Is There Really Writer’s Block??

writer's block

As an experienced writer, I often get questioned by other, less experienced, writers about writer’s block.

To many it’s a mysterious condition that seems to threaten all writers as if it were a terminal disease—will I get Writer’s Block?  Can I avoid it?  After all, Ernest Hemingway killed himself because he couldn’t writer anymore.  (Among many other problems he had—)  With all the mystery (and fear) surrounding writer’s block, what is it really?

Broadly speaking, it’s the inability to write—anything.  Creating (anything) is one of the most difficult human activities—and then, at times, it can be so easy.  (Watch a group of young children making-up a game to play)  What happens to us when we become adults?  What are some of the causes behind writer’s block and what can we do about them?

  1.  Procrastination.  We’re all so good at this.  “I’ll start tomorrow.”  I tell new writers the hardest part of writing a novel is—starting.  What to do about it:  Set yourself a small reward—candy, a latte, a glass of wine, a facial, etc.  Then, pick a time to sit at your desk and START.  You must also set a time limit.  You can take your reward after you’ve worked at writing for the time limit.
  2. Perfectionism.  Here’s a tough one.  We read stories by our favorite, great writers and admire their skills.  Then, we sit down at the lap top and—  We know it’s impossible for us to create the same quality of writing, so we get writer’s block.  Stephen King once said: “Give yourself permission to write a really bad first sentence, then a really bad first paragraph.”  Every writer starts with a really bad first sentence.  You can too.
  3. Self doubt.  “Who do I think I am to imagine anyone would be interested in reading this crap I’m writing?”  Sound familiar?  It leads to writer’s block.  We all have doubts about our writing every time we put something on the screen.  Here’s what helps me: I remember that I’m writing, primarily, for myself.  If family and friends want to read it, great.  If strangers want to read it, great.  But, in the end, it’s a compulsion that I must do.  I don’t think of any audience and I can get past writer’s block.
  4. I have also found that for professional writers, there is no such thing as writer’s block.  Just like anyone else doing a job, a writer sits down every day and . . . writes!  Often, it’s not the best stuff, but that’s why we edit as much, if not more, than we write the first draft.
  5. Here are two books that could be helpful for you:  “Around the Writer’s Block,” by Rosanne Bane.  Also, “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield:
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About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.


Is There Really Writer’s Block?? — 2 Comments

  1. Thanks Colin. It’s an honor to be mentioned in the company of Steven Pressfield’s War of Art.
    The way I define it, writer’s block is just one of many forms of resistance. Procrastination, perfectionism and self-doubt are other forms of resistance. I tell my students and clients that the point isn’t to be a writer who never experiences resistance (even pros feel some form of resistance), the point is to be a writer who knows how to effectively respond to resistance so you write anyway.

    • Good point, Rosanne. One thing I particularly like about Steve P’s book is when he talks about the experience of forcing yourself to sit and write—no matter how you feel at the moment—and, almost always, you “get into the zone” and inspiration comes like a muse from heaven! It’s happened to me quite often. Thanks so much for your comment and good luck with your writing and books. Colin

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