5 Things About Writer’s Block


1. It’s Quicksand.

I never liked the term “writer’s block.”

A block you can move. You can lift a block, edge it, shove it. More importantly, you can manage it. It’s an object, after all. But writer’s block? You’re blocked. You’re stuck, floundering, reaching for a vine.

The more you fight, the harder you sink. It’s quicksand.

2. It Saps Your Spirit

So many writers get identity from their writing, purpose and purging that to have the process just stop is terrifying. Money slows, self slows, and identity goes along with it.

But, when it’s not coming, you lose momentum. Suddenly, you’re forced to address yourself not as an “aspiring” or an “attempting” or a being in progress, but in something else, stagnated as a still-life of Millennial failure.

It sucks.

Writer’s block humbles you, reducing you to nothing more than a human with very few skills.

3. Time Is The Only Cure

This cuts both ways.

On the one hand, this is quite comforting. It’s the promise of a cure, no matter how lazy you are. Time will solve you. You will be sorted out all in due time.

The problem?

Time, to quote a five-year old, is very mysterious.

When you’re waiting for something, it takes forever. There will be false starts, productive hours that eventually turn to ash on your paper. You will sit in front of your laptop, Googling prompts. You will start and drop documents, and you will feel the maddening start-and-stop. You will feel like a junker car, like you’re so near the scrapheap that the only thing that sustains you is your false hope.

You will read pithy quotes about writer’s block and want to choke them.

And then, it will lift.

That will be the strange part. Without warning, things will come across. You will make up for lost time- realizations will choke out your word documents, each blessed with a paragraph or two before you skate on to the next one. You will feel the inevitable relief of your own redemption, and you will be restored.

That writer’s block will fade to the back of your memory, reduced in the rearview as an anomaly, a past-tense experience. You will forget how you felt because of how you feel. That is, ultimately, the human experience. To move forward, you let go of the past.

But when that writer’s block comes back again, breathing stale fears down your neck, it will feel new again. And you will suffer fresh.

Because you forgot how this works. Because you don’t have the distance to see cycles. You just feel the immediate.

That too is human.

4. Other Things Help, Too.

Time is the only cure, but there are, of course, supplements.

  • Switch up your word documents. You might not have writer’s block so much as exhaustion with a specific piece. Taking time off from that piece might ease frustrations, and you’ll be fresher when you return.
  • Change your experiences. Routine can force life into a dull background, but reinvigorating your life can help bring newness into everything, including your writing.
  • Write your experiences. Non-fiction is a good stepping stone for the blocked writer. What happened today? Write an email or a journal. It’ll get you going, and you know the plot and characters by heart.
  • Remember that, optimistically, writer’s block is just a mandatory vacation. What’s your metaphorical daiquiri? Writing will be there when you return.
  • Don’t complain as much as you’d like. Yes, this piece breaks that rule, but the sooner you leave the narrative of a blocked writer, the less invested you’ll be in your frustration. That’ll make it easier to let it be lifted. Plus, nobody has any sympathy. Trust me, I tried.

5. Faith Will Help.

The problem with writer’s block is that it feels like a gift has been retracted from you, a gift you never deserved in the first place. You miss it terribly but, at some level, you kneel to it. Writers are famously anxious types, nervous about their skills and qualities, and so to be stopped- finally stopped- is something many of us darkly expected.

We knew, deep down, we weren’t any good. So it’s some dark relief to be proven finally right.

Don’t let that happen to you. Not the writer’s block. That will happen. But doubt, dark churning worry, will consume you if you let it. And that can feel like your only resort, but it isn’t. It doesn’t even help; “worry” doesn’t fix or help here. Time is the cure, and the upbeat answers above all help more than worry.

But we do worry.

As hard as it can be, I’d ask that you hold faith. Let the calm buoy you through this tough time. Patience is a virtue, and a meditative acceptance of the temporary is a lot more helpful than the reckless panic of what you see as your deepest fear made fact.

You will be back.

I promise.