Author Erica Orloff started a discussion on her blog earlier today with this quote:

There's no such thing as writer's block. That was invented by people in California who couldn't write.
--Terry Pratchett

Thoughts? Is there such a thing as writer's block?

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Only a person who's never really been through it would say it doesn't exist.

This is like me saying I like brownies. Only I know if I like brownies or not. No one can tell me I don't like brownies if I say I do like brownies. The same with Writer's block. If I say I've had writer's block, I've had writer's block.

"Well, it's really not writer's block; it was actually something else. Writer's block is this..." ---Says you. Writer's block has been a real thing for me, so I say it does exist. Just because someone hasn't experienced it doesn't mean no one else has either.
Here are excerpts form my comments on Erica's blog, John:

How many houses would ever get built if the subs started developing carpenter's block, plumber's block, electrician's block...? What if the guy who cuts your grass suddenly developed landscaper's block for a few weeks?

You'd probably get another guy.

Writers write. It's what we do. You have to crank out the words and work through it. If you don't, there's always another guy who will, and next year you'll see THAT guy living your dream.

It's the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk. If your goal is to do your absolute best--at whatever job--you just get out there and do it. If your life sucks for one reason or another, you work on eliminating the suckage. Calling it "block" is just romanticizing the underlying causes of your dysfunction, IMHO.

So, you can pretty much see where I stand on the issue.
But that doesn't say anything about whether or not it exists. You're also equating writing to a job done to pay the bills and keep you alive, implying that a writer doesn't have the luxury of being blocked anymore than these other professions do. And while it is true that some people make a living solely from writing, that is not true for everyone, and either way, does not address whether or not writer's block exists or not, which was your question. Just because a person shouldn't be blocked or it's not convenient to be blocked or it's not conducive to one's personal goals to be blocked does not mean that a person cannot become blocked.

You seem to be fortunate enough to have not experienced writer's block, which brings me to my first statement. I have experienced, so I can tell you it does exist. You said that calling it a block is just romanticizing a dysfunction, but that's just semantics. You've admitted there is a dysfunction. You may choose to call it something besides writer's block, but call it what you want, what's the difference?

I will let this be my response to Daniel below too, because Daniel is substituting the word "writer's block" for anxiety or depression. Or maybe it's not a substitution, but that depression is the underlying cause. In any case, you can take the responsibility away from the author by claiming depression just as easily as you can by claiming writer's block. And again, whether or not such a responsibility shift is valid or not has nothing to do with whether the claim is real or not.

Also, a person who cuts grass is not in a position to be blocked. You see the grass. You cut it. There's nothing creative or intuitive about that like writing is. The only way your other examples work is if you're talking about being blocked about designing the plans for whatever work needs to be done.
I'd also like to say one more thing, which is a bit off topic, so please forgive me, but I must say it because I feel very strongly about this. But I find this notion of "just buck up and do it/get over it" distasteful to the highest degree.

Think about clinical depression for a minute. I have heard people say that those who claim to be depressed should just get over it or get a job or whatever such solution the person has for the so-called "depressed" person. This way of thinking is so narrow-minded I can't stand it. The naysayer here has not experienced depression, so how can he know whether it is real or not? If it were so easy to just change yourself then depression would be no big deal. But it definitely is for those who suffer from it or have suffered from it.

Now go to writer's block. While not as serious as depression, writer's block functions on the same principles. If it were so easy to just buck up and type those words then the person would do it. Why would anyone choose to have writer's block, or depression for that matter? Change is not that easy. The depressed person does not see a way out, and the blocked person does not see a way to end the block.

And so just saying get over it, that's what writers do, just do it, etc.. to me shows ignorance and intolerance. Ignorance because the person doesn't have the knowledge of other people's experience, and intolerance because he isn't willing to accept the possibility of any experience besides his own.

I don't mean any offense to anyone personally on this, so please don't take offense Jude.
John, if you haven't read Pratchett, you may not realize he's making an attempt at humor with that statement. I don't know a lot about the guy, but I doubt he was in any way serious; it strikes me more as Pratchett-normal thud-and-blunder satire than as any sort of Limbaugh-style blame-the-sufferer attack.
No offense taken, John.

I'm an RN, and I work with mentally ill people all the time. What we commonly refer to as "writer's block" and clinical depression aren't even in the same ball park. There are lots of reasons why a physically or mentally sick person would not be able to write. They don't have writer's block. They have the flu, or schizophrenia, or some other disabling disease. They probably can't cut grass or lay bricks either.

The only way to succeed as a writer, IMO, is to treat it as a job. If writers can psych themselves into believing no work=no food (which may or may not actually be true, depending on the case), it suddenly becomes easier to get some words on the page. In my experience, writers who wait on inspiration or the muse generally never finish anything. That's okay. Writing makes a great hobby. For those of us whose goal is to make a living at it, though, writer's block simply isn't an option. You glue your ass to a chair for a certain number of hours every week, and you write. It might be crap, but eventually something good will come. Something good is what we live for.
I get what your saying, and if you feel that success as a writer equals making a living at it, then you're right. Because it is a job to you. But I feel that's only if writing to make money is your sole purpose of writing, which is not the case for many people. There is some level of fun that comes from writing for the hell of telling stories, and to treat that side of it as a job saps the fun out of it for me.

But just to clarify, I wasn't equating writer's block and depression. I compared the two because they are both cases where the symptoms are internal to the person having them, and since you can't get into anyone's head except your own, it is impossible for you to know what a person's experiences really are. Therefore, how can you say I'm not depressed if I say I am? Do you have the ability to know my feelings better than me? Or course not. And in the same vein, if I say I have writer's block (which for me means an inability to get words on the page, for whatever reason, hence the word "block") then how can you say otherwise? Because you don't know my feelings better than I do. In fact, you only know my feelings if I tell you what they are. That's how the writer's block/depression comparison holds up.

I do believe that there is a way to end writer's block, and it entails what you describe, sitting down and writing. But getting to where that solution is possible is not at all easy, anymore than it is for a depressed person to just buck up and be happy again. If you deal with the clinically depressed, then surely you would agree that just telling them to snap out of it and get on with life won't help them? Am I wrong on that point? And telling a writer to do that will not help either. That's my point, and that's how writer's block exists.

If you want to semantic, if that's the right word, then you are confirming that writer's block exists just by talking about it. If it didn't exist, than you would have nothing to discuss. Using the word "is" confirms its existence. Though that's being picky and I know you really mean is that what we called writer's block is actually something else. I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on that one.
How many houses would ever get built if the subs started developing carpenter's block, plumber's block, electrician's block...? What if the guy who cuts your grass suddenly developed landscaper's block for a few weeks?

That doesn’t work for me at all. I think it’s a silly comparison. It doesn’t take a lot of creativity to push a lawn mower. You just push. (like John wrote, “You see the grass. You cut it. There's nothing creative or intuitive about that like writing is.”)

I’m a fan of the ass-in-the-chair approach, but I know from experience that sometimes the brain is too tired. Creativity requires energy and sometimes we’re exhausted, mentally, physically, creatively ... Then we’re like a landscaper whose equipment broke down and it will take us a bit of time to have the lawn mower fixed and get back to work. (How much time it will take depends on the severity of the writer's block.)

So why not just say you're exhausted? That you need time to recharge. Exhaustion is a real thing. Why do we need this mystical concept called writer's block?
Hmm. Good question.

Maybe it’s just our technical jargon? I’m sure other professions have their own term for whatever creative exhaustion they suffer. What do painters call their block? (Do they have blocks?)

Also, writer’s block is more specific than exhaustion or depression. If I tell you I suffer from writer’s block, you know I have trouble writing creatively right now (even non-writers will understand). If I tell you I’m exhausted, you might think I need a nap.

Mostly I think it’s just a human trait to categorize things and give them names. We should find out where the term and idea of writer’s block came from. Maybe Terry had it right and the Californians came up with it as an excuse and it evolved from there :-)

I think that's true. Actually, literary writers suffer frequently from this. Maybe it's when your set your goals impossibly high, you are disappointed that the muse doesn't cooperate every day. I have a notion that those who turn out four or five novels per year don't suffer from writer's block. They look at it as a daily job of so many pages and consider people who run into a streak of unproductive days as crybabies or lazy. It's a matter of quantity over quality. Be very suspicious of authors who turn out their books like machines.
You have to remember Pratchett considers himself a wit and a humorist. Like his work, he is not to be taken seriously.

There are, of course, days when you feel like you've got nothing to say, and anything you do say is going to be worthless. There are methods a writer can use to snap out of the condition. For myself, it's usually a matter of not wanting to invest my time when I'm afraid my fingers will just be channeling shite from my lower GI.

Robert Parker put it differently, and the roots of the solution are in the way he states it: "Writing is a job, so there's no such thing as a writer's block. Did you ever hear of a plumber's block?"

The awful truth is we - and only we - must work our way out of our hesitancy.


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