Is writer’s block a myth?

Noate and spectacles sitting on table with screwed up sheets of paper.

The traditional definition of writer’s block describes an inability to formulate new ideas for written work. Artists of all flavours experience times when the muse neglects to show herself, and certain days are more productive than others. However, many people have come to question the accuracy of writer’s block’s conventional interpretation, and some reject its existence entirely.

If a blockage prevents ideas from travelling through to the page, the artist should seek to remove whatever has clogged his creative pipes. Whether fact, fiction, or a misunderstood malady, writer’s block is worthy of a deeper investigation, and scientists and prominent practitioners of the craft can help us uncover the truth.

What do famous authors say about writer’s block?

When you seek to understand a particular experience, you’re best to ask those who’ve lived it. Therefore, let’s turn to famous authors and read what they have to say about writer’s block. Literary Hub have compiled a comprehensive list of well-known authors expressing their thoughts on the matter, and I’ve selected two examples to share here.

Patrick Rothfuss from an interview with SYFY WIRE:

‘For example, who’s heard of writer’s block? I really don’t think it exists. Actually, no, sorry, I’m going to take that back: it does not exist. We’ll state it flatly. Sometimes, writing is super hard. Just like any other job. Or, if it’s not your job, sometimes it’s hard to do a thing even if it is your hobby. But no plumber ever gets to call in to work, and they’re like “Jake, I have plumber’s block,” you know? What would your boss say? I have teacher’s block. I have accounting block. They would say “You are fired. You have problems, and you are fired. Get your ass in here and plumb some stuff, Jerry.’

As you can see, Rothfuss doesn’t believe in writer’s block and compares writing to any other profession. He implies that any inability to produce content stems from a lack of motivation, which can be a genuine barrier to action.

Ray Bradbury from ‘An Evening with Ray Bradbury 2001’:

‘I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: “Am I being joyful?” And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.’

Bradbury is correct. Writing about topics that interest you is much easier than slogging through tedious content, but not all writers are in a position to choose what they work on, and sometimes we need to force ourselves to find passion in a project that doesn’t excite us. University hammers this skill into its students, and an ability to adapt and meet any project with passion can separate a trained writer from the rest.

What does the scientific literature says about writer’s block?

Some scientific literature describes writer’s block as a condition characterised by negative thoughts and a depressive state that stalls productivity. The symptoms appear to stem from self-doubt, and the cure often involves simply sitting down and forcing yourself to do the work. I recommend this tactic for any difficult task. Motivation comes and goes but if you cultivate discipline, you’ll overcome the biggest barrier to most endeavours: getting started.

Whether wanting to write, exercise, or learn to play the banjo, showing up and getting started can be a difficult mental hurdle to overcome. However, once you grow accustomed to the challenge and understand how to push through the inertia and self-doubt, good habits form, and the work gets easier.

How to beat writer’s block

Chintamani’s research paper on writer’s block offers several methods you can experiment with, and suggestions include:

  • Write your way out of the block.
  • If you want to write, focus on writing. If not, do something else.
  • Become familiar with and learn to appreciate rejection to alleviate fear and anxiety.
  • Try activities such as yoga, meditation, and long walks to alter your mindset.
  • Take notes and brainstorm to boost creativity.
  • If you’re stuck, write a later scene.
  • Don’t stall trying to come up with the perfect word or sentence.
  • Set achievable targets and reward yourself for meeting them.

Each of us is different, and one, some, all, or none of the suggestions listed may benefit you. In fact, the simple act of knowing you can manage writer’s block could be enough to break the cycle.

My experience with writer’s block

Writer’s block is a myth born from truth. Certain mental hurdles do affect a writer’s ability to perform, but many of those barriers stem from a lack of inspiration, and the solution is simple: don’t rely on motivation. Discipline and consistency are the keys to success, and, eventually, forcing yourself to do the work will help form good habits and condition you to perform on command.

If you’d like to hire a writer with unclogged creativity pipes, get in touch with me, and we’ll craft something special together.