and painful process and dare say has far more to do with my insecurities and neurosis about the need for approval, love, perfection, etc… all those horrible truisms for why so many of first became writers in the first place… than the writing itself.

    Indeed, I regularly write 3000-4000 words a day at work as a ghostwriter and publicist for a law firm, and have no once suffered from writers’ block when it came to journalism assignments. It is only in my own creative work that I torture myself–because of course the creative work is what matters most to me, the essential me, stripped raw, with nothing left to hide behind but the blank screen and mad, itching desire to tell a story so moving, so honest, so funny that I myself can’t wait to find out what happens next. I know it is the pressure to meet such expectations that leaves my wordless, but even after 20 years of therapy and biofeedback and a host of myriad other “tricks” to convince myself not to expect too much, it remains, shadowing me. Still I persist, because to not do soon would be even more unthinkable.

  3. When this happens to me, I keep writing but I loosen it up. I use Julia Cameron exercises, or other writing exercises. I go on long walks (an hour or more) and then come to a coffee shop and write. Stream of consciousness is good. This isn’t writing you’ll share, it’s untangling the mess that I’ve become somewhere inside. Usually I can’t write because I’m knotted somewhere.

    I’m an introvert as well (though don’t seem like it when you meet me in person) so often, if I’m blocked it’s because I’m tapped emotionally — too much interaction. So time alone (something like a walk, or going and doing something fun by myself, or spending hours reading a book) may be just the ticket.

    And if there’s a deadline on something — oddly, I do try to meet it during this time especially, because the joy of finishing something is so, so sweet. I’ve always liked the feeling of cleaning something out (and finishing something is like that.)

    Hope that helps! Interested in hearing what others do.

      • Hi Pam! You could put all the blog feeds of MHC writers into a Google Reader account. And then (I hope this still works like this) you could get the feed from the Google Reader account (it’ll put all the blog feeds into one Google Reader feed). THEN you create a widget (someone will have already done this) to play the new entries on the blog. So anytime someone posts something on their blog, the widget will show the four most current entries in the sidebar. (It’ll teach all of us writers to title our posts in a fun manner so people will click and find us!)

        OR you could have page with links to blogs.

        But I like changing entries because the material stays fresh!

      • Ooops. Forgot to say: When I said “someone will have already done this,” I meant that someone has already figured out an easy way to do this and it’s posted somewhere on the internet. So search on Google and see what comes up. Half of putting stuff on your blog is simply knowing which search terms to use. ‘Widget’ is a magic word for cool blog stuff and it took me awhile to figure out. (You probably already know this, but I thought I’d say it in case!)

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