Due to a technical issue, I recently transferred this blog to a new host. Please contact me if you find any broken links or other problems.

There’s No Such Thing As “Writer’s Block”

by Jennifer on April 20, 2011

Over and over again I hear writers complain about having writer’s block. In fact, the other day I actually overheard a lady on my morning commute bus telling the person next to her that she believes writer’s block is an illness of the mind and some people aren’t meant to overcome it.

Uh, yea… OK. I think it’s time to set the record straight.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block.

Wait… let me say that again: There’s no such thing as writer’s block!

There’s writing and then there’s the excuses you make for not writing.

Writer’s Block Isn’t Real
I Googled “Writer’s Block” and the following definition popped up from Wikipedia:

Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite.

Note the last sentence of the definition: “It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when it fact it could be the opposite.”

What that means is–having writer’s block is all in your mind.  Writer’s block isn’t real. It’s just a manifestation of your inner thoughts.

It’s a lack of confidence and a lack of belief in yourself. It’s a manifestation of your fears.

Don’t make it out to be something it’s not.

You Choose Not to Overcome “Writer’s Block”
Since writer’s block doesn’t really exist, using it as an excuse not to write is your choice and your choice alone. You are choosing to let the non-existent writer’s block hold you back.

You could easily choose the opposite and instead focus on finding writing inspiration.

But many writers make the choice not to. Many writers choose to let the idea of writer’s block keep them from putting words on the page. Because that’s easier than writing.

And it is.

Writing is a scary thing. Writing is putting yourself and your words and your ideas out there. It’s allowing people to place judgement on your work.

Some writers just can’t handle it. So they claim “writer’s block” and hide.

There Are Plenty of Ways to Overcome It
Some writers choose to find ways to push through to the other side when they feel blocked. Some writers choose not to make excuses and instead take responsibility for themselves and for their writing lives.

And some writers don’t.

If you’re a writer who wants to keep pushing forward and never look back, here are some great tools to help you overcome that lack of confidence known as writer’s block:

  • Morning Pages–I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Morning Pages are the best tool out there to recover your creativity and “unblock” your mind. You’ll be amazed at how well they work and at how fast.
  • Writing Exercises–Sometimes a writer just needs a jump-start to get writing. Writing exercises can be that jump-start.
  • 10 Minutes of Gibberish–Or if you prefer, instead of writing exercises, you could try the 10 Minutes of Gibberish method where you write nonsense (or whatever you feel like writing) for 10 minutes prior to starting your writing session. Instant writing flow.
  • Take A Break–If nothing else seems to be working for you (and I can’t believe that nothing would work, that’s just an excuse), take a break. Go for a walk around the block. Read a book for 30 minutes. Play a video game. Do something else to refresh your mind. Then get back to writing.

Now that you know writer’s block isn’t real, tell us–how are you going to get your creativity back?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is the founder of Procrastinating Writers. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits Challenge. For more great writing tips, tools and advice, be sure to follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Laura Marcella April 20, 2011 at 11:36 am

Love this post! I’ve always said I don’t believe in writer’s block. When I’m not writing, it’s because I have some kind of fear or frustration about where to go next with the story. The best way to get over those feelings is to keep writing!

I love morning pages and doing writing prompts and exercises. Those things help a lot!

2 Mallory Snow April 20, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I just started doing my morning pages again this week. I never have time to do them but I’m going them anyway because it’s a great way to start the day.

3 Dianna Zaragoza April 20, 2011 at 8:07 pm

In my case, writer’s block is when I’m trying to run away from my anxieties. Writer’s block can be a gift, if I consider it an indicator of where I need to go next.

Follow your fears. Follow neurosis. Follow attraction. Follow whatever feeling you can drum up, and roll all of it into words and put it on paper. Fear evaporates when you face it and take those first couple of steps into the dark.

4 Kathy Johnson April 21, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Great post, and so true. I use all of the tools you listed and they do help.

5 Linda April 22, 2011 at 11:47 am

Here’s a tool I use when I can’t seem to get my writing started, I write letters to my children. We all have family history we can share, whether it’s before or after they were born. And, if it’s embarrassing, like the time I turned right to drive down what I thought was the continuation of a driveway and it turned out to be a very wide set of stairs (true story), you can choose not to send it. No kids? Write to your parents, grand parents, aunts, uncles, friends….whomever. It’s just an exercise and because it’s personal, it brings out the emotions you want to add to your writing.

6 Pinar Tarhan April 25, 2011 at 7:46 am

Well, I actually believe in being stuck while you are writing a fictional story. It can be during the process of coming up with new ideas, or during some parts of the story where you are not sure what your character will do next. The thing is, I’ve never had writer’s block when I write non-fiction. There were temporary instances when I didn’t feel like writing, so I did just go back to it after a break. I’ll try those writing exercises though. I am dying to come with a new story idea. And with story, I mean screenplay. I just love writing those:)

7 Janet May 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I don’t think most writers would consider a Wikipedia definition concrete evidence. Surely there were other references in that Google search. I agree that what most people call writer’s block is usually procrastination, and the exercises you and dozens of other sources recommend will help anyone get into good writing habits. At the same time, some people really do have REAL anxiety and depressive disorders and these can hinder someone who works as a writer. There are plenty of psychologists, psychiatrists and writing therapists who do believe that conditions known as Writer’s Block exist. It’s not fair to deny that reality. Your advice to move forward is better, to work on these anxieties and consider them obstacles, rather than blocks.

8 Jennifer May 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm

@Janet It was a definition, not proof. I just thought the final line really drove home the point I wanted to make. And while yes, there are people with depression and anxiety, allowing those things to keep you from writing is just an excuse in my opinion. There are plenty of famous writers who suffered from the ailments you mention and they still managed to produce writing. Which is why I stand by my belief that writer’s block isn’t real.

9 TootsNYC May 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I’ve heard recently of improved software that takes dictation and turns it into keystrokes as a tool for getting past the initial writer’s block.
Because often we can talk our way through our subject matter, but when we sit down to write, the process of committing it to paper means all our thoughts stultify.

Verbal “pre-writing,” as it’s called is often useful, but it’s hard to capture.

10 Stef May 24, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I loved this article – thank you! I read a fascinating article about “reader’s block” shortly after I read this and since then I’ve enjoyed reading for pleasure as a way to bring back my creativity. I especially agree with the idea that writer’s block often has more to do with one’s perfectionism that an actual blockage of ideas!

11 Jennifer May 24, 2011 at 10:03 pm

@Stef Reader’s block? I’ve never heard of that before! What exactly is reader’s block?

12 karen120 November 1, 2011 at 11:46 pm

i am new to this. i will try almost anything. morning pages sounds great. thanjs everyone.

Leave a Comment

{ 8 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: