A condition in which a skilled writer with the desire to write finds herself unable to write. See also:
- Twelve Quick Tips for Beating Writer's Block
- Writers on Writing: Overcoming Writer's Block
- Composing My First College Essay, by Sandy Klem
- How to Avoid Writing, by Robert Benchley
- How to Write 2,500 Words Before Breakfast Every Day
- Robert Pirsig on Overcoming Writer's Block
- What Is the List Trick?
- Writers on Writing: The Myth of Inspiration
Etymology:Phrase coined by American psychiatrist Edmund Bergler
Examples and Observations:
- "You don't know what it is to stay a whole day with your head in your hands trying to squeeze your unfortunate brain so as to find a word."
(Gustave Flaubert, 1866)
- "Why is suffering a major criterion for writer's block? Because someone who is not writing but not suffering does not have writer's block; he or she is merely not writing. Such times may instead be fallow periods for the development of new ideas, periods Keats famously described as 'delicious diligent indolence.'"
(Alice W. Flaherty, The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain. Houghton Mifflin, 2004)
- "Although it can be triggered by any number of internal or external stimuli, the vital function that writer's block performs during the creative process remains constant: inability to write means that the unconscious self is vetoing the program demanded by the conscious ego."
(Victoria Nelson, On Writer's Block. Houghton Mifflin, 1993)
- "I think writer's block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible."
(Roy Blount, Jr.)
- John McPhee's Remedy for Writer's Block
Block. It puts some writers down for months. It puts some writers down for life. A not always brief or minor form of it mutes all writers from the outset of every day. . . . 'Dear Joel: You are writing, say, about a grizzly bear. No words are forthcoming. For six, seven, ten hours no words have been forthcoming. You are blocked, frustrated, in despair. You are nowhere, and that’s where you’ve been getting. What do you do? You write, "Dear Mother." And then you tell your mother about the block, the frustration, the ineptitude, the despair. You insist that you are not cut out to do this kind of work. You whine. You whimper. You outline your problem, and you mention that the bear has a fifty-five-inch waist and a neck more than thirty inches around but could run nose-to-nose with Secretariat. You say the bear prefers to lie down and rest. The bear rests fourteen hours a day. And you go on like that as long as you can. And then you go back and delete the "Dear Mother" and all the whimpering and whining, and just keep the bear.'"
(John McPhee, "Draft No. 4." The New Yorker, April 29, 2013)
- William Stafford's Remedy for Writer's Block
"I believe that the so-called 'writing block' is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance. . . .
"Well, I have a formula for this that may just be a gimmicky way of explaining it. Anyway, it goes like this: one should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing. It’s easy to write. You just shouldn’t have standards that inhibit you from writing."
(William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl. Univ. of Michigan Press, 1978)
- Eminem on Writer's Block
"Fallin' asleep with writer's block in the parking lot of McDonalds,
But instead of feeling sorry for yourself do something about it.
Admit you got a problem, your brain is clouded, you pouted long enough."
(Eminem, "Talkin' 2 Myself." Recovery, 2010)
- Stephen King on Writer's Block
"There may be a stretch of weeks or months when it doesn't come at all; this is called writer's block. Some writers in the throes of writer's block think their muses have died, but I don't think that happens often; I think what happens is that the writers themselves sow the edges of their clearing with poison bait to keep their muses away, often without knowing they are doing it. This may explain the extraordinarily long pause between Joseph Heller's classic novel Catch-22 and the follow-up, years later. That was called Something Happened. I always thought that what happened was Mr. Heller finally cleared away the muse repellent around his particular clearing in the woods."
(Stephen King, "The Writing Life." The Washington Post, Oct. 1, 2006)
"[M]y son, fed up with hearing me complain and whine about my 'illness,' gave me a present for Christmas, Stephen King’s On Writing. . . . The simple theme of this remarkable book is if you really want to write, then shut yourself in a room, close the door, and WRITE. If you don’t want to write, do something else."
(Mary Garden, "Writer's Block." Absolute Write, 2007)