Writers’ Block: Concrete or Myth?

There was a story about a writer who couldn’t write.  Who knows how the story got passed down because it wasn’t written down.  Because the writer couldn’t write.

But, like those oral tales from the beginning of time when people would snort or grunt so came the idea of writers’ block.

I’m here to snort it isn’t true.

Does a stockbrocker get money block?  No.  They look for a way for the money to flow.  Does a plumber get plumber’s block?  No.  Plumbers are there to clean out the pipes.  And you are there to clean out your psych.  So let the words flow!  Clean out your pipes.

If you care to build brick by brick a block for yourself then it IS true.

But when you have to write, you just do it.

Can you speaK?  I think so.  Then you can write.  Well, that isn’t quite right.  If you can think words, then you can write.  That’s a better description.

When I first started writing it was hard to give myself permission.  I constantly questioned myself. I thought, am I doing this right? 

And just who the hell is going to give me permission?  So I read articles about writers’ block.  Of course, it seems like a million years ago so maybe it was all etched in stone tablets.

Don’t wait for permission.  Just do it.

Right now I have a million things to do.  To write.  Because I’m a writer.  And photograph.  Because I’m photographer.

I don’t have the time to worry about it.  I have to stay focused in the NOW and do it.  Sorry if I sound like the proverbial Nike commercial, but it’s true.

We build the existential angst up in our mind because we think things must be perfect in order for us to create.  There is no perfect time when the angels will sing and whisper to you in that oh so angelic way that your time has come.

Alright, sometimes they will.  Sometimes your muse will come to you and you will burn through pages like there is no tomorrow.  But usually?  No.  It won’t happen.  Sometimes you will come to the page and hate it.  You will dislike the fact that you write for a living and you will want to do something else.  Anything else.  Like pull beets in Siberia.  Alright, this isn’t quite right.  Usually our fantasies taken on a more exalted hue.  Like sailing the Caribbean in a 50 foot sailboat and cooking exquisite gourmet dishes that include ingredients like saffron and indigo.  Indigo is an ink!

Usually if you cannot bear to write it’s because of a few things:

You feel too self conscious.

You are comparing yourself to other people who you feel are better writers.

So do this in the age of numbers and quick fixes:

1. Fuhgettaboutit.  Get over yourself already!

2. You be the judge of yourself.  Don’t let anyone else be.  Get on with it.

Just do it.

But if you really want to read more about the block, please visit Graham Strong’s hilarious diagnosis and treatment of this existential disease that is bound to plague writers at one time or another.  Go ahead, innoculate yourself.

Photocredit: © Ellen Wilson

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20 thoughts on “Writers’ Block: Concrete or Myth?”

  1. Hi Ellen: I think that if you have a set time when you create every day (aka write), and you actually sit down to do it whether you’re feeling particularly inspired or not, your muse will usually join you. And even if she doesn’t, there’s usually a couple of voices in your head that have interesting things to say.

    Marelisas last blog post..27 Simple Ways to Simplify Your Life

  2. I had an English teacher in grade school who used to say, “just write – whatever comes to mind, fix it later”.

    Then when I was studying engineering, I had a professor who said the same thing, when he was teaching us how to brainstorm. “Just write anything at all, fix it later, no idea is stupid.”

    So for me (note – I said, “for me” – as it works for me), if I say “I can’t write”, then it’s just an excuse.

    Of course, your mileage may vary. I replace “can’t” with “won’t” and then ask, “why not?”

    Brett Legrees last blog post..they live.

  3. Yes, sometimes we just have to do it. I felt this way. I’m struggling with coming up with something I find inspiring. And sometimes, I’ve walked away. But other times, I’ll just start to write. Maybe I’ll have a few iterations, but usually something starts to come together. Sometimes I think it’s not really that good. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I’ll publish both the good and not so good. And sometimes…sometimes it ends up being vice versa – what I think is good, the world does not, and what I think is not so good, the world really likes. And this has helped me in accepting what I write.

  4. I think being the judge of yourself is what actually blocks you! At least, it does me.

    So I offer, stop being the judge of yourself. Let others decide about your writing. Let them have the choice to like it or not. It’s also your choice how you choose to take their reactions. But your job isn’t to judge, it’s to write. So just write. Allow yourself to suck or be great. But it’s not for you to decide if it’s good or not. Writing is public, after all, and someone may like your writing when you do not. Judging it beforehand and deciding for them would deny them that pleasure.

    I’d say it’s more freeing to pass the judgement on to others. All you have to do is write.

    stephs last blog post..EditQuest at your Service

  5. I know when I’m writing well and when I’m only writing, but that doesn’t mean that one is slower. I can cook a pasta to curl toes, but I certainly don’t do it every night. I do, however, eat. Writing is exercise. We get better because we do it. If we want inspiration to show up, we have to give it face time, present or not.

    Writer Dads last blog post..Stop.

  6. At first when I was reading this post, I thought, “This is going to scare off insecure writers.” But then by the time I reached the end, I was very impressed by it.

    By the way, I would go pull beets in Siberia. For a day, anyway, if someone paid my airfare.

    Beths last blog post..The Sweet Tooth Sagas

  7. @Mare – I have a set time for things, but it doesn’t always work. But yes, I totally agree, you can train the muse to show up. I like early mornings for fiction. That’s when it’s easiest for me. I don’t write fiction at night. I guess if I absolutely had to I would.

    @Brett – That is an excellent point – replacing can’t with won’t and then asking why not? I like that. If I’m not working on what I need to I’m usually whining internally about something and turn it into a big fiasco when it doesn’t need to be.

    @Vered – Totally agree. I’m getting more comfortable with blogging and am much more apt to do a quick run through, then edit, then post. Plus I’m finding I just don’t have TIME to worry about or fuss over words. JUST DO IT! Ha!

    @Evelyn – Wow. Good for you! I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about these kind of things lately. I’ve meant to come over and visit and see how you are. I’ll come over after this.

    @Steph – I like how you think all this through. Some people absolutely freak when they know others will judge them. And some absolutely freak when they judge themselves. They have to active a superego I guess (Freudian term). I say just do what works for you. For me, the more I write the less I judge or worry about people judging me because I don’t have time.

    @Writer Dad – Good analogies. I just love it when all the writers show up and express things better than I can. I love pasta. And I bet you cook it with the muse every time.

    @Beth – Yeah, I would pull beets too. It would be an interesting experience. But not in the dead of a Russian winter. I love to travel. I wonder if I could swing an article out of it with a travel mag? Ha!

  8. Hey Lance,

    The more you write the easier it gets. You come to a “oh the hell with it anyway attitude.” At least I think on our level. Maybe if you publish a best selling novel or screenplay you might feel different. Maybe then it would be harder to say, geez, I might not top what I just did. But maybe that’s all part of it.

  9. Hi Ellen – this is so true. Every so often, I can’t seem to come up with anything to write – I just go braindead. But other times – I think too many things at once, so I stop writing one part way through and start another.

    And I’ve got 100 posts in draft now, because the trouble is, something better always comes up. It’s confusing because I don’t remember what I’ve published.

    I think you’re right – a lot of folk judge themselves to the point where they’re too scared to write anything down. Like you said – just do it – it’s not like you can’t rewrite it before anyone sees it.

  10. I actually believe that writer’s block is concrete rather than a myth, only because I’ve experienced it so many times. However, I also happen to believe it’s an ailment with a cure and Nike’s slogan probably sums it up about as neatly as possible.

  11. Hi Ellen – I love the Nike quote. I say that to myself often, for many things.

    Some days I can sit and stare at the computer screen and not a word will come. The harder I try, the worse it gets. I’ve found I just need to get up from my desk, work on something else, take a nap, or read a book, and then my creativity begins to return.

    For bloggers we call it Bloggers Blogk. 🙂

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..It’s All About Me – An Interview

  12. Hi Ellen,

    I recently did a post on this myself — yes, there is a lot to be said with the “just do it” fix. Many people need to just jump-start their engines and get on with it.

    But I do think that there are legitimate cases of writer’s block. I identified about a half-dozen of them, ranging from having no ideas to having those days where nothing flows and you have to keep banging and banging and banging to get the words into the right place.

    Good point on your part — you do have to honestly evaluate if you are truly “trying”. But if the answer to that question is yes, then you need to identify what the problem is before you can solve it.

    ~Graham

  13. Laughing!!! “Who knows how the story got passed down because it wasn’t written down.” and “snort or grunt ”

    Oh, this is so funny…

    “Does a plumber get plumber’s block?”
    Hmmmm I’m going to have to say yes on this one. 😉

    True… my blocks are wasted time worrying I am not good enough. If I could get over it, I would be doing much better for myself.

    Truly excellent and entertaining article, right on point.

  14. “Alright, sometimes they will. Sometimes your muse will come to you and you will burn through pages like there is no tomorrow. But usually? No. It won’t happen. Sometimes you will come to the page and hate it. You will dislike the fact that you write for a living and you will want to do something else. Anything else”

    Muses are unreliable. They are often having fun while we are working. I find if I ask my fingers to work for those who need to hear the words, and quit worrying about the outcome, or how much people will say, “GOOD Job”, rarely will they betray the cause.

    Ellen you are an inspiration. A muse perhaps! 🙂

    Harmonys last blog post..Life Happens While We Are Busy Making Plans

  15. E, this is great advice. When you write for a living you don’t have the luxury of writer’s block. You may not “feel” particularly inspired but the work has to be done so you sit down and do it. When I first started I read a quote from a famous writer that amounted to “how do you write?” Plant your butt in a chair and do it. Discipline will teach you better control of your creativity. Often when I just don’t feel like doing it, I get inspired as I work, sometimes I don’t get that writer’s high where you’re in the zone and it’s magical but nevertheless, the work gets done, clients are happy and life goes on.

    Karen Swims last blog post..Shadow Box Your Way to Success

  16. @Jaden – I threw the plumber stuff in later after I forgot it the first time and remembered it when I was laying in bed. That’s how anal I am. Anal, plumbing. It’s all related.

    @Harmony – I’m glad I can inspire you. I know I’m doing my job then. Glad to see you up and around after the fiasco. That must have been draining.

    @Karen – Exactly. I was going to write that in fact, so I’m glad you said it. When you write for a living you really don’t have the luxury of the angst of “not getting it write/right.” Whatever that means. I have done that for so long, years in fact before I started writing professionally. Nothing will ever be perfect and life does go on.

  17. Great words to live by, and so true. A lot of times I am apprehensive to write because I see all of these wonderful posts and don’t think I can be that great. Of course when I do post something I get praise for it, I just need to learn how to turn off the “what if it’s not good enough” voice in my head!

    Jennys last blog post..Don’t Laugh At…

  18. Hi Jenny,

    Wonderful post are all relative. Right what makes you happy and you will be happy.

    It’s true the editor voice will get you every time before you get used to it and know how to tame it. Truly, it is a predator to your writing. Don’t let it eat you.

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