Yes Virginia, There Really is a Writer's Block

Submitted by C B Wright on

There are writers out there who are very clear in their opinion that there is no such thing as "Writer's Block." They are convinced that the phrase was invented by, I don't know, lazy writers seeking to excuse their own lack of commitment to their work, or writers who have been duped into thinking they are victims of some kind of strange external force bearing down on them, or something. I've read any number of articles from writers about how Writer's Block is a myth and it doesn't exist and how writers should stop using the phrase immediately.

For the record: I am not one of those writers.

Writer's Block is, to me, an extroardinarily useful phrase that is used to succinctly describe something that, if you tried to be more accurate, would take a lot more time. It is the algebraic "x" that is placeholder for an entire equation of "a situation where the writer is not writing the thing that he/she needs/wants/is contracted to/is on a deadline to write." It describes a situation (not writing something) without making assumptions as to why, other than carrying the assumption that the writer is trying, but something isn't working.

That the phrase isn't terribly precise, and the "condition" itself isn't thought to be any one thing, doesn't really bother me. Writers of all people should be comfortable with vague, malleable ideas represented by words. I do find myself getting angry when a writer says "there is no such thing as writer's block," sometimes to the point where I feel my fists clenching, because seriously, Fancy Writer Person, fuck you.

One of my favorite Arguments Against the Existence of Writer's Block is the "observation" that in other career is there a phenomenon like it--in other words, that writers are claiming a unique condition that sets them apart from all other professions... which would be rather arrogant and presumptious of us, if it were true. But this argument ignores every musician who ever commented on a bad performance or pratice session with the observation that "for some reason" he/she just couldn't get into the groove, or find the rhythm, or a similar phrase. It ignores actors who talk about not being able to "find the character." It ignores athletes who talk about being "off their game," and we can be specific and note that Tiger Woods once switched trainers because he had "lost his swing" and wanted to get it back. Even in professions where there isn't really a phrase that fits, the phenomenon is still there--the phenomenon where you can't solve a problem, even though you feel you ought to. I've seen programmers stare at the same lines of code over and over and over again, trying to debug a program, and not be able to figure out why it isn't working.

Haters notwithstanding, I'm going to keep using the phrase. It's too useful: "I have writer's block" is a lot easier to say than "well right now I can't seem to finish the job correctly, because whatever I write feels wrong, somehow, and I don't know if it's because I'm psyching myself out, or if there's a small part of me that has recognized a serious mistake I'm making, but can't communicate that mistake coherently but somehow I'm recognizing the warning and it's preventing me from moving forward, or if it's because I'm feeling really self-conscious about everything I write and until I can step up and just shove the words through the grinder I'll be making false start after false start, or if it's because I'm too distracted by other things going on in my life and I can't focus enough to work through this chapter, or if it's because of some other roadblock or expectation I've set up for myself that I really need to recognize isn't relevant to what I'm doing so I can move on or something else entirely but the point is that right now I'm wrestling with something and I am not currently winning, but I suspect that eventually progress will be made, but that doesn't change the fact that right now PROGRESS IS NOT BEING MADE."  Not only is it easier to say, it's a more constructive thing to say to someone who asks me "how's the writing going?" because the people who ask that question ARE NOT VOLUNTEERING TO BE MY SHRINK.

All of which comes round to: new comics, new chapters of Curveball, new chapters of The Points Between. I know it's been a month since April, and I know I'm horribly, horribly behind schedule (horribly!) and I know you can only be patient for so long before you stop waiting, but as it happens I have Writer's Block. I don't know specifically what I'm working through, but I am working and eventually I'll get past it. Maybe this post will do it, and I'll start updating this week. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, I have Writer's Block. So there.


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I have an RSS reader, so no

I have an RSS reader, so no real waiting involved. I'll see it when you post it and carry on from there.  For anyone who finds they have to keep visiting a site to see if there is new content, an RSS reader is the most amazing thing to keep track of the natural variablity of creativity.  Some sites put all their content in to their RSS feed, others just an indication of new content so you have to visit the site, or there's Chris who teases us with just enough with todays line drawn where it could have been all of the message ending at "For the record: I am not one of those writers."


I've seen programmers stare

I've seen programmers stare at the same lines of code over and over and over again, trying to debug a program, and not be able to figure out why it isn't working.

I have been there (even though I only write code at home for myself.)  And even before you mentioned that, the fact told me not to question "writer's block."

I agree completely. I write

I agree completely. I write code for a living, and I find that, upon starting something new, I tend to get distracted and dawdle and go back and forth and round and round. I've learned that in my case it's my mind sorting through things and working them out, making decisions that are more subjective than binary. Once I've gotten through that, I find I have a clear path in front of me and things tend to move quickly, and at higher quality.

Now I just have to figure out how to explain that to a client who pays by the hour. Somehow I think "Fancy Business Person, fuck you" just ain't gonna cut it. ;-)

re: coding problems -- been

re: coding problems -- been there, done that, got the t-shirt and wore it out already.

And, no offense, but for a person with writer's block -- you sure put together an excellent long written description about the topic at hand. 

Hopefully that exercise was/will be helpful in clearing any of the conditions that are causing your current writer's block, if that can be determined.  Good luck -- we'll be here when you get us something.

(I really hate it when the

(I really hate it when the system keeps me logged in for days and days, but then just before I try to reply to something, it decides to log me off and I post something unverified....)  Sigh.

. -- Scott

As  you point out "Writer's

As  you point out "Writer's Block" covers a multitude of things.  Maybe you're just a bit burnt out from the big push from your day job and need to recharge.  Maybe you need to spend more time with your wife and daughter.  Or maybe you need to do something completely different in the writing game for a bit ... try haiku's or dirty limmericks about your characters, or 1-page mashups (eg. Curveball vs Bug).  Most of all, try not to fret about it too much (hence my suggestions for distractions).  You've written before, and you'll write again ... try to make the meantime a good time.

haiku is the way

haiku is the way

send writer's block far away

have a scrumptious day

A math joke: r = | |csc(θ)|+|sec(θ)| |-| |csc(θ)|-|sec(θ)| |

Block of the writer

Block of the writer

Constipation of the mind

Passes like a stone.


It is Friday.  Let the haikus flow and, perhaps, inspire our blocked brother.

Don Zimmer is dead

Don Zimmer is dead

Sox fans cry, "Evil gerbil!"

Bucky Dent is sad.

I just want to write

I just want to write

no, you can't, you can't, you can't



Actually I managed about 50 words last night. That's... progress, of a sort.

Writer, former musician, occasional cartoonist, and noted authority on his own opinions.

[quote]I've learned that in

[quote]I've learned that in my case it's my mind sorting through things and working them out, making decisions that are more subjective than binary.[/quote]



the few things I write are short argumentitive pieces (No, not on message boards). If I try to power through the block everything will get scraped. And since it doesn't seem to help me decide what order the points go in pushing isn't even helpful/enlightening.


though if you haven't even researched your points indecision probably isn't the culprit.


other professions experience it..... So you are admitting it exists then! Good, that was a short argument.