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?

Views: 22

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I've heard that the first sign of a nervous breakdown is thinking that what you're doing is terribly important. So if writer's block is another term for anxiety or depression, then, sure, there is such a thing.

But there's a danger in giving it a label, in that responsibility for the problem is shifted from the writer and they can stay stuck where they are, using it as an excuse for being too lazy or too self-critical. If the underlying cause is serious anxiety or depression, then that has to be dealt with.

I suppose it can go the other way too: I'm sure there are writers out there who have been depressed because they've been too happy to write.
I forget who said this (Stephen King, I think) but I think it's a good description of we think of as writers block, or at least its origins. Writers block occurs when you;re trying to be a better writer than you are. There's no pejorative implied there; everyone's reach exceeds their grasp from time to time. I think that's why so many people say to write your way out of writers block, no matter how bad the resulting writing is.It may just be a form of recalibration.
I like that, Dana.
For me, the definition of writer's block is different, which may be why Jude and I disagree. If you can write your way out if it, than you know longer have it. It is being blocked from writing, not just writing junk or something you're not happy with. It is the inability to write. This occurs for me when I am too afraid that what I will write will be bad, so I don't face the blank page at all. The inability to sit down and open up Word, or to sit there and stare at the screen yet not type, or type something and then delete and instead go do something else, or claim I need more research and so read instead or writing--all of these things are writer's block. And is a very real thing.
John, when you say "This occurs for me when I am too afraid that what I will write will be bad, so I don't face the blank page at all.," it sounds to me like you're agreeing with King. (Writer's block is what happens when we try to be better writers than we are.) No one fears that in which they have confidence, and confidence comes from having done something before, and well. You meet that "having done it before, and well" standard; could it be you're expecting too much of yourself, especially for a first draft? (I presume this is a first draft issue; I doubt there are too many cases of editor's block.)
Probably so, but that's just the reason I have the block. I agree with you when you said King is describing writer's blocks origins, but not with what he says it is. I agree that writer's block can happen when we try to be better writers than we are, but that is the origin, not the thing itself. The thing itself is an inability to write. Stephen King also has said, if I'm not mistaken (I believe it's in On Writing, but I'm not sure) that he has had writer's block.
Every time I've written myself into a corner it is because I didn't think through the scene from beginning to end. I took my characters somewhere I wasn't prepared to go or hadn't experienced myself and/or didn't do enough research to get it right. In fiction, in poetry I do my best stuff when I stick to what I know and when I reveal enough to be vulnerable, but satisfied.
I didn't believe in writer's block. As a writer for technology firms I spewed out the work for 17 years. Not a moment's hesitation aside from occasional boredom. As a two + year newbie mystery novelist, I know it exists. What it took? Sudden exposure. Now this thing is a book, albeit a not-entirely-baked one. My book. A few people are actually reading it.

-Lois (
After reading everyone's posts, I have more questions than answers, and they come as much from the shrink (my "other hat") as from the writer. Is there a difference between being stuck and writer's block? Maybe it's a matter of degree, like the difference between ordinary fear and a diagnosable phobia. If I'm stuck, given time and grim determination, I can push through it, even if it feels as if I can't until I do. If writer's block is like a phobia, it is indeed analogous to depression. You can't snap out of an anxiety disorder. The anxiety is irrational--that's its nature--and it is also compelling and very real. Can you push through it a bit at a time? Maybe, with help. Does it pass eventually? It depends. Are goals a part of writer's block? That is, are you blocked if you can't move on with your novel in progress, even though you can write your daily blog or weekly column? Is it wrong to say you're blocked if you can churn out one or two paragraphs a day that really suck--and, to raise the stakes, you have a deadline for the whole manuscript coming up? I'm not sure there are any right or wrong answers on this issue, just a variety of individual experiences. Maybe some writers say they're blocked whenever they're scared and others reserve the term for the depths of total creative paralysis that they can't break through no matter what they try. Oh, and take it from the shrink: being scared is a normal human feeling. It's okay to be scared.
Does a guy with a broken leg have runner's block? Nope. He has a broken leg. He can seek treatment, allow time to heal, and then maybe sign up for the next marathon.

Then again, maybe my deep-seeded subconscious fear of WB compels me to deny its existence.

Taking new patients? :)
Is there such a thing as writer's block?

Hmm. i don't know.

I cut my teeth reporting for newspapers where I was expected to produce stories every single day of the week. I think that has given me a little different attitude on the subject of writing. I don't have a problem now when working on my fiction or side projects.

Sure, there are plenty of issues outside of writing that impact my writing, both at work at the paper and at home. Holiday stress, money problems, sick family members and issue after issue can impact your "performance" as a writer, just as it would impact your "performance" as a plumber, firefighter, chef, or whatever.

I have noticed that when people hit a particularly perplexing, large or unusual challenge in their work, they have different ways of dealing with it. I have a friend who is a civil engineer and works on bridges. He has a process he calls "noodling" when faced with a project that has some issues he may not have faced before.

Perhaps writer's block is the way some writers deal with different challenges — good and bad — to their writing?

I don't know...I've never suffered from what I think of as writer's block, but don't want to discount or belittle those who have.
I think the issue is not whether writer's block exists, because I believe it does, but how we let it affect us.

I go through periods when I'm absolutely certain that the book I'm writing is a waste of innocent trees and that whatever fragile flame of talent I may once have possessed got blown out long ago. Those are VERY difficult times, because I do, in effect, write for a living. I don't do anything else.

But I also know (from extensive personal experience) that there will come a time when I don't feel that way - when the characters will come to life again, when the issues in the story will engage me, and when writing doesn't feel like having nails driven through me. And I know there's only one way to get to that point, and that's to write.

The cure for writer's block, for me, is writing. Banishing the internal critics and writing material I don't like, for as long as it's necessary: dialogue that sounds like furniture talking, turns of plot that absolutely creak, they're so mechanical. Just putting one uninspired word after another. In fact, when I'm feeling terrible about my writing, I intentionally increase my minimum word count for the day. And I turn out junk, and then one day I realize that I know what's wrong with one of those pieces of junk, and the act of fixing it usually brings me at least partially out of the blocked state.

The worst thing a writer with writer's block can do is stop. The longer I stay away from a manuscript, the more certain it is that I've killed the story. Annie Dillard once compared writing to taming a lion: the longer you stay out of the cage, the more dangerous the beast is.

Bad writing can always be improved. There's not much you can do with an empty page, and a story that's been abandoned too long is often dead when we come back to it.

I just don't think you can let writer's block stop you.


CrimeSpace Google Search

© 2024   Created by Daniel Hatadi.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service