Is Writer’s Block an Actual Thing?

The concept of writer’s block is so ubiquitous that even non-writers are aware of its crushing effects.

Some years ago I was with a friend, discussing one of our mutual favourite authors. At the time, this author had not put out any new fiction for some time.

My friend said she had heard this person interviewed. Looking down into her pint of beer, she bemoaned this author had confessed to having writer’s block.

The reverence with which this non-writer spoke of writer’s block, an affliction she understood as the death of a writer, was as if she was talking of some profound tragedy.

And for a writer suffering from writer’s block, this is precisely what it can feel like.

how to cope with writers block

What Is Writer’s Block?

Writer’s Block is simply, the feeling of not being able to write.

There are no ideas or no good ideas.

Nothing feels right creatively, and the flow just doesn’t come.

With writer’s block, anything and everything feels like a much better alternative to actually writing.

Some Writer’s Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

Most writers have suffered this blocked up feeling at one point at least.

And still, you hang out in writer’s circles for enough time, and you’re going to encounter the writer who does not believe in writer’s block.

This is the writer who states writer’s block is an imagined affliction.

This is the writer who states claiming to have writer’s block is merely an excuse not to work.

So, is writer’s block all in the mind?

Is writer’s block an excuse for not working?

Yes.

And no.

Is Writer’s Block Imaginary?

Writer’s block is indeed a condition of the mind.

But like all mental processes, this does not lessen the reality of it and its very concrete effects.

This following quote from Australian novelist, Tim Winton sums up his position nicely:

“Calling something writer’s block, that’s just pathologising something, it makes it bigger in your mind, it’s not a medical condition it’s just the act of not being finished. So I just jump on the next thing and hope it fixes itself up.”

Tim is not claiming never to feel blocked during his creative production, he just doesn’t empower the experience by dwelling or lamenting, “I have writer’s block” and let that get in the way of the work.

Is writer’s block an excuse for not working?

No way!

I believe the reason many writers see writer’s block as fiction is that they have found their own way to deal with it, and keep on working despite the block and eventually come out the other side. Jumping on the next thing, as Tim Winton says.

Writer's block is a state of mind but that doesn't stop it from feeling debilitating. #writerslifeClick To Tweet

What Causes Writer’s Block?

Anything and everything.
Here’s a few specifics…

Physical Fatigue
A writer might be fatigued, tired, burnt out. This lack of physical energy is obviously going to translate into a lagging creative energy and take a toll on any creative endeavour.

The Wrong Time
A blocked writer might be trying to work on something too early in the creative process. The ideas might need more development, more research might be required.

The Wrong Idea
Sometimes we come up with ideas for certain projects that just don’t fit, and would be much better suited to other stories, even sometimes stories we’ve not yet thought up. Trying to cram these ideas into ill-suited projects can be a recipe for writer’s block.

Boredom
A writer trying to work on something that does not feel inspiring will likely suffer for it. The words will have to be dragged out onto the page, and creative flow seems like it will never be possible again.

Distraction
Writers who have not yet learned to manage distraction are more likely to suffer writer’s block. With everything vying for our attention, without a distraction management plan in place, of course, the creative flow and focus are going to get messed up.

Stress
I know when there are significant and or stressful life events happening, I find it very difficult to focus on my writing, and often would just prefer not to write. More thoughts on balancing writing when life gets crazy are right here.

A Cure for Writer’s Block

The solutions to writer’s block are as varied as the causes.

Generally, figure out what’s preventing you from writing and address that specific problem head-on.

Don’t Wait for Inspiration
If it’s a lack of ideas that’s got you blocked, go out and find some ideas. Here are a few tips on how to find ideas for stories.

Set yourself up in active brainstorming sessions. Sort through your ideas and seek out ways to turn them into something workable.

Purposefully engage in those tasks that help the brain get into idea mode. For me (and a lot of writers I know) these are things like walking, showering, doing the dishes, gardening.

Work on Something Else
I’ve got a blocked story at the moment. But I don’t claim to have writer’s block. I’ve discovery written a new horror story but cannot for the life of me figure out how to end it. Maybe I haven’t started it the right way? Maybe it’s the middle that’s off. I spend a little time every day trying to figure it out, but I’m still writing away on other pieces.

Fine Tune Your Writing Habits
Every good writer has a good writing habit. A writing habit is everything. It’s a work schedule, it’s a distraction management system and an energy management program. For more on writing habits and why every writer needs one, check out my book, Writing Habit Hacks.

Rest
If stress or physical fatigue has you stopped up, then rest. This isn’t an excuse to stop writing and stop working, it’s an opportunity to engage in purposeful rest.

Purposeful rest is a lot different to just chucking in the towel and doing nothing.

While you’re resting, be sure to sleep as much as you’re able to, play as much as you can and do things you find top up your creative well, like reading, watching movies or visiting art galleries – whatever it is that excites your creativity.

Write
Sit down (or stand up and move because we love dynamic workspaces here), and write those damn words.

Pull the story out. If it sucks, then once it’s done, go back and change it.

Forget editing, forget quality, the only thing that matters at this point is that you’re taking ideas in your head and turning them into words. It doesn’t even matter what those ideas are. Just write.

Write for the sake of writing because a writer who is writing does not have writer’s block.

Kate Krake
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Kate Krake

Kate Krake writes speculative fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of the urban fantasy series Guessing Tales. Kate blogs about popular culture, health, wellness and creative writing. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, daughter and two beagles. Find out more on www.katekrake.com.
Kate Krake
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