Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Writer's Block: True or False?

(photo courtesy of

I recently came across this quote, and I'd like your opinion on it:

"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 from it?" --Philip Pullman

So is writer's block for real? Or is it simply a term that's used to mask something else? What would that something else be --fear, doubt, insecurity? Procrastination? Trouble with BIC (Jane Yolen's famous term, butt in chair)? Ahhhh, I really want to know!

Plumbers don't get blocked. Doctors don't get blocked. Writers? What do you think?


  1. I believe in writer's block. Doctors and plumbers aren't making up what they do. They aren't creating something using only their imagination.

    My idea of writer's block though is when you can't find inspiration from anything, which to me is very rare. I can always find inspiration. It may not lead anywhere useful but I'm still creating, even if it's not on paper.

  2. Hannah has a good point in that trade jobs and most professions come with instructions and clear steps to follow in order to solve problems and get the job done. Maybe a valid comparison would be something else linked to creativity, like an inventor.

    I don't really get writers block (maybe because I'm not thinking deeply enough when I write). I have a big file of ideas, so if I get a little stuck, I just work on something else. Then again, I don't have deadlines or expectations--maybe stress adds to writers block.

    Great post!

  3. I think it's something more akin to overload. Does that make sense? I think there are times when I clog up the creative pathways with too much information. A break is not a bad thing. =)

  4. I think you sort of hit the nail on the head with fear, doubt, insecurity and procrastination. Writing is a craft, plumbing is a routine profession. Writers rely on inspiration, imagery and a number of other things to help form idea’s. In a way I believe writer’s block is real, however some people tend to use it as a crutch.

  5. I agree with Lindsey--I was about to use the same words before I read her comment. I think for writers, our psyches create both the problem and the solution.


  6. Loving the discussion, thanks everyone for weighing in!

    I agree, Hannah, that writer's block can come from lack of inspiration but, like you, that doesn't seem to be my problem :-) Thankfully...

    Jess, you've got a good point about stress being a contributing factor to wb. I think you're on to something here.

    Tana--"Overload." Yes, that makes a lot of sense, too. With overload we tend to push too hard, which would certainly put a damper on the whole process.

    Lindsey--I like your choice of words, "crutch." Add to that, "excuse" as in then we have an excuse to give up. All target words to point us to our problem.

    And Debbie, I love the way you put it--"our psyches create both the problem and the solution."

    Wow, look at the points that add up to writer's block--lack of inspiration, stress, overload, crutch, excuse, psyches.

    This has been fun. Thanks again to all :-) You've given me much to think about...

  7. I agree that doctors and plumbers are a bad analogy, as what they do is not creative.

    However I think writer's block is a bit of a myth - I think if you're stuck it's more likely that you're either working on the wrong project, or else you just need to take a little time to let the ideas percolate or brainstorm until your direction becomes clear once more.

  8. While Doctors may not call it something, I actually DO think they get blocked. All the time. They don't always know what's going on with someone. How many stories have you heard of people going to doctors for years before finding the real cause of something?

    Sometimes the plot line isn't clear and it takes time to marinade. Writer's Block can definitely be real (it is sometimes because of those other things, but not always).

    Great question!

  9. I think 'writer's block' is a convenient 'catch-all' phrase used to hide a number of insecurities and tiredness. My mum asked me the other day if I had 'writer's cramp' - now that I can believe in, especially when writing long-hand!

  10. Hi, I've felt "bloggers block" and am even writing a post on it for tomorrow. Been feeling it ever since joining the Crusaders and discovering how fantastic people's blogs are. It's quite intimidating.

  11. I think everyone gets blocked by one thing or another. I do get writer's block from time to time, but I have a routine that I go through - I read quotes, I go through picture albums, I peruse the titles of books in my library, and if all that fails, I just start typing non-sense.
    Good post.

  12. More discussion--love it! Seems like the take on writer's block can swing both ways--it is real/a myth. But no matter what, you have all given insight as to how to get over and through it. Thanks!

  13. I don't believe in writers block - I do believe in writers refusal to Play the mean God and get the character to do something besides sit around and play nice. Some of my scenes I hate to write - I love my little brain-besties (beasties), and the Mommy in me wants them to make all the right choices and be happy. Imagine how dull that would be. I was 3 chapters into the next book and took two weeks to finally write a sad end for the book before it. Oh I had seen what happened - but I hated writing it. It was not block so much as - can't I fudge and help them? Loss- pain - sorrow is hard to write - but it is not block. It's negotiating a better option if possible - Lol

    The classic tale of sitting around looking at a blank screen is writers fear - not writers block. If you know your characters - they turn into the donkey on Shreck - getting them to shut up is more an issue than getting them to speak.

    Being afraid of them - or what others will think of them - or even that you won't be good enough - is the real monster - not writers block.

    Sorrow is the only kinda valid writers block. I think of things such as when you have lost a loved one, found out you have an illness or even when you have lost love. In that case everyone can experience Plumbers block - Doctoers block or even grocery shopping block. It may stop you for a while - but not forever.

    Loved all the opinions on this question - great idea and great responses!

  14. Any job that requires creativity can encounter blocks, and any job at all can encounter burnout! I wonder if the writer's block phenomenon is geared to the idea that writing isn't a 9-5 endeavor? That it's one of few pursuits in life (such as art) where the doer is a creator, that takes nothing and shapes it into something--basically breathing life into it? A tall order, indeed!