Is it REALLY writer's block?

If you're reading this, you probably think you have writer's block. You want to write but you can't. You have this piece you desperately want to get out, but, every time you sit down to it, you totally freeze. Or you can only write crap. Or you never seem to sit down to it at all because there's always a kitchen to tidy or a call you have to make and then the kids come home or you're too tired and somehow, you just never make it to the keyboard.

Or maybe you're the opposite -- you've always been prolific, churning out one piece after another but now, just at the point where everything should be flowing smoothly, it seems as though the well has dried right up.

Well, it's possible that you have writer's block.

It's also possible that you don't.

There are things that can stop you from writing that have nothing to do with writing, and all the advice and analysis and writing exercises in the world aren't going to help.

Before you frustrate the hell out of yourself, consider whether one of the following might account for why you're not writing:

This is a pretty obvious reason not to be writing, but one that is most often pooh-poohed as not being good enough. Rather than just whupping your limp carcass to sit upright in front of that monitor and create, dammit!, try a more strategic approach.

Make a list of all the things you do during the day and how much time you spend doing them. Do you work eight or more hours? Do you commute back and forth? Do you have kids? Are you responsible for cooking, cleaning, and/or caring for a parent? Do you have friends, a spouse, or a pet who need your attention from time to time?

Don't forget to add in office work you bring home and the number of hours you need to sleep in order to function and anything else you spend time doing during the week. If just reading the list makes you tired, then it should be no surprise that adding an hour of writing every day seems like nothing but a great, big, dreary burden. For now, maybe you should concentrate your energies on simplifying your life and making time (and space) for writing.

Another explanation for not writing that seems obvious from the outside is physical or mental anguish. It's sometimes appealing to think of throwing yourself into your work in these situations, to escape the pain or boost your spirits, but if it doesn't work out this plan can backfire and make us feel worse. There are many ways to deal with grief, depression and illness -- books, counselors, therapists, on-line resources -- but if you can't write because of pain or sorrow, you may need to concentrate your energies on healing yourself before you can get back into writing.
Believe it or not, not all professional writers are prolific and it's possible that one short story a year is your natural rhythm. If nothing you've tried makes your productivity increase and pushing yourself to get more stuff out just makes you miserable, you might want to consider that the world has already seen a Georges Simenon and a Stephen King, and it might be okay to allow yourself to write only as often as you enjoy it.
Here are two reasons for not writing that every writer can embrace and celebrate, because they mean that, to quote science fiction writer Spider Robinson, "you ARE writing, you're just not TYPING yet." But how to tell the difference? Is this quiet spell the happy silence of little gray cells puttering away or is it the echoing silence of the void? Most writers get a feel for the idea percolation process, but it's a subtle distinction and hard to distinguish through a haze of writer's block panic. The other end of the process, brain recharging, may hit in the middle of a roll, after you've successfully completed one project with the intention of just breezing through to another. The sudden bout of lassitude, disinterest and the longing to be anywhere but in front of the word processor can be very panic-inducing, particularly when it goes on for a while.

Instead of jumping to conclusions on either front, give yourself a chance to sort things out. Take a break from writing for a while, test the waters occasionally, work on something else, but above all, listen to your inner voice. If it tells you nothing's broke, don't rush to fix it.

NOW, if you've read through all of this and none of it applies to you, you might just be right about having writer's block. In that case, these pages were made for you. I hope the ideas on them help you,  give you hope or at least take your mind off being blocked for a while.


m a i n  m e n u / m y  o w n  p a g e