I was 486 words into what was intended to be this blog post when I had a rare moment of artistic lucidity and realized it was an even bigger stool sample than usual. So I ditched it, which left me here:

 

Which brings us to the most dangerous boogey man in all of literature:

Writer’s Block.

Why is it a boogey man?

Because it doesn’t exist. Never has. Never will.

Writer’s block is not a reason people don’t write; it’s an excuse. I’ll bet writers who complain of being blocked can still crank out e-mails (in the past, letters) about being blocked. They wrote those, didn’t they? So I guess they’re not blocked.

“E-mails don’t count. They’re not fiction.” First, anyone who truly believes that hasn’t read enough business emails that describe why a project is late, or over budget. Second, so what? You had to think of an idea and express it in words. In fiction you make up the ideas. What people call writer’s block is what happens when a writer hasn’t come up with an idea he or she feels like spending the time on, or they don’t think they can write well, or—even worse—they’ve tried to write it and the words just won’t come.

That’s not writer’s block; it’s a bad idea. Not all “good” ideas are good for you. An idea Scott Phillips could write the hell out of would leave me staring at a blank screen for hours; it’s quite possible the converse is also true, even though Scott Phillips can write rings around me without requiring full consciousness. As Stephen King wrote in On Writing, “Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

I used to attribute my favorite writer’s block quote to King, though I can find no evidence of that on the web today. It sounds like something he’d say, and I like it, so here goes: Writer’s block is what happens when you try to be a better writer than you are. That’s not a pejorative comment; anyone, from you to Jonathan Franzen to Elmore Leonard can fall prey to it. (Okay, maybe not Leonard anymore.) When the words you put on the page don’t match the idea in your head, when you find what comes through your fingers or pen inadequate to describe the essence of what you’re thinking, then you’re blocked.

Forge ahead. Write the passage with all the care and attention you’d devote to an e-mail; no one cares about first drafts, anyway. Remember, readers take the final result as though it leapt fully-formed from your brain to the page. They don’t see the sausage being made; only you do. Real writing is done during edits. Ever hear of someone afflicted with Editor’s Block? Didn’t think so.

Everyone gets stuck. (I was stuck on this blog post for about ten minutes.) If you’re never stuck, you’re not trying hard enough. If you’re blocked, you’re trying too hard.

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Comment by Dan L. Coleman on October 11, 2013 at 10:44am

Well, writer's stoppage, anyway, is when I'm distracted. I have to be alone to write, no humans under the same roof, except for occasional notes or typing what's already written.

Comment by Dana King on October 11, 2013 at 1:23am

Jackson, that's a good point I hadn't thought of. If you can write something else, that may be your Muse telling you what you're stuck on isn't needed, or it's a bad idea in the first place and has no legs.

Comment by Dana King on October 11, 2013 at 1:22am

Charles, I agree to a great extent. It's the fear that what will be written won't measure up, ithr to the expectations of others, or to the vision the author has in his or her own head.

Of course, there are a lot of people who like the idea of being a writer better than they like actuaklly writing. These people are far more likely to be "blocked."

Comment by Jackson Burnett on October 10, 2013 at 2:47pm

Some people say to just keep writing.  That goes along with your observation, Dana.  I heard Ron Hansen, the author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Howard, say move on to where you can start writing.  A lot of times, the scene a writer's stuck on isn't necessary anyway.

Comment by Charles Harvey on October 10, 2013 at 2:28pm

Writer's block is  fear I believe

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