Seems like everyone has an opinion about writer’s block.
Some swear it’s real, and others deny its existence.
Some call it an invention, an excuse to take the day off.
Some say it’s always lurking around the next corner.
I say it’s real–all too real, in fact.
And I’m not alone in my views:
- Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Interpreter of Maladies, respects writer’s block as a natural part of the creative process.
- Science-fiction icon Ray Bradbury considered it a warning from the unconscious, a sign that you’ve taken a wrong turn with your manuscript, that you’ve veered too far off course.
- To stave off writer’s block, Author Victor Hugo “locked his clothes away,” so he couldn’t abandon his writing until a predetermined hour.
A 2015 study of university students found that 24% of students “almost always” experience writers block, and 70% of students experience it “occasionally.” That’s 94% of student writers!
Literary giants Jack London, Leo Tolstoy, and J.K. Rowling suffered through bouts of writer’s block.
Who could argue with their success (or their personal struggles)?
The list goes on.
So what, exactly, is writer’s block?
If you’ve never had the pleasure, let me fill you in.
Most days you show up to the page with an outline, a concept, a place you want to go. Some days, you feel like winging it, allowing inspiration to guide your efforts. Most of the time, all goes well:
Pen + paper = progress.Most days you show up to the page with an outline, a concept, a place you want to go. Some days, you feel like winging it, allowing inspiration to guide your efforts. Most of the time, all goes well: Pen + paper = progress. Click To Tweet
But on those bad days, those miserable days, weeks, or months–no matter what you try, nothing of value comes out. Sure, you experience the occasional trickle of words, but they’re flat, empty, meaningless.
So you pace, and you sing; you doodle and yawn. You read. You meditate. You eat. You overeat. Still, nothing comes out.
And the harder you try, the worse things go. You waste precious time—time you’ll never get back. And the worst part?
You worry you’ll never write anything of value again.
In these dark, difficult moments, you need advice from someone who knows your pain, someone who found success in spite of the struggle.In these dark, difficult moments, you need advice from someone who knows your pain, someone who found success in spite of the struggle. Click To Tweet
If you find yourself in this position, you’ve come to the right place.
Writer’s block is real, and you need expert advice.
So, read on, and take good notes. Let these amazing, accomplished authors free you from writer’s block. Allow their words to take root, to help you reconnect with your passion and purpose for writing.
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good, and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time.” ~Ernest Hemingway
“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad stories in a row.” ~Ray Bradbury
“Writers block occurs when a writer has nothing to say. Unfortunately, not all writers experience it.” ~Ron Brackin
If you want to be a writer, write. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again. Save everything that you write. If you feel blocked, write through it until you feel your creative juices flowing again. Write. Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less. ~Anne Rice
“Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like.” ~John Steinbeck
“Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows.” ~Joseph Campbell
“A hammer made of deadlines is the surest tool for crushing writer’s block.” ~Ryan Lilly
The best way in the world for breaking a writer’s block is to write a lot. Jabbering away on paper, one gets tricked into feeling interested, all at once, in something one is saying, and behold, the magic waters are flowing again.” ~John Gardner
“The Four Stages of Writer’s Block
W.B. Stage I: I want to write, but I can’t.
W.B. Stage II: I have to write, but I can’t.
W.B. Stage III: I don’t want to write, but I have to.
W.B. Stage IV: I don’t have time for writing … and, honestly, I don’t feel like writing.” ~Katerina Stoykova Klemer
“All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged. If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line. That’s why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.” ~Erica Jong
“I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I have writer’s block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don’t. Chain that muse to your desk and get the job done.” ~Barbara Kingsolver
“Put it aside for a few days, or longer. Do other things; try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end, you’ll be both enthusiastic about it, and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.” ~Neil Gaiman
“Sometimes when one cannot stand the story or novel one is working on, it helps to write something else—a different story or novel, or essays venting one’s favorite peeves, or exercises aimed at passing the time and incidentally polishing up one’s craft.” ~John Gardner
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? ~Philip Pullman
“I tell my students there is such a thing as writer’s block, and they should respect it. It’s blocked because it ought to be blocked,
because you haven’t got it right now.” ~Toni Morrison
“I’m sitting in my office trying to squeeze a story from my head. It is that kind of morning when you feel like melting the typewriter
into a bar of steel and clubbing yourself to death with it.” ~Richard Matheson
“It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people; it’s the fear of not writing well–something quite different.” ~Scott Berkun
If you’ve got writer’s block, you aren’t empty–maybe it’s just like Twitter–overwhelmed, and loading seems to be taking a while…” ~John Geddes
“I’ve always said “Writer’s Block” is a myth. There is no such thing as writer’s block, only writers trying to force something that isn’t ready yet. Sometimes I don’t write for weeks. And then all of the sudden I’ll get a rush of inspiration and you can’t drag me away from my notebook. But I don’t stress out if I don’t hit some arbitrary word count each day or if I go a few days without writing something.” ~Julie Ann Dawson
“Being self-employed means you work 12 hours a day for yourself, so you don’t have to work 8 hours a day for someone else.” ~Oliver Markus Malloy
When the ink runs dry, you’re most likely writing at the wrong angle.” ~Carolyn Shields
“Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written,so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me.” ~Orson Scott Card
“What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.'” ~Maya Angelou
“I have never experienced writers block, and I’ve written every day since June 1972. But I have experienced the need to get up and walk around, eat ice cream, let ideas percolate, forget the story for a time, and then return to the page. Even the muse needs a vacation to rest up before she gives more of herself.” ~Jan Marquart
“Theoretically there’s no reason one should get [writer’s block], if one understands that writing, after all, is only writing, neither something one ought to feel deeply guilty about nor something one ought to be inordinately proud of.” ~John Gardner
“Someone once told me that fear and courage are like lightning and thunder; they both start out at the same time, but the fear travels faster and arrives sooner. If we just wait a moment, the requisite courage will be along shortly.” ~Lawrence Block
“Professional writers don’t have muses; they have mortgages.” ~Larry Kahaner
“I deal with writer’s block by lowering my expectations. The solution is never to sit down and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent. I write a little bit, almost every day, and if it results in two or three or (on a good day) four good paragraphs, I consider myself a lucky man. Never try to be the hare. All hail the tortoise.” ~Malcolm Gladwell
“I had never given much credence to the phenomenon of ‘writer’s block.’ I was more inclined to think of it as ‘writer’s impatience,’ and to follow Arthur Koestler’s dictum: ‘Soak, and wait.'” ~Alan Garner
“I never really feel that I’m stuck. I actually think that people are never stuck, there’s no such thing as writers block, I think that there’s terror that can silence you. But if you can think of it as a dynamic thing, I mean a writers block, it’s a paralysis, an immobility and the thing that has immobilized you is a very powerful force. Immobility is itself an act, it’s a choice.” ~Tony Kushner
“The problem is acceptance, which is something we’re taught not to do. We’re taught to improve uncomfortable situations, to change things, to alleviate unpleasant feelings. But if you accept the reality that you have been given–that you are not in a productive creative period–you free yourself to begin filling up again.” ~Anne Lamott
Writer’s block is never solved by forcing oneself to “write through it,” because you haven’t solved the problem that caused your unconscious mind to rebel against the story, so it still won’t work – for you or for the reader.” ~Orson Scott Card
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” ~Mark Twain
What’s your favorite remedy for writer’s block?
Share your thoughts in the comments section below.