PDA

View Full Version : No such thing as 'writer's block'



Elodie-Caroline
12-20-2007, 06:56 PM
Yesterday afternoon, on bbc radio 5 live, they had an American guy called Garrison Keillor as one of their guests. To be honest, I'd never heard of him before, but gathered from the show that he was a radio talk show host and a writer.

The one thing he did say, that really made me smile, was. "There is no such thing as writer's block, it's where your ambition outshines your talent."

I happen to agree with him. What say you other AW members then?



Elodie

Ol' Fashioned Girl
12-20-2007, 07:03 PM
Garrison is a god. I've loved his outlook and perspective for years. His gentle sense of humor and his laid-back delivery are much needed today.

As for his take on 'writer's block' - sounds good to me. :)

maestrowork
12-20-2007, 07:08 PM
As I'm currently struggling through my WIP, I'd have to agree. There were times when I didn't want to write or couldn't write because I thought the book was too big and complex for me now. I have thought maybe in 20 years I could really do it justice. But you know what? I AM writing it NOW. In 20 years there will be other stories to tell.

Elodie-Caroline
12-20-2007, 07:19 PM
O.F.G. yep, I've got to admit, he made me laugh and I liked listening to him, he made a lot of sense about a lot of things. not all to do with writing either.


Maestro. Another thing this guy said yesterday, was that as you get older, your writing gets better. I have to agree with that too. To me, in my 47 yrs, I've gained a lot more knowledge about the world and I get more inspiration from the tiniest of things :)

Ol' Fashioned Girl
12-20-2007, 07:27 PM
He's got a great web site (http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/) where you can listen to many of his past broadcasts.

Elodie-Caroline
12-20-2007, 07:29 PM
Thank you very much Ol' Girl! :)



He's got a great web site (http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/) where you can listen to many of his past broadcasts.

Claudia Gray
12-20-2007, 07:30 PM
I don't think that's the only emotion/fear/problem that people categorize as writer's block, but I think it's definitely part of it.

maestrowork
12-20-2007, 07:30 PM
Maestro. Another thing this guy said yesterday, was that as you get older, your writing gets better. I have to agree with that too. To me, in my 47 yrs, I've gained a lot more knowledge about the world and I get more inspiration from the tiniest of things :)

So that's my dilemma. Should I wait to write this "grand" story when I'm 65? Or should I write it now when I feel that my skills are not good enough yet? Would I ever be good enough? Should I just write and stop worrying about the rest?

See that's why he's right: "our ambition outshines our talent."

DonnaDuck
12-20-2007, 08:09 PM
I agree. While one story may have you stumped, there's always more writing to do. Being blocked from writing anything means you don't have the will to keep writing so you succumb to the road block. Anyone with a will to write will write something to feed their need to write and find a detour around that block.

Lets see how many more times I can say the word 'write' in this post!

GeorgieB
12-20-2007, 08:25 PM
GK is famous for his radio program, "Prairie Home Companion" where a lot of the humorous scenarios take place in a fictional small town in Minnesota (Lake Woebegone). I'm from northern Minnesota and spent years looking for that town, never finding it. But then I realized that the small town I lived in was inhabited by the same people that lived in Lake Woebegone.


He always ended those stories with "Lake Woebegone, where all the men are handsome, all the women are pretty and all the children are above average." (or something like that). That's my hometown also.

Birol
12-20-2007, 08:33 PM
Yesterday afternoon, on bbc radio 5 live, they had an American guy called Garrison Keillor as one of their guests. To be honest, I'd never heard of him before, but gathered from the show that he was a radio talk show host and a writer.



If you're on the other side of the pond, I'm not all that surprised you've never heard of Garrison Keillor. His humor and insights are American-centric and play on how Americans see themselves, instead of how others see Americans.

scarletpeaches
12-20-2007, 08:38 PM
I'd heard of him. :)

aliajohnson
12-20-2007, 08:38 PM
He always ended those stories with "Lake Woebegone, where all the men are handsome, all the women are pretty and all the children are above average." (or something like that). That's my hometown also.


I think you mean--

"all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average" :D

Nakhlasmoke
12-20-2007, 09:12 PM
Nevert heard of him, but I have to agree.

My writer's block boils down to two things

a) laziness

b) fear of failure.

My solution. Stop being so pathetically lazy, understand that failure is part of the process, and I learn from my mistakes, and will only get better *if* I try.

brianm
12-20-2007, 09:17 PM
I don't completely agree. At times, there are personal problems that muddle up our brains and we are subconsciously thinking of those things and unable to concentrate fully on our writing.

For instance, money may be short, which causes stress. You sit down to write but you are blocked by the stress.

It can work the opposite way, too. I find that when I am very emotional I tend to write like a madman. It’s one way I release frustration and pain. I also release it by banging away on the piano. Tons of Beethoven. Or Chopin if I need a good cry.

Elodie-Caroline
12-20-2007, 09:22 PM
I'd write it now, if I were you, who's to say you'll still be here to see the age of 65. Your grand story might be good enough to capture the audience now, it might not, who knows until you've written it.

Let's face it, anyone who starts to write, automatically thinks they have the next best seller. Everyone will say that's not why they started to write, but deep down inside, of course it is. I hope one day that my own will be a best seller, but seeing as I've only tried 4 literary agencies and find the process so boring, that I just carry on writing (when I feel like it) instead, then I'm never going to get published, am I. I do think my story's worth publishing, but if I can only go about half-arsed to get it published, then it won't be. I can actually live with that though, I wrote the story, my beta-readers loved it, I still do, so I haven't lost anything, I've gained a whole lot more within myself... I know i can do it, I wouldn't have known where to start a few years ago.



So that's my dilemma. Should I wait to write this "grand" story when I'm 65? Or should I write it now when I feel that my skills are not good enough yet? Would I ever be good enough? Should I just write and stop worrying about the rest?

See that's why he's right: "our ambition outshines our talent."

Simple Living
12-20-2007, 09:58 PM
I don't completely agree. At times, there are personal problems that muddle up our brains and we are subconsciously thinking of those things and unable to concentrate fully on our writing.

For instance, money may be short, which causes stress. You sit down to write but you are blocked by the stress.

It can work the opposite way, too. I find that when I am very emotional I tend to write like a madman. Itís one way I release frustration and pain. I also release it by banging away on the piano. Tons of Beethoven. Or Chopin if I need a good cry.

That's the best (and only) definition of "writer's block" I've ever agreed with, and I don't believe in "writer's block." Under this definition, I'm willing to concede that it exists.

What most people call "writer's block" isn't writer's block at all. For many, it's the very thing that Nakhlasmoke said:


My writer's block boils down to two things

a) laziness

b) fear of failure.

My solution. Stop being so pathetically lazy, understand that failure is part of the process, and I learn from my mistakes, and will only get better *if* I try.

People also call it writer's block when they can't think of a story idea. That's not writer's block. That simply means that person can't find anything interesting to write about.

If a person is working on a story and thinks they've hit writer's block, it usually means that they've either not researched, or thought through, the story. This is a down-side to shooting from the hip and writing as you go. It works for some people, of course, but not for everyone. If this is how your writer's block develops, try changing your approach to writing. Research it. Outline it. Plan it more before you start writing. Find the method that works for you and use it. This takes time.

Writer's block can also mean that a person has played their hand too soon in the story. Again, take the time to plot it out a bit more. I'm not saying you need an extremely detailed outline. But more details than what you went into the story with originally.

jenngreenleaf
12-20-2007, 10:07 PM
I don't completely agree. At times, there are personal problems that muddle up our brains and we are subconsciously thinking of those things and unable to concentrate fully on our writing.Thank you for pointing this out! I've been going through this exact situation (life won't stop throwing curve balls at me) and it's been causing a lot of career problems . . . namely, writer's block. I was reading through this whole thread thinking, "well, geez, what the heck is wrong with me if writer's block doesn't exist? Am I a fraud? Do I need to find another thing?" I breathed a sigh of relief when I got to this post, though . . .

Nakhlasmoke
12-20-2007, 10:12 PM
I have to jump back in here though. Horrible things happening in your life that are stopping you from writing isn't what I call writer's block

When bad things happen, or stressful things, sometimes we *need* to take a break. For our sanity. I don't think anyone has not gone through a period like that, depressed and stressed and barely capable of getting out of bed to face the day, let alone work on their novel.

My concept of writer's block is having the time and the inclination, and then not doing anything because it's too hard.

Bubastes
12-20-2007, 10:13 PM
Writer's block can also occur if you have an internal critic telling you that writing is a self-indulgent waste of time. That kind of harsh self-judgment isn't conducive to putting words on the page!

willietheshakes
12-20-2007, 10:37 PM
If a person is working on a story and thinks they've hit writer's block, it usually means that they've either not researched, or thought through, the story. This is a down-side to shooting from the hip and writing as you go. It works for some people, of course, but not for everyone. If this is how your writer's block develops, try changing your approach to writing. Research it. Outline it. Plan it more before you start writing. Find the method that works for you and use it. This takes time.


That's funny - my experience is completely the opposite. The only time I've ever had something that I would come close to describing as writer's block was when first starting the second book in my contract, the one that I was contractually bound to outline prior to starting. I chafed for a long time, trying to start writing, because I felt I had already told that story (in the outline form).

I feel much better now that I've abandoned said outline (at my editor and agent's suggestion).

Which just goes to show you can't generalize, and that it really does take all types.

Tiger
12-20-2007, 10:43 PM
While in the middle of a 10-hour "shift" finishing my senior thesis, I was brought to a full stop by a sudden and inexplicable inability to spell the word, "of." I had to scroll back through my ms to find another example.

I'm not sure if the condition is rightly called 'writer's block,' or 'vapor lock...' But, I believe there are times when the proper neurons simply do not fire.

Shadow_Ferret
12-20-2007, 11:03 PM
I'm not much of a fan of Keillor's stuff, and I also disagree with him.

I'm a firm believer in writer's block. (Probably the only one here.) I've had it off and on. I couldn't write one blasted word of fiction, nothing came to mind. It's a horrible feeling and if you've never experienced it then you're very lucky.

On too many occassions I have what Tiger describes as "vapor lock," too. That horrifying feeling that you've forgotten a word that should be simple as... as... that pastry thingie sometimes made with apples...

Bubastes
12-20-2007, 11:13 PM
That horrifying feeling that you've forgotten a word that should be simple as... as... that pastry thingie sometimes made with apples...

Ummmm.....crostata?

geardrops
12-20-2007, 11:28 PM
I had three years of writer's block.

Trust me. It's real.

jenngreenleaf
12-20-2007, 11:37 PM
I'm a firm believer in writer's block. (Probably the only one here.) I've had it off and on. I couldn't write one blasted word of fiction, nothing came to mind. It's a horrible feeling and if you've never experienced it then you're very lucky.I don't think you're the only believer here. I think you're just one of the few willing to out themselves after such a heavy set of posts saying it isn't real. :)

DamaNegra
12-20-2007, 11:40 PM
I struggle a lot with depression, now more than ever. So yeah, for me, writer's block is very real and happens way too often. I've got the story in my mind, I know what follows, I know how to write it, but I still can't bring myself to do it. My fingers won't touch the keyboard and my neurons won't fire. To me, writer's block is way too real. And I hate it.

Simple Living
12-20-2007, 11:45 PM
I have to jump back in here though. Horrible things happening in your life that are stopping you from writing isn't what I call writer's block

When bad things happen, or stressful things, sometimes we *need* to take a break. For our sanity. I don't think anyone has not gone through a period like that, depressed and stressed and barely capable of getting out of bed to face the day, let alone work on their novel.

My concept of writer's block is having the time and the inclination, and then not doing anything because it's too hard.

I see what you're saying, and agree with you mostly. It's not technically writer's block, but, if a person has horrible things going on that it affects their concentration when they actually sit down and try to write, it is a block.

An author once told me that "writer's block" is really the self-doubt, self-esteem and fears that writers are dealing with.

benbradley
12-20-2007, 11:48 PM
Yesterday afternoon, on bbc radio 5 live, they had an American guy called Garrison Keillor as one of their guests. To be honest, I'd never heard of him before, but gathered from the show that he was a radio talk show host and a writer.

The one thing he did say, that really made me smile, was. "There is no such thing as writer's block, it's where your ambition outshines your talent."

I happen to agree with him. What say you other AW members then?



Elodie
I dunno, I "have no opinion" on writer's block, but it's a fact that I wrote a grand total of about 700 words on my NaNoWriMo novel in November. I got plenty of "BIC" time but most of it is reading and posting things on the Internet rather than "writing." But this is veering on talking about my lack of "real writing" output, which could use its own thread.

Garrison's popular-in-the-USA radio show "A Prarie Home Companion" isn't a talk show, but a variety show featuring famous and not-so-famous but still excellent musical acts (usually "down home" folk and bluegrass oriented, but sometimes classical, and occasionally something that resembles '50's rock 'n' roll), and Garrison's own form of humor and storytelling, aided in many skits by a few other spoken voices and one rather amazing sound-effects guy. Regrettably (HERE IS THE UNSPOKEN, UNACKNOWLEDGED "ELEPHANT" ON PRARIE HOME COMPANION), he usually sings a song on the show, sometimes with only instrumental accompaniment but sometimes in a duet with a truly talented guest singer. The big problem is that, well, Garrison's talents lie elsewhere, not in singing. He gets away with it because, well, he's been doing this show for decades (he did quit for a few years, then started back with it), and it's such a popular public radio show that, well, he CAN.

He's written several books on the fictional "Lake Woebegon" and he also starred on a recent movie "A Prarie Home Companion" based on the radio show.

He also does a short (about five minutes) daily radio show, "Writer's Almanac" which is nothing but his spoken voice (and that bit of piano music he uses for the intro/outro) in which he gives some history on one or more writers born on the day and reads a poem and/or novel excerpt, and tells of other writerly tidbits and facts of interest. You can read/hear the show here:
http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/

geardrops
12-20-2007, 11:50 PM
My concept of writer's block is having the time and the inclination, and then not doing anything because it's too hard.

I don't think this is writer's block. I think this is sheer laziness.

It's like wanting to go to the gym but never doing it. If you want to go, you go. If you say you want to go but you don't, you're lazy. Easy peasy.

DonnaDuck
12-21-2007, 12:50 AM
I don't think you're the only believer here. I think you're just one of the few willing to out themselves after such a heavy set of posts saying it isn't real. :)

Can't out someone that's never had it. I can honestly say I've never had "writer's block." *knock on wood* I've never been without an idea, an inkling, something. I have so many ideas backed up that I actually have a backlog that should I get stumped, I just go back, see what I wrote and it jogs my memory. It helps to write down EVERYTHING. I have to because my short term memory is so bad that if I don't, I'll lose it. You should see the backlog of blog posts I can use. I'm upwards of 30 and should I need them, they're there. This way I'm never without. A new idea comes, I write it down and add it to the queue. I'm not one to waste and, on the off-chance I don't write down an idea, I kick myself for it.

BlueLucario
12-21-2007, 01:09 AM
I had three years of writer's block.

Trust me. It's real.

I have writers block all the time. I agree with dempsey on this one.

I have two types of writer's block.

1.) You can't think of a good scene for your story. You have good scenes for it, but you can't think of an event that occurs inbetween.You stare at the screen for three hours per day asking yourself, What happens next? After three hours, you can barely write a page. (I can't explain it. I have writer's block right now see?

2.) You have the idea in your head. You want to say what's going to happen. But what annoys me is that you can't write it down. You can't say it in a sentence properly without it sounding awkward.

It's annoying especially when you have deadlines, for school. And you get mad at yourself for not thinking straight. It seems that the only cure for this is to take a break, but you don't have time for breaks.

Those are my types of writer's block. And yes they exist.

DonnaDuck
12-21-2007, 01:47 AM
1.) You can't think of a good scene for your story. You have good scenes for it, but you can't think of an event that occurs inbetween.You stare at the screen for three hours per day asking yourself, What happens next? After three hours, you can barely write a page. (I can't explain it. I have writer's block right now see?

Solution #1--Instead of wasting your time trying to think up a scene that isn't coming, stop neglecting the other writing you do and work on that. Will the world implode if you write your book in nonsequential order? There's no reason why you can't continue writing another part of the book and come back to this later. If you know what happens after the fact, go ahead and write that. I find no logical sense to stall the entire book because you can't think of one scene, especially if you know what's going to happen after it.


2.) You have the idea in your head. You want to say what's going to happen. But what annoys me is that you can't write it down. You can't say it in a sentence properly without it sounding awkward.


Solution #2--Just write the freakin' sentence. Does it have to be Tolstoy as soon as your pen touches paper? At least just get it out. We don't have an editing process for nothing.

There we go. Two cures for two forms of "writers block." You're welcome.

BlueLucario
12-21-2007, 01:55 AM
Solution #1--Instead of wasting your time trying to think up a scene that isn't coming, stop neglecting the other writing you do and work on that. Will the world implode if you write your book in nonsequential order? There's no reason why you can't continue writing another part of the book and come back to this later. If you know what happens after the fact, go ahead and write that. I find no logical sense to stall the entire book because you can't think of one scene, especially if you know what's going to happen after it.



Solution #2--Just write the freakin' sentence. Does it have to be Tolstoy as soon as your pen touches paper? At least just get it out. We don't have an editing process for nothing.

There we go. Two cures for two forms of "writers block." You're welcome.


O...kay. Sorry if I annoyed you, but thanks.

Linda Adams
12-21-2007, 01:58 AM
Writer's block happened to me. It wasn't the kind where I sat in front of the screen and couldn't come up with a scene or figure out what to write. It wasn't a matter of coming up with something different or writing in a different area. I ran completely dry. I had been trying to break into Hollywood, and I wrote so much that I burned myself out. Everything just stopped. I couldn't come up with any ideas, I couldn't write, I couldn't do anything. It lasted for two years. I wanted to write, and it simply wasn't there.

Azure Skye
12-21-2007, 02:00 AM
I love Garrison Keillor.

That is all.

I'm not sure about the writer's block thingie.

Shweta
12-21-2007, 02:10 AM
I've had something that seems identical to writer's block. Asthma-induced hypoxia can certainly do it. Or I'd write and it'd be gibberish.

Better now, but I'm still like that with the dissertation. Something isn't working right.

On the other hand, I've also had times when I could not write, and a week later I'd discover that my brain was puttering away at problems I hadn't consciously realized I had, and the story was better for my setting aside the writing for a week.

I figure it probably isn't real -- for some people. And it probably is staggeringly, painfully real for others. Saying "it's not real" as a blanket statement is like the last few generations saying depression wasn't real, and the people suffering from it were just lazy. I don't buy it.

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 02:19 AM
...if you've never experienced it then you're very lucky...

Lucky? Or just very organised?


I had three years of writer's block.

Trust me. It's real.

So in three years you didn't write a thing? Not a note, a text message, an email, a shopping list, a letter, you didn't sign a cheque or scribble a memo?

What people call "writer's block" is nothing more than not knowing what to write next, or not training yourself to write, or being scared of writing something less than golden, so choosing not to write at all. If you can hold a pen or type and are semi-literate, then you can write something.

geardrops
12-21-2007, 02:25 AM
So in three years you didn't write a thing? Not a note, a text message, an email, a shopping list, a letter, you didn't sign a cheque or scribble a memo?

What people call "writer's block" is nothing more than not knowing what to write next, or not training yourself to write, or being scared of writing something less than golden, so choosing not to write at all. If you can hold a pen or type and are semi-literate, then you can write something.

I wasn't aware composing a to-do list or writing an essay counted as writing.

I suppose we're setting the bar pretty low, then.

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 02:26 AM
I'm sure millions of students around the world would classify an essay as 'writing'.

geardrops
12-21-2007, 02:28 AM
Millions of students also classify drinking until you can't commit thought crime as "awesome."

Esopha
12-21-2007, 02:35 AM
Writing an essay is harder than writing a book.

IMO.

Rolling Thunder
12-21-2007, 02:35 AM
Stephen King talks about writer's block in his book, 'On Writing'. If King says he has experienced it, it must be real.

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 02:40 AM
Righto, I'll believe it exists if this conversation happens tomorrow.

Me: Colin? I'm afraid I can't come in today. I'm having a few life problems.
Colin: Oh? Nothing serious I hope?
Me: I'm experiencing sales adviser's block. I simply can't bring myself to put boxes on shelves.
Colin: My goodness, Nichola - that's terrible. You stay at home and feel sorry for yourself for as long as you need to. We'll take care of everything here.

Rolling Thunder
12-21-2007, 02:44 AM
I think it will become one of those believable things when your career is on the line, Peaches. Nothing says WTF like having a publisher anxiously waiting for your next MS and you've run into a wall trying to make it better than the last.

Lotta pressure there...

geardrops
12-21-2007, 02:45 AM
When you define 'writing' as simply 'the act of putting words on paper' then yes, writer's block doesn't exist. I'd like to think this is the wrong definition, but perhaps I'm just setting my standards too high. I like sentences to be coherent. Maybe that's my mistake.

I'm going to take a quote from 101 Reasons blog: "Anyone can be a writer, if you set the bar low enough."

(Oh, and people shouldn't mope, pine, and feel sorry for themselves over their writer's block. I just kept trying and played a lot more video games. Life's hard. Get a helmet.)

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 02:47 AM
I think it will become one of those believable things when your career is on the line, Peaches. Nothing says WTF like having a publisher anxiously waiting for your next MS and you've run into a wall trying to make it better than the last.

Lotta pressure there...

Maybe in your case, but I've experienced pressure and it's never stopped me writing. If I had a deadline (and I've had some) I'd meet it, no matter what was going on. I always have had, always will. Tempting fate? I don't think so. Writing's the one thing in my life that eases stress, not causes it.

Rolling Thunder
12-21-2007, 02:59 AM
Maybe in your case, but I've experienced pressure and it's never stopped me writing. If I had a deadline (and I've had some) I'd meet it, no matter what was going on. I always have had, always will. Tempting fate? I don't think so. Writing's the one thing in my life that eases stress, not causes it.

No, I wouldn't make a good case subject, since I'm not a 'professional' or career oriented writer. I can move on to another WIP if I'm stumped. What I mean is you've had a work published; one your editor loved because it sold like pancakes at a Fatman's convention. He wants you to run the characters out for another two or three book series.

You don't think there would be a lot of stress if the next one you turned in was sent back with the suggestion you 'edit this heavily because it doesn't have the same feel as the first'?

It's just a hypothetical situation but I would think, if it did happen, there would be some serious head pounding going on.

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 03:01 AM
Meh. I'd get on with it. Because the fact I'd delivered a complete manuscript in the first place would tell me I was capable. The fact I'd already had one novel published would tell me I was capable. You do something once, you can do it twice.

Shweta
12-21-2007, 03:34 AM
Here's the thing. If you haven't had it, the only thing you can be sure of is that you haven't had it.
People do freeze up. It is a bug in many biological systems. *shrug* Not everyone does, but some people do.

I'm with Dempsey on setting the bar rather higher than "Can I string words together", and have very definitely experienced days when I could not meet that bar. And not for lack of trying, lack of motivation, or lack of ideas.

Now, if you want to say that anyone who suffers from stuff that doesn't bother you is a whiner and should get over it, and there couldn't possibly be a problem because it hasn't affected you, that's obviously your opinion; but it's not a very coherent position.

And if that's how sensible someone's position is, well -- personally, I'll value it accordingly.

Karen Junker
12-21-2007, 04:03 AM
What if writer's block is really only the inability to get your stuff published?

Stormhawk
12-21-2007, 04:11 AM
I had block for eight straight months, I do believe it exists. I could not put down one creative word (college stuff was another matter). I got over it though, one day it just evaporated.

Most of the time though, I tend to believe in "writer's stuck" more than "writer's block" - a scene is bothering you, or you don't know what direction to take a character in. These are just problems to be worked out - you can pout and moan, but that really doesn't do any good. The only way to get past it is to put one word after another down until you get past the problem and to the good stuff.

Dakota Waters
12-21-2007, 04:56 AM
Scarlet, good for you-- you have a lot of confidence and a pretty cut and dried view of this sort of thing. It works for you, and that's great, but that doesn't mean it's going to work for everyone. Creativity isn't (and shouldn't be) like stocking shelves and if you really, truly believe that it is, then you're probably not much of a writer-- I think that's a terrible analogy to try and make.

There are times when I don't write and it's because I'm lazy. There are times when I don't write and it's because I'm afraid it won't turn out how I want it to turn out. When it's either of these, I sit myself down and try to force at least a few hundred words out-- and most of the time it turns out better than I would have imagined before starting.

But there are times when I'm just really depressed and couldn't will myself to type a creative word. If you've never experienced it, then it's probably hard to empathize with. I'll believe anyone who says "I've never experienced writer's block." But from that you can't really generalize that it doesn't exist. You can call 'writer's block' a lot of different things, but I know I've had times when I couldn't bring myself to write one single creative word. You don't have to believe me and you can call it laziness if you're feeling self righteous, but I've experienced it.

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 05:00 AM
Scarlet, good for you-- you have a lot of confidence and a pretty cut and dried view of this sort of thing. It works for you, and that's great, but that doesn't mean it's going to work for everyone. Creativity isn't (and shouldn't be) like stocking shelves and if you don't realize that then you're probably not much of a writer-- I think that's a terrible analogy to try and make.

Firstly, it's not your call whether I'm any good at writing or not.

Secondly, it wasn't an analogy, the shelf-stacking thing. I used it because that's my day job.


...But there are times when I'm just really depressed and couldn't will myself to type a creative word no matter what. If you've never experienced it, then it's probably hard to empathize with...

You think I've never been depressed? Ahem. Well I won't go into my full medical history here, suffice it to say yes I have been, and I'll always have that tendency. And writing is the only thing that's had any long-term success in pulling me out of it. It's the only time I feel proud of myself, that I'm doing any good, or that there's anything in life I'm good at. So writing has never, ever been the cause of stress or depression for me - but it's been the cure more times than either of us have had hot dinners.

otterman
12-21-2007, 05:04 AM
Don't believe in writer's block; I have too many ideas. Now time block is another thing.

geardrops
12-21-2007, 05:04 AM
Righto, I'll believe it exists if this conversation happens tomorrow.

Me: Colin? I'm afraid I can't come in today. I'm having a few life problems.
Colin: Oh? Nothing serious I hope?
Me: I'm experiencing sales adviser's block. I simply can't bring myself to put boxes on shelves.
Colin: My goodness, Nichola - that's terrible. You stay at home and feel sorry for yourself for as long as you need to. We'll take care of everything here.

This strikes me as an analogy (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/analogy). For at least two of us, it sounded like you were comparing writing to stocking shelves. Maybe you didn't intend it that way.

Dakota Waters
12-21-2007, 05:08 AM
Firstly, it's not your call whether I'm any good at writing or not.

Secondly, it wasn't an analogy, the shelf-stacking thing. I used it because that's my day job.



You think I've never been depressed? Ahem. Well I won't go into my full medical history here, suffice it to say yes I have been, and I'll always have that tendency. And writing is the only thing that's had any long-term success in pulling me out of it. It's the only time I feel proud of myself, that I'm doing any good, or that there's anything in life I'm good at. So writing has never, ever been the cause of stress or depression for me - but it's been the cure more times than either of us have had hot dinners.

I can't judge your writing ability because all I've read by you is a few forum posts. My point was that if you actually believed that creativity is in the same vein as stocking shelves I'd have my worries for you.

And it's great that you can deal with your depression by writing-- that it's a source of strength for you, that it's your outlet. But my point is that depression (and other factors) affect different individuals in different ways, and to universalize your experience and discount the notion of writer's block simply because you've never experienced it is pretty reductive.

Moon Daughter
12-21-2007, 05:39 AM
I think arguing about whether writer's block exists or not is kind of a waste. I only say this because everyone has their own ideas. Obviously, the idea of writer's block doesn't have a concrete definition...especially one that we can't all concur with. The idea of writer's block is very subjective. It's also offensive (not that I'm saying anyone did here) when someone tells another that they have "writer's block" because they're lazy. It's only that person's idea that deduces another's "laziness". The point is, I suppose, is that we can't really prove or disprove it. However, we should all be highly respectful of anothers opinion. Sorry if this post sounded awkward or negative. Have a great night everyone!

DonnaDuck
12-21-2007, 05:39 AM
Don't believe in writer's block; I have too many ideas. Now time block is another thing.

Ditto on this one. For me, I see "writer's block" as nothing more than making up excuses not to write. My "writer's block" is procrastination but it's entirely intentional and it's certainly an excuse. The way I see it, writers don't run out of ideas. Maybe you get stuck on how to portray that idea but if you have ideas, and you speak an Earth-bound language, you should be able to write them down. The words don't have to be creative but if it portrays your ideas, write it down. Shit, write in binary code if it makes you happy and if you can read it. No one says the idea itself has to be creative, just the finished product. If no one sees it until the end, what the hell does it matter what it looks like before then? The only way to get over not writing is to write.

And don't get me started on depression. I think it's a term that's just as overused as having ADD.

Shweta
12-21-2007, 05:40 AM
Here's an analogy for the "I don't believe it exists" position, from my point of view:

I have an entire set of relatives who think is I just applied myself, the asthma would go away and I could get all these things done.
Needless to say, they don't have asthma.

DonnaDuck
12-21-2007, 05:45 AM
Here's an analogy for the "I don't believe it exists" position, from my point of view:

I have an entire set of relatives who think is I just applied myself, the asthma would go away and I could get all these things done.
Needless to say, they don't have asthma.

There's a huge difference between having a physiological condition that you have no control over and writing which you have every control in the world over. You don't need an inhaler to write. You don't need special medication to write. You just need a pen and some paper and if you applied yourself, you could get writing done. All the self-application in the world won't cure asthma. I think you just compared apples and oranges there.

Dakota Waters
12-21-2007, 05:50 AM
There's a huge difference between having a physiological condition that you have no control over and writing which you have every control in the world over. You don't need an inhaler to write. You don't need special medication to write. You just need a pen and some paper and if you applied yourself, you could get writing done. All the self-application in the world won't cure asthma. I think you just compared apples and oranges there.

Would it be apples and oranges if you told someone who's dyslexic to just read the fucking book and quit complaining?

I'm not saying that writer's block is a "disease," but I'm sure you see where I'm going with this-- there are clearly comparisons to psychological stuff that could be made as well, and I don't think it's too far out there to say that there are legitimate psychological hurldes that can get in the way of a person's writing.

If I'm reading you right, you want to be wary of 'excuses'-- the more excuses you let yourself make, the less productive it is. And I see your point there, and it's really important to try to write even when you feel like you just don't have it, because a lot of the time you can get some interesting stuff out even if you're not on your A-game.

Still, though, it just seems to reductive to summarily reject the experiences of so many folks who find that there are times when that approach just doesn't yield much result. Just because it's a psychological hurlde, does that make it any less of a hurdle?

Shweta
12-21-2007, 05:51 AM
There's a huge difference between having a physiological condition that you have no control over and writing which you have every control in the world over.

I'm glad you're more enlightened than some members of my family on that :D
However, I disagree with all the rest. The brain is a physical object. Thinking is a physical process.

If something's messed up in your neurochemistry, you'll have psychological effects. It works the other way, too. Stress has clear and quantifiable effects on your physiological state.

It's very easy to say that cognitive ability is a different thing from physical ability, but it's also just plain wrong. They're different aspects of our physical systems, and they're affected by many of the same things.



You don't need an inhaler to write. You don't need special medication to write. You just need a pen and some paper and if you applied yourself, you could get writing done.

Assuming that all else is well, yes. But if not, no.

If all else is well for you, that's awesome. I'm happy for you.
But I think it's badly muddled thinking to generalize that to everybody, and simply refuse to believe that there could possibly be a problem.

I do agree that sometimes people whine about writer's block in order not to face why they're actually not writing. But it doesn't actually follow that the problem does not exist. That's like saying kids complain that they have headaches to stay home from school, thus headaches don't exist.

geardrops
12-21-2007, 06:00 AM
Maybe you get stuck on how to portray that idea...

Well, yes. That's a good chunk of writer's block, isn't it? The bulk of it, even?

What you're saying is that someone could jot down a bare-bones synopsis of their story with remedial, vaguely coherent language and call it writing. It's part of the writing process for some but FFS, it's not writing. It's like calling the sketches prior to carving up that marble "sculpting."

Once more, maybe I just hold a higher standard than "words on paper." Maybe this makes me a snob. If so, I think I'm okay with that.

ETA

{you know, I don't need to be a jerk}

Shweta
12-21-2007, 06:05 AM
Different people do write differently, and some work very well with blorping words on paper and fixing them later. Some of us don't.

What I'm seeing here is that some people don't believe that the process is different for everyone. My evidence says they're wrong, but it's not my job to convince 'em or theirs to convince me. We'll see how it goes for all of us, I guess, and only time will tell -- and for now we should probably all be writing :)

(That's me bowing out of this thread)

Rolling Thunder
12-21-2007, 06:06 AM
You just need a pen and some paper and if you applied yourself, you could get writing done. All the self-application in the world won't cure asthma. I think you just compared apples and oranges there.

Well, yeah, if your desire is to simply whack out as many words as possible applying yourself is a good manner of doing just that. But, if writing is defined as a 'craft' by those who see it as an art form, then this isn't always the case. And make no mistake, writing -is- an art form. Putting 15,000 words down on paper is all fine and good until you realize 12,000 of those words can go. Choosing which words can bring on some serious questioning. Maybe it should be called 'editors block' instead.

Sculptors and painters hit low spots where everything they produce fail to satisfy their desire to achieve their artistic goal. Writers can't be any less susceptible. Professionals in all walks of life: be they architects, or party planners, or interior decorators, all hit burnout points.

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 06:17 AM
...What you're saying is that someone could jot down a bare-bones synopsis of their story with remedial, vaguely coherent language and call it writing. It's part of the writing process for some but FFS, it's not writing.

You think that refusing to believe in writers' block means first drafts and synopses are written in remedial, vaguely coherent language?

Uh, no. I write to the best of my abilities at all times. Sure, I edit for the second draft and for the manuscript, but I've never in my life used remedial language.

And yes, it is writing, italicised.

The problem is too many people expect to write golden prose on the first draft and if they don't, they complain, "I'm blocked!"

No you're not. You just have to accept not every draft will be perfect. You can't edit what you haven't written. The only cure for 'writer's block' is - funnily enough - writing.

You can write, so get on with it. Oh sure, you might have problems in your life, other demands on your time - who doesn't? But if you have a story idea in your head and a reasonable command of language, you have all the tools you need.

That's the bottom line here. The 'cure' doesn't come from anywhere else but the writer. He has the words in his head and no-one else can get them out.

Now I'm not saying writers are always in the zone, or that they always spew perfect prose like it's as easy as falling off a log. Sometimes you have to search for the right phrase or say, "I'll sketch it for now and come back to flesh it out later." But the words are in your head. No one else can write the book for you.


Different people do write differently, and some work very well with blorping words on paper and fixing them later. Some of us don't.

And some of us don't 'blorp' words on paper at all. We write. Because, well...we're writers. Not the sort of people to agonise over every last word and then complain about being blocked while accusing others of spewing out any old rubbish just to call it a first draft.

The only way to write a book is to get on with it and just get the damn words down. Fretting over golden prose or going over every little life-stress won't help and if something doesn't help you write, why do it?

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 06:19 AM
Well, yeah, if your desire is to simply whack out as many words as possible applying yourself is a good manner of doing just that. But, if writing is defined as a 'craft' by those who see it as an art form, then this isn't always the case. And make no mistake, writing -is- an art form. Putting 15,000 words down on paper is all fine and good until you realize 12,000 of those words can go. Choosing which words can bring on some serious questioning. Maybe it should be called 'editors block' instead.

Sculptors and painters hit low spots where everything they produce fail to satisfy their desire to achieve their artistic goal. Writers can't be any less susceptible. Professionals in all walks of life: be they architects, or party planners, or interior decorators, all hit burnout points.

Doesn't apply if your first draft is of a pretty good standard.

Sure, easy for me to say, all unpublished and all. But do I stress about improving? No. I learn from my previous writing, try to improve and get on with it.

Not everyone who writes 15,000 words then has to change 12,000 of them.

Not believing in writer's block does not mean your first drafts are crap. It means they get written.

Dakota Waters
12-21-2007, 06:24 AM
At this point I'm going to echo Shweta, agree to disagree, and call it a thread for my part.

Shweta
12-21-2007, 06:36 AM
Actually I'm gonna step back in long enough to say that I think there's a miscommunication here, before it blows up :)

People are (to the best of my knowledge, certainly I was) responding to this:


If no one sees it until the end, what the hell does it matter what it looks like before then?

Nobody was accusing Scarlet, or anyone in particular, of anything. To the best of my knowledge.

Some people do write first dtrafts by braindumping, and take out the suck in edits. Some people need pretty darn good first drafts. There is a wide variety. Acknowledging that is not insulting anyone. Possibly, not acknowledging that is.

Rolling Thunder
12-21-2007, 06:38 AM
Doesn't apply if your first draft is of a pretty good standard.

Sure, easy for me to say, all unpublished and all. But do I stress about improving? No. I learn from my previous writing, try to improve and get on with it.

Not everyone who writes 15,000 words then has to change 12,000 of them.

Not believing in writer's block does not mean your first drafts are crap. It means they get written.

It's easy for me to say as well. I don't stress about improving either, but I do work at it just like everyone else. But I do believe more writers tap out large amounts of story, only to find they've told the wrong one and become stuck on how to dig out the right story. There are plenty of abandoned works out there that just got shelved because the story didn't go where the writer thought, or hoped, it would.

To me, this is what represents writer's block. Having a story that just dies in vitro.

ETA: I don't see a blowup occurring. I see differing opinions making for a good conversation on perceived philosophies.

But if I pull a PeeDee and start using the word 'fascinating'...someone please kill me. :D

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 06:43 AM
See, to me, that's more a case of hit and miss. Or thinking, "Meh. I don't have the tools needed to write this story, or the objectivity, or the balls..."

I think it was Uncle Jim who said no writing is wasted, so even if I started a story that I later abandoned, I'd learn from it.

There's one novel I set aside, not with the intention of leaving it forever, but with the intent to come back to it later, once I'd a) learned a bit more about grief b)found out how a 21-year-old in this city could get hold of a gun and c)researched pregnancy - obviously not for the gun-toting lad...;)

Not writer's block of course - just lack of research/over-ambition.

I'll go back to it one day, but there are other stories I'm in a better position to write at the moment. Get blocked? Not on your life! There are so many ideas out there and always something to be written. And the only person who can tell my tales is me, so I have a duty to bring my genius to the world.

*cough*

CheshireCat
12-21-2007, 06:45 AM
I don't believe in writer's block -- but I do believe in story block and I believe in burnout.

When I'm blocked in a story, it usually means I need to let the story simmer on the back burner for a while. Took me years to understand that, and longer to teach myself to go do something else for a while (sometimes just sleep) until the tangles work themselves loose.

Burnout is an entirely different thing, and I've watched too many good writers go through it not to believe in it. I've also seen a few who never came back, though most do.

The third thing I believe is that life gets in the way sometimes, and if you do this long enough, you learn to cope with that the best way you can.

And your mileage will vary.

Rolling Thunder
12-21-2007, 06:47 AM
I think that's where some definitions differ. I do find it hard to view writer's block as a case where putting words -any words- down on paper is a good definition. Getting a story right, to the point where everything moves forward properly with good pacing and a tight plot with interesting characters, the way the writer -wants- it, and the manner in which the story itself takes control (throwing the writer for a loop) is what I see as writer's block.

ETA: And...Cheshire beat me to it. :cry:

Shweta
12-21-2007, 06:50 AM
ETA: I don't see a blowup occurring. I see differing opinions making for a good conversation on perceived philosophies.

I should say, I saw an apparent miscommunication:


Not believing in writer's block does not mean your first drafts are crap.

...which nobody was saying. So I figured it was worth noting that, to keep the conversation good. Having said that, I'm out again, to pack, crit, and then hopefully to write.

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 06:51 AM
Is it writer's block, though? Or is it simply part of the creative process, to come up with a rough draft you then hone and perfect to the best of your abilities?

Calling it writer's block gives it too much power.

Painters do sketches, as do sculptors. Chefs have practise runs for complicated menus. Athletes go through training. Do they call it painter's/sculptor's/chef's/athlete's block? Or do they just get on with it and recognise they can't be at the top of their profession straight off, and need trial periods, practise, training?

ETA: This was a reply to Thunderboy's post.

Toothpaste
12-21-2007, 07:03 AM
Isn't it "writer's block" when you sit and stare at a blank screen or empty page and simply cannot think of a single thing to write and so go visit AW instead?

Moon Daughter
12-21-2007, 07:07 AM
Isn't it "writer's block" when you sit and stare at a blank screen or empty page and simply cannot think of a single thing to write and so go visit AW instead?

Ha! That's exactly what I do...am doing actually.

Rolling Thunder
12-21-2007, 07:10 AM
Is it writer's block, though? Or is it simply part of the creative process, to come up with a rough draft you then hone and perfect to the best of your abilities?

Calling it writer's block gives it too much power.

Painters do sketches, as do sculptors. Chefs have practise runs for complicated menus. Athletes go through training. Do they call it painter's/sculptor's/chef's/athlete's block? Or do they just get on with it and recognise they can't be at the top of their profession straight off, and need trial periods, practise, training?

ETA: This was a reply to Thunderboy's post.

That might be where CC's definition of story block works better in these cases.

Rolling Thunder
12-21-2007, 07:14 AM
Isn't it "writer's block" when you sit and stare at a blank screen or empty page and simply cannot think of a single thing to write and so go visit AW instead?


Ha! That's exactly what I do...am doing actually.

I tend to write better when I'm playing around on AW. I can't say why, maybe it just works better for me. I've caught myself writing a scene or two in a reply window instead of in MS Word. :ROFL:

Moon Daughter
12-21-2007, 07:16 AM
I tend to write better when I'm playing around on AW. I can't say why, maybe it just works better for me. I've caught myself writing a scene or two in a reply window instead of in MS Word. :ROFL:

I think it helps being here, too, because it motivates me. When I read about so many people fulfilling their dreams and just working really hard to get published, it makes me want to slap myself silly and get back on the ole' laptop and write, write, write!

IceCreamEmpress
12-21-2007, 07:32 AM
"This has never happened to me" != "This does not exist".

Simple solutions to complex problems are a waste of everyone's time. Unhappily single? Just meet someone you love and get married! Unhappy with your weight? Eat less and exercise, or eat more and exercise! Worried about your financial situation? Just earn more money!


I don't have much tolerance for Garrison Keillor and his faux-downhome shtick. He often makes grand public pronouncements that are poorly thought out, at best.

Cranky
12-21-2007, 08:02 AM
That might be where CC's definition of story 'block works better in these cases.

Hmmm. That's actually a really interesting definition for what's been ailing me. I don't lack for ideas...I'm struggling with finding the right way to tell my stories.

Couple that with a chatterbox inner editor, and I end up in the doldrums. It looks a bit like writer's block, but it really isn't.

That actually makes me feel a darn sight better...

benbradley
12-21-2007, 08:08 AM
Isn't it "writer's block" when you sit and stare at a blank screen or empty page and simply cannot think of a single thing to write and so go visit AW instead?
That's called "surfing the net." I can only wonder what "writers with writer's block" did other than "not write" before the InterWeb came along.

scarletpeaches
12-21-2007, 10:37 AM
"This has never happened to me" != "This does not exist".

Simple solutions to complex problems are a waste of everyone's time. Unhappily single? Just meet someone you love and get married! Unhappy with your weight? Eat less and exercise, or eat more and exercise! Worried about your financial situation? Just earn more money!


I don't have much tolerance for Garrison Keillor and his faux-downhome shtick. He often makes grand public pronouncements that are poorly thought out, at best.

No, simple solutions are not a waste of time; simple solutions are often the most obvious ones that nobody wants to face up to but the ones you used as examples don't quite measure up, because meeting someone and getting married depends on someone else. As does earning more money. Losing weight? Well that all depends on you, too. No one else puts food in your mouth, and no one else can get the words out of your head. No one else is responsible for your writing, so who else is supposed to get you out your 'block'? I'm coming at it from a point of view of personal responsibility, so agree wholeheartedly with Keillor.

pepperlandgirl
12-21-2007, 01:51 PM
That's called "surfing the net." I can only wonder what "writers with writer's block" did other than "not write" before the InterWeb came along.

Drink, I suppose.

VGrossack
12-21-2007, 02:27 PM
as so often, I've written a column on the issue. here's the link, and article is below

http://www.coffeehouseforwriters.com/fictionfix/0604%20Grossack.html

Writer's Block Remedies
Victoria Grossack

There are the marvelous hours during which the words and pages flow like beautiful music from my fingertips. But there are other hours, too, when each word is like a note sung off-key, or when words simply don’t come at all.

This condition is known as writer’s block. Writer’s block arises from many different situations, so although the result may be the same – your writing is either absent or poor – the treatments vary. Below I give you a list of some of the remedies I have encountered or developed for writer’s block.

Send your judgmental you on vacation

Years ago, I read a marvelous article by Nancy Kress1 in Writers Digest, which talked about how a writer needs to be two people. The first person, responsible for the first draft, is a creative type, who needs to be encouraged. The second person is the editor, who makes all the corrections, who refines and polishes and even engages in major surgery. This creature is also necessary – but not in the beginning.

My judgmental me can paralyze my writing. I particularly notice this after finishing a long project, which, in its final stage, was sheer delight, because the story thrilled, the words sang. I could actually sit back and admire my own talent.

But my confidence is shattered when I start a new project. Each word feels like lead; the story stinks; everything I’m writing is bad, bad, bad, and that voice in my head keeps telling me so. My previous satisfaction with my abilities was obviously misplaced and delusional. The phrase “pride goeth before a fall” comes frequently to mind. Sometimes I wonder if aliens replaced me during the night with some other person?

My problem is that my judgmental me, who was necessary for the polishing stage, blocks me with too-early and too-harsh criticism during the difficult, sensitive, creative stage of the new work. I have to accept that my first draft is after all, only a first draft, and that the words can be rearranged, deleted, replaced. I have to turn off the carping voice in my head and instead encourage the words to flow, no matter how poor they are. Besides, it’s often easier to re-write than to create the first draft.

Write when you’re at your writing best

I like to write first thing in the morning. Actually, that’s a lie. I like to write second thing. I need to have coffee first, and I need to stop beating myself up for the initial twenty minutes of unproductivity while the caffeine takes effect.

I have also recognized that with the schedule of my day-job, I can’t expect to write every day. Mondays and Tuesdays are usually too demanding in the office for me to expect much of myself at home. During some parts of the year, the work intensity continues the entire week. My goal is to hit five days out of the week – usually Wednesday through Sunday - and stop chastising myself for missing the other two.

You should study your own rhythms during the day and the week and find when you’re best suited for writing. If you need to reorganize your patterns, do so. One writer told me he used to exercise in the morning and write in the evening – but then switched them, so that he could take advantage of his morning mental high. Night owls will be better in the later part of the day.

Writing rituals

Sometimes it helps to engage in a ritual which helps you settle down to write. Many people like a cup of tea or coffee. I read one article where a fellow put on a business suit, drove around the block, and then entered his office to start his work day as a writer.

Lighting a candle is how I summon my muse. Classical music is also good, as long as it’s not too intense. I have written thousands of words while listening to Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” is another favorite, as are many pieces by Bach.

Defend your time from others

Once you have found a peak writing time, you have to keep other people from intruding. This may mean shutting the door, hanging up the phone, explaining to people that you really are busy.

Defend your time from yourself
I don’t need other people to help me waste time; I can manage this all by myself. I have to turn off the television and unplug the internet, or even disable my wireless connection.

I also have to keep myself from doing things which are not exactly time wasters. For example, aerobics and straightening up the house are both worthwhile activities – but they keep me from writing. It’s very hard to do it all. It’s even harder to do it all simultaneously.

Take care of yourself
Often, other things take priority over writing. Something physical or emotional may prevent you from putting good words into your story. Although writing can be therapeutic of itself, or simply a pleasant escape into a fantasy world, real life demands attention.

Figure out where your story goes next

Often, you don’t know what to write next because you really don’t know what happens next. Recognize this and figure it out. Perhaps it’s time to end this scene and move on to the next.

Write out of sequence
Computers allow us to write in any order that we like. So, when you don’t know what happens next in your story, write a scene that you do know and worry about creating the transition between those scenes later.

Outline your story
Sometimes, when you’re blocked, it helps to take a big picture view. I will write out brief summaries of what is happening, either scene by scene or chapter by chapter. This allows me to get a better for feel for the big picture, to see where I am repeating myself, to see what is missing in the story, to see which threads need to be worked on.

Use pen and paper
When I am really stuck, I sometimes revert to the old-fashioned way of writing: pen and paper. This is annoying, because it means that I am doing everything twice: first on the page, and then typing it into the computer. On the other hand, pen and paper are more mobile than my laptop, and sometimes the words flow better through the pen than through the keyboard.

Prime the pump
I feel that I should write after my day job as well as before – but often it’s not easy to get myself sit down when I get home. Occasionally I write a few sentences before leaving the office, or perhaps, work schedule permitting, during my lunch hour. Then I e-mail these words to myself. That means there’s something fresh to look at, a little bit of progress, when I get home.

Another way to prime the pump is simply by thinking about what I want to write next when I have a few extra moments – for example, when riding in a car, or sitting on a subway or tram, or standing in line at some cashier’s. I need to concentrate on specifics, though, not on global generalities. When I have imagined a scene, or worked out parts of an article, the words flow much more easily.

Use small amounts of time
Even though there is little more rewarding than sitting down for hours with the knowledge that I can write for a long, uninterrupted while, when I have only a few minutes they can be useful too. I can use these minutes, not to always write with elegance, but to jot down what I want to happen in the next scene. Sometimes, twenty good minutes produce 250 good words. Moreover, when I don’t have a lot of time, these small increments make me feel less alien to my writing when I finally do get back to it.

Break up large amounts of time
Sometimes I have managed to have some time on my own – perfect for writing – yet instead of being productive, I’m squirming in my chair. It helps to break up the time or the writing. I might break up the time by putting on a CD and writing during it. I might want to write 1,500 words that day, but give myself points for each 250 words achieved. I use 250 words as my usual block, because it more or less represents a page, or at least it used to. Sometimes I will write for a spell and then do some aerobics – or, I confess, take a nap.

Vary your approach
Once, when I was struggling with a chapter that was in bad shape, I printed out the relevant pages and put them in my knapsack with some paper and a pen. Then I went to a place where I often walked, and began my usual hike. But this time I walked for twenty or thirty minutes, then took a break and forced myself to write a page. When my route allowed it, I stopped for tea and pie and wrote in a tea shop. This turned out to be one of my greatest writing memories.

Sometimes, there is no cure
Occasionally I work on a piece that is not going anywhere and really should not go anywhere. It’s time to put that piece away and work on something else. Maybe I will get back to it; maybe not. Hopefully I console myself having learned something.

Conclusion
In short, if you want to overcome your writer’s block, it helps if you understand what causes it. Your reasons may be purely physical, such as exhaustion, or that being so busy that you have no time. Your problem may be that something in your life requires so much emotional energy that none remains for your writing. Or your difficulties may arise from your relationship with the story that you’re working on, in that you don’t know what happens next or that it doesn’t really inspire you. If you write for years you will encounter many variants of writer’s block, and will have to resolve them by different means.

1I could not remember in which article Nancy Kress used that idea, so I contacted her and asked. Although she remembers writing it, she could not remember which article either.

****
This article is the sole property of the author. It is produced here with the author's permission. The unauthorized use or reprinting of an article is illegal, and will be prosecuted at the discretion of the author.

Elodie-Caroline
12-21-2007, 03:12 PM
Hi everyone and thank you very much for your interesting and thoughtful replies; there are so many parts to consider.

Firstly - writing crap - Yep, I can definitely admit to that. When I have an idea for a story or a new chapter for it, I'll sit here and rush out the bare bones of it, it's all tell and not show; then I return and flesh it out when I feel in the writing mood.
I mostly write crap on the internet too; it's a fast media, I read it and write it fast, thankfully I take my time when writing out my novels after the first rushed ideas of a draft.


# # #


Writer's block - I agree mostly with Nichola on this. I sit here writing and know that I have other projects to start, once this novel is finished. I've worked on a sequel for months, condensed it and have put it together with my finished novel. Once that is as finished as I can make it, I have a story in my head about Basque separatists in Biarritz and a kidnapping caper.
Sometimes I think I might not have anything else to write and my ideas have dried up, once the said projects are finished, then I always seem to find something that gives me inspiration for another story.

I write for pleasure, I'm not under any kind of deadline; maybe if I were and couldn't meet the deadline, I would say I had writers block, it seems like a good get out clause to me. But, for me personally, when I'm not writing, it's not because I have writers block, it's because I can't be bothered to, because I'm too lazy to think and to sit and write, it's as simple as that.
I haven't written anything for a whole week at the moment; I haven't felt like doing it, I've been sorting stuff out for Christmas instead. Although my hands haven't been at my PC's keyboard, my mind has been going over plots and sub-plots for my works though.

Writers block? I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid of around 12 years old. Besides writing the odd poem here and there, when I was brokenhearted, over someone I wrongly let into my life, I didn't start writing until I was 43 years old. That must be the biggest bout of writers block ever eh? No, it's because I was living life; falling in love, getting pissed and stoned, having ups and downs, finding my own unique style and finding out who ME really was, that's all.

I had to wait until I was in my mid forties to have inspiration to write and now it's my life. I couldn't have forced myself to write, through all of those other wilderness years, just to make myself known as a writer, because that's what I wanted other people to think I was. Yes, I do think that ambition does get in the way of real talent for some people.

P.S. Through my wilderness years, I did have ideas for books, but I neither had the time or the inclination to write them.

Oh, and Merry Christmas and/or Season's greetings to you all!

Elodie

swvaughn
12-21-2007, 06:24 PM
I don't think you're the only believer here. I think you're just one of the few willing to out themselves after such a heavy set of posts saying it isn't real. :)

I'll out myself. I get writer's block sometimes...

It's the kind that is induced through a general state of being flat broke, working two or three jobs, and having fallen for more scams, newbie agents/publishers and frustrations* than I'd care to think about in ten years or so of "serious" writing.

For me, I know I have writer's block when I sit down to write, and all I can do is cry for a while, give up, and go to bed.

Sucksville, man. Time's always a problem, inclination never is, but sometimes the words desert me.

(*I do have a real agent now and anticipate the possibility of success with at least one novel any day - after the first one she represented failed to sell - when I get through these loverly revisions... :) Sometimes I feel really stupid for continuing to subscribe to Tim Allen's 'never give up' theory!)

Elodie-Caroline
12-21-2007, 07:17 PM
At least you've got an agent, which is a lot further than some of us will ever get.
But no, don't ever give up! I wouldn't give up, even if it only meant that beta readers ever got to read me; so long as I know a few people enjoyed my stories, that makes me happy. I told one lady, who read my finished work, what my synopsis was for the new story, I haven't even started it yet, but she wants to read it when it is and that gives me enormous pleasure to know that. :)



(*I do have a real agent now and anticipate the possibility of success with at least one novel any day - after the first one she represented failed to sell - when I get through these loverly revisions... :) Sometimes I feel really stupid for continuing to subscribe to Tim Allen's 'never give up' theory!)

DonnaDuck
12-21-2007, 07:39 PM
Just because it's a psychological hurlde, does that make it any less of a hurdle?

Considering "writer's block" isn't recognized by the medical community as a verifiable psychological condition, my point is valid. It's a self-fulfilling fantasy. You get a block and think you can't write. That block continues and you get further and further discouraged. Instead of thinking you can, you think you can't and then spiral down into your own negative thinking, thus further blocking yourself.

It's amazing how much people are writing about not being able to write. You couldn't get a bigger oxymoron if you dropped Paris Hilton at a convent. Ever think of turning your writer's block into some actual writing? You have a character that's ripping their hair out because they can't write anything creative when, really, they've been dreams and he's been sleep-writing and hiding his work on himself. Kind of lame but who's to say that can't build into something?

I think having the ability to say I can instead of I bad thing that happens to me, I look to find the positive in that event and yes, there is always one and you wouldn't believe how beneficial that line of thinking actually is. It's much more productive than wallowing in self-pity and complaining about how you can't write and being your run of the mill Debbie Downer. And no, I haven't read The Secret. I refuse to read that tripe. Ready for the ending? Think happy thoughts. I just saved everyone $15.

As for burning out, I complete agree with that one. I'm getting close now so I know I have to step back to save a brain poof but everyone needs a break every now and then. Just because you burn out doesn't mean your ideas stop. You've just worked yourself to the grindstone and need a break. And then there's procrastination which I am a guilty party of. Still have plenty of ideas but that Treasures of the Deep game isn't going to play itself you know.

DonnaDuck
12-21-2007, 08:45 PM
"This has never happened to me" != "This does not exist".

Simple solutions to complex problems are a waste of everyone's time. Unhappily single? Just meet someone you love and get married! Unhappy with your weight? Eat less and exercise, or eat more and exercise! Worried about your financial situation? Just earn more money!


I don't have much tolerance for Garrison Keillor and his faux-downhome shtick. He often makes grand public pronouncements that are poorly thought out, at best.


Nice generalization . . . but no. In that frame of reference cancer doesn't exist, neither does measles, polio or any other of the plethora of medical conditions that I don't have. You can't rationalize your way out of cancer but "writer's block" is a different story. It's not a proven, it's different things to different people with different definitions and hasn't happened to everyone. It just so happens that there are those of us that can rationalize our way out of the term "writer's block" using examples from our own experiences and so on and so forth. The thing is, for some of us it doesn't exist expressly because we can rationalize our way around it. Can't write? Just shut up and do it. First draft crap? That's why it's called a first draft and that's why there's editing. Does writer's block exist for me? Nope. Why? Because I refuse to stop writing and no one else but me is going to see it until I've edited it so no, I really don't care how it comes out initially as long as it comes out. I don't put my work through seven edits for nothing. Many people who "suffer" from writer's block have set the bar so high that it's impossible for them to reach it and when they can't, they cry blocked. That's no one's fault but their own.

JimmyB27
12-21-2007, 09:07 PM
(All bolding mine)

I see what you're saying, and agree with you mostly. It's not technically writer's block, but, if a person has horrible things going on that it affects their concentration when they actually sit down and try to write, it is a block.

An author once told me that "writer's block" is really the self-doubt, self-esteem and fears that writers are dealing with.
So what would technically be writer's block?


Lucky? Or just very organised?



So in three years you didn't write a thing? Not a note, a text message, an email, a shopping list, a letter, you didn't sign a cheque or scribble a memo?
If you think that writing a shopping list or a text message (or even a txt msg) are the same as writing a novel, then I sincerely hope I never read any of your fiction.


What people call "writer's block" is nothing more than not knowing what to write next, or not training yourself to write, or being scared of writing something less than golden, so choosing not to write at all. If you can hold a pen or type and are semi-literate, then you can write something.
That's three different definitions you've come up with for something you claim doesn't exist.


ETA: I just noticed I missed out two pages of this thread. I must be more tired than I thought...

IceCreamEmpress
12-21-2007, 09:39 PM
I'm coming at it from a point of view of personal responsibility, so agree wholeheartedly with Keillor.


Trust me, I come at life from a "point of view of personal responsibility" too. From my point of view of personal responsibility, telling other people that their problems don't exist is an irresponsible thing to do.


I should say that I don't think "writer's block" exists as some objective entity, the way "bauxite" exists. I think it's a phrase people use to describe various differing psychological experiences of having difficulty writing. I think some people experience it because of fear of failure, and others experience it because of fear of success, and others experience it because of a larger depression, and others experience it because of a larger anxiety, etc., etc.

To say "there's no such thing" as someone else's psychological experience doesn't make sense to me. To say that other people "just need to get over" their psychological difficulties isn't helpful. Yes, people need to get over them, but it's not a magic process that's accomplished simply by saying so. People need to find the solutions that work for them, and the resources they need to help them get there.

Elodie-Caroline
12-21-2007, 10:49 PM
Oh, I don't know. Some of us ladies can be pretty creative, when writing our shopping lists, you know, as we never know just whom might read them. ;)


If you think that writing a shopping list or a text message (or even a txt msg) are the same as writing a novel, then I sincerely hope I never read any of your fiction.

scarletpeaches
12-22-2007, 01:17 AM
...If you think that writing a shopping list or a text message (or even a txt msg) are the same as writing a novel, then I sincerely hope I never read any of your fiction...

Right, so you judge the quality of my writing from the fact I refuse to believe crying writer's block! means you are physically incapable of writing? You might want to look up the definition of sarcasm in your dictionary.

Don't worry dear. I don't think my work is your kind of thing, anyway.

Toothpaste
12-22-2007, 01:34 AM
I just think everyone has their own definition of writer's block, at least that's the impression I got from this debate.

Up until I read this thread, I had always assumed writer's block was that temporary situation where you just had nothing to write. At all. Stare at page (screen). Blink. Blink. It could last a minute, it could last a couple of days, but it wasn't an excuse not to write. It was simply something you had to work your way through. Something that happened just as moments of inspiration happen.

Okay, so to me this will always be what writer's block is, but it is interesting to read the opinions of others on here. Much to think about.

Danger Jane
12-22-2007, 01:43 AM
Does it really matter the cause of the block? Sometimes, it's just impossible for some people to write anything, and that's the definition of writer's block:


a usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work.


n. A usually temporary psychological inability to begin or continue work on a piece of writing.


a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece of writing

Sometimes things that are normally quite possible are quite impossible, and at least some of the time I'd attribute writer's block to a psychological issue, probably chemical in nature. I mean, just because there hasn't been any hard research on it, dismissing it? Maybe it's a temporary OCD thing. I dunno. But personally, I'd rather scientists spent their resources studying more significant than writer's block.


It could last a minute, it could last a couple of days, but it wasn't an excuse not to write. It was simply something you had to work your way through. Something that happened just as moments of inspiration happen.

I think that's what it is. And well, we are writers, aren't we? So isn't everything we experience sort of part of writing? The month you can't seem to write anything is, in its own way, as valuable as the month you spend doing nothing but writing.

TrickyFiction
12-22-2007, 01:51 AM
I think:

"Writer's Block," as in a universal antagonist that prevents people from writing, does not exist.
"Writer's Block," as in any number of reasons a person's creative energy might be stunted, does exist.

The trick to getting over it, I think, is to know yourself. What gets you thinking: a walk, a shower, music, insomnia? ;). Try to use it. Staring at a screen doesn't create ideas. That's what you do when you already have one. To get ideas, do research on something, learn something new, or go somewhere new. I think it's a matter of refilling your head any way you can. Stuff everything into it and let it boil for awhile. Something's bound to happen with that mess.

And, yes, I am familiar with "A Prairie Home Companion." My husband grew up in Minnesota and would not allow me to live in ignorance any longer. That show is so... weird... and addictive.


So isn't everything we experience sort of part of writing? The month you can't seem to write anything is, in its own way, as valuable as the month you spend doing nothing but writing.

And, that. I have to add that just because its value warrants a second look.

P.C Greene
12-22-2007, 08:10 AM
I don't 'not' believe in writers block. Though i do think that the often used term primarily means that someone is not in their usual fit state. This usually happens to me when im writing somewhere i usually don't, for example; i usually write in my bedroom, where its warm and quiet, i can work fine there, however if i try to write in my bathroom i find it almost impossible.

Thats my view on writers block. I do think it exhists, just not as most people think it does. It's not like a mental wall you just can't pass. Work your way around it, it's not difficult.

Simple Living
12-23-2007, 01:09 AM
I think:

"Writer's Block," as in a universal antagonist that prevents people from writing, does not exist.
"Writer's Block," as in any number of reasons a person's creative energy might be stunted, does exist.

The trick to getting over it, I think, is to know yourself. What gets you thinking:...

Well said!

I'm going to step out on a limb by saying that I think most people (not indicating ANYONE here) enjoy having excuses instead of trying to resolve the problem.

Think about it. People everywhere are inclined to go right for the negative. Listen to the general statements people make and you'll hear a lot of negativity. "I hate Mondays." "My job sucks." It's become like a club you're part of by being negative and anyone who says anything positive is an outcast. I see this every day.

People love having excuses because it shakes the blame from any responsibility they have in a given situation. It's been said that people would rather have a known illness than try an unknown cure.

JimmyB27
12-23-2007, 05:08 AM
Right, so you judge the quality of my writing from the fact I refuse to believe crying writer's block! means you are physically incapable of writing? You might want to look up the definition of sarcasm in your dictionary.

Don't worry dear. I don't think my work is your kind of thing, anyway.
Sarcasm:
noun
Lowest form of wit.

;)

Seriously though, my point was - whoever said that writer's block is anything to do with being physically incapable of writing?
Sure, whatever I write doesn't have to be golden first time around (I've just about got over that one), but if I'm writing fiction, it does have to be driving the story forward in some way. And, for me at least, if I have no idea which way the story is driving, I have no idea what to write next. And this is what I call writer's block.
Of course I can still write shopping lists, but I think it highly unlikely that any amount of editing is going to make those attractive to a publisher.

Elodie-Caroline
12-23-2007, 05:35 AM
But when you're only five feet nothing tall, as I am, you're allowed to use it :tongue


Sarcasm:
noun
Lowest form of wit.


Oh, I don't know. Just imagine going to your nearest DIY shop... Pickaxe, rope, hammer, duct tape, roll of polythene sheeting etc.
Or to your local Anne Summers... Handcuffs, whip, chocolate willies, but I'll leave the rest to your imagination.

I could write some bloody good stories out of lists like those! :D


Of course I can still write shopping lists, but I think it highly unlikely that any amount of editing is going to make those attractive to a publisher.

BlueLucario
12-24-2007, 12:57 AM
Okay, I'm really not sure if writer's block really exist or not. I have those all the time, if that's not writer's block, then what is it? What causes writer's block?

Another type of writer's block is when your writing a scene and you don't know what your character should do next? What should the writer say after this.

I think a good remedy for writer's block is to write the summary for the chapter or the story and write what you are trying to say. That gives you some ideas in your head. I came up with that myself. I went to the "take it outside" to rant about my writer's block, I'm writing a summary of what I'm trying to say. I did that so people can help me write a sentence about it because I couldn't write a sentence.

Let me know if my remedy works!

Elodie-Caroline
12-24-2007, 04:29 AM
It's called outlining, Blue, which is what I always do anyway. I might have some brilliant ideas for chapters sometimes, but don't actually feel in the mood for writing them at the time, so I write a very rough summary and then go back to it when I feel I can do it some justice :)


Elodie

BlueLucario
12-24-2007, 06:08 PM
It's called outlining, Blue, which is what I always do anyway. I might have some brilliant ideas for chapters sometimes, but don't actually feel in the mood for writing them at the time, so I write a very rough summary and then go back to it when I feel I can do it some justice :)


Elodie

Oh, sorry.

Elodie-Caroline
12-24-2007, 06:35 PM
LOL... There's no need to be sorry Blue. Some people, like me, outline, some people don't, it's each to their own, that's all :)

DonnaDuck
12-24-2007, 06:59 PM
Every time I hear the word 'outline' I always think of those stupid spider web things that the teachers made us to for book reports and such. You know, you have a word in a circle and then lines coming off of it with words in those to relate and you end up with this skeletal report. In this context, I don't even know what outlining is. I take notes on my own work, writing down ideas for use in future chapters so if that's an outline, I guess it's something I do too.

BlueLucario
12-24-2007, 07:09 PM
Every time I hear the word 'outline' I always think of those stupid spider web things that the teachers made us to for book reports and such. You know, you have a word in a circle and then lines coming off of it with words in those to relate and you end up with this skeletal report. In this context, I don't even know what outlining is. I take notes on my own work, writing down ideas for use in future chapters so if that's an outline, I guess it's something I do too.


Did that in fourth grade.:ROFL: If there isn't really such thing as writer's block, what is it? Why do we stare at our computer screens trying to think of something to write, when five hours have passed and you barely wriote anything? What is it if it isnt writer's block? Is it possible to get writer's block when you take your SAT?

Elodie-Caroline
12-24-2007, 07:10 PM
Yep, that's what I'm meaning with the outlining thing too.


I take notes on my own work, writing down ideas for use in future chapters so if that's an outline, I guess it's something I do too.

DonnaDuck
12-24-2007, 07:27 PM
What is it if it isnt writer's block? Is it possible to get writer's block when you take your SAT?

I don't know if you read Non Sequitur but I can so see Danae using writer's block as an excuse as to why she can't write her essay.

As for writer's block on the SATs, I think that's just a constant stream of brain flatulence. Certainly explained my score . . . and the fact that the proctors are evil and hold the damn tests on a Saturday morning at 8. Yes, because that's peak performance time for all 16 year olds.

Sofie
12-28-2007, 10:46 PM
Thats my view on writers block. I do think it exhists, just not as most people think it does. It's not like a mental wall you just can't pass. Work your way around it, it's not difficult.

It is difficult, and it is a mental wall. In my case, it's got nothing to do with "ambition outshining talent", as I was a perfectly capable writer five years ago. I wrote articles, reviews and short stories - and now, I can't even write blog entries anymore. It actually makes me pretty angry to think that I'm struggling here, to get back to where I was, and some writer (the Garrison guy) thinks he's qualified to say I'm simply lacking talent.

I am pleased though, that a lot of people don't seem to think it exists. I wish I thought it didn't, too! It must be wonderful to be you! :)

Fjm3eyes
01-19-2008, 06:53 AM
I'm suspicious of writer's block -- writer's indifference maybe. Garrison's statement seems good to me.

Unique
01-19-2008, 11:09 AM
"There is no such thing as writer's block, it's where your ambition outshines your talent."

I happen to agree with him. What say you other AW members then?


pretty damn presumptuous of both of you.

how do either of you know what goes on in my headspace?

blacbird
01-19-2008, 11:37 AM
There is no "writer's block".

Unfortunately, there is "writer's brick". Baked, indurated, much harder.

caw

Klazart
01-20-2008, 06:24 AM
I've had writers block, on more than one occasion, though usually it doesn't last more than a few days or at worst a week or two. It's just one of those things when I dread writing. I just feel that I won't be able to write the next/scene/chapter whatever and when I do write it, that it will be crap. This fear is self-perpetuating. The longer I leave it go, the worse it gets. Procrastination becomes easier, anything seems more attractive than writing.

The only way I've found to make it go away is to write, as cliche'd and circular as that sounds. I just have to make the leap, to sit down and start typing. To allow myself to "write crap." Once I'm through the first 500-1000 or so words, I find the confidence starts to flow back. I think, hey, this stuff ain't so bad. And then I'm back in the grove.

In my humble opinion the key to avoiding writer's block is to write regularly, even if you think it will be horrible. The moment you start taking a break longer than your schedule allowed for it can start to have a detrimental effect.

Other times it's been caused by harsh criticism, once my wife voiced displeasure over a chapter in a way that paralysed me from writing for two weeks. She meant well, and has learned since to deliver her criticism more positvely, and tbh her input is invaluable to me.

Other times, put downs from my mother (who's been trying to do her best to get me to resume my medical career) have sent me into the dumps. But ultimately, writing is the only thing that helps.

I don't think that writer's block is a single phenomenon. Its causes and manifestations are numerous. The solutions however aren't so.

Lastly, one great way to get out of writer's block is to read an amazing novel. Usually that inspires me to get my butt in the chair.

I have to say I've found the attitude of a few people in this thread quite judgemental. I'm not surprised. People are people, and people have a hard time visualising or empathising with problems and difficulties they've never themselves faced. It's far too easy to minimise the problems of others. I've done it myself plenty of times. Let's just hope those who are judgemental don't have to learn the hard way.