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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Do Real Writers Get Writer’s Block?


Is writer’s block, as one writer described it in a LinkedIn discussion forum, nothing more than “a psychosomatic illness which afflicts wannabe writers or poseurs”?

Is this a fair assessment or the equivalent of a man who’s never seen combat declaring “Shell shock, battle fatigue, PTSD, whatever you call it, is the refuge of cowards and malingerers”?

Plenty of famed writers have admitted to struggling with writer’s block including William Faulkner, Earnest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf. Are they “wannabes” or “poseurs”?

Is Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler on target when he writes in From Where You Dream, “Bad writers never get blocked. Writers who write from their heads and are comfortable doing that – they always have some garbage to put down”?

Or was Phillip Pullman closer to the mark when he said, “All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”

Perhaps the difference between “real” writers and “wannabes” is that real writers don’t let a block stop them. In an interview with Scholastic,  J. K. Rowling reported, “I’ve only suffered writer’s block badly once, and that was during the writing of Chamber of Secrets. I had my first burst of publicity about the first book and it paralyzed me. I was scared the second book wouldn’t measure up, but I got through it!”

What’s your favorite writer’s block quote?

Next post, I’ll detail my definition of writer’s block and whether it is the excuse of wannabes or an affliction of real writers. But first I’m eager to hear your opinions. How do you define writer’s block? Is it real or psychosomatic? What experiences have you had with writer’s block?

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5 Comments on “Do Real Writers Get Writer’s Block?”

  1. Joel D Canfield November 29, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Writers share their soul with total strangers. Plumbers do not.

    Nobody claims that stage fright is imaginary. When I get stuck, it is always always always because deep inside I’m afraid that what I need to write won’t be well-received.

    It’s stage fright in slow motion. And it’s real.

    (Linked In, despite the lack of anonymity, seems to bring out some real snark. I’ve ceased discussing with one gentleman his repeated claim that money is the only measure of a writer’s success. He claims that if you’re not making money, no one is reading your work.)

    Like

    • rosannebane November 29, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

      Absolutely true Joel about sharing our souls. Writers also have to be willing to go spelunking in our own unconscious, which is not required of plumbers and most other professionals.

      True too about the snark with SOME people on LinkedIn. I was shocked by the vitriol of the comment I quoted, but I can’t complain because the outrage fueled this blog post. So I guess the guy who says money is the only measure of success would say that just about any contemporary writer is superior to Shakespeare because we make more money? 😉

      Like

  2. Kimberlyann DeAngelo November 29, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    I believe we cannot put the definition of a writer in a box. For then, we put the writer in a box. This box can be a source of block. To honor many different voices, experiences, intellects and ideas, the box needs to be open for many different styles. Some write from imagination and fantacy, some from learned knowledge. Others write from Divine inspiration, and some write from the heart to share what brought them through great hardship so to offer hope for another. Some writers are technical, some whimsical, some play guitar with meter and harp with harmonious metaphor, while others, simply scientific.
    A writer who writes from crevices and depths of the heart…may only be able to write when these notes are moved. Another who writes from colorful imagination and fantasy may experience lack of stimulation due to extenuating circumstances for a time. Life sometimes decides otherwise, as at times we are truly needed and, therefore, graciously put ourselves aside. Trauma, health crisis, loss and grief, etc…, these need time for process. If we have experienced much of this and still continued to write, there can be “burn out”, which simply needs down time…stillness…to recharge.
    All of these could be judged as “writer’s block” , or embraced as germination for imagination’s garden of rich meadows, futuristic fantasy, moral-of-the-story childsplay, paradigm shift of the intellect or song of the Spirit in the pen of a hand. I choose not to judge, but rather remain an open vessel, and if need be, draw or learn another form of expression for a bit. Yet, remember my hand is always there for this pen.

    Like

    • rosannebane November 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

      Nicely said Kimberlyann! Thanks for your perspective and the reminder that what constitutes writer’s block can be in the eye of the beholder…

      Like

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  1. Writer’s Block Is Rare, But Real « The Bane of Your Resistance - December 7, 2012

    […] a previous post, I invited you to share your definition of writer’s block. Here’s how I see […]

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