Tag Archives: Writers’ block


This morning, I came across a list of tips on how to get through ten different kinds of writers’ block.

Pro Tip: there aren’t “ten different kinds of writers’ block.” There isn’t even _one_ kind. There is no such thing as writers’ block.


On a physical level, writing involves just sitting in a comfy chair and doing this for hours (mimes typing). This creates the entirely false impression that writing isn’t hard work. It is. Every writer seeks one of those effortless days in which it seems like you just go into a trance, and the thread keeps revealing itself as fast as you can pull it. But! That’s rare.

Every driver hopes that they’ll get to their destination in forty-three minutes, just as the GPS promises, without encountering any traffic, construction, accidents, or unclear road signs.

Every contractor hopes that the walls of this house’s kitchen were built plumb and level and according to building codes, and that the custom-cabinet maker built these units to the exact measurements provided.

Every cook who ever made a Thanksgiving dinner wants all of the parts of the turkey to be equally succulent, for the skin to be a crispy golden brown, and for the bird to be on the table on time.

Every scientist who ever tried to solve a fundamental problem of theoretical physics wants the numbers from his predicted result to be so close to the experimental result that the difference is statistically insignificant and the theory is supported.

But those things almost never happen, either. There’s no mystical, mythical obstacle in any of these physical activities. There’s a goal, and there are a bunch of unforeseen obstacles preventing someone from reaching that goal. You took a serious wrong turn somewhere; the two pieces that are supposed to fit together perfectly don’t fit together at all; it’s become very clear that you’re not going to be able to carve a food-porn-grade turkey at the table in front of your guests at 1 PM; your theory suggests that E = MC Hammer.

So you just crack your knuckles and work on the problems. You acknowledge that you went the wrong way and you get back in the right direction; you modify one piece or the other so that they do fit; you stop mourning the loss of your original plan and embrace a new one that’s just as good; you put it aside and determine to go back to it in a week or two with fresh eyes.

As a writer, you are never “blocked.”

Here, let me say it again, with more markup tags:

As a writer, you are never “blocked.”

The fact that you’re not actually writing doesn’t mean that you’re not actually working. You’re also working when you’re thinking. Figure out what the problems are and _solve_ them. Solve them in a half-assed way if you have to; slap enough duct tape over the problem that you can proceed to the next step. Go back later and improve it in the editing process.

Or! Just put the whole thing aside. Just for now. Even in the worst, most frustrating situation, you’re not “blocked.” You just can’t make any progress on this one thing.

So write something else. One good page about anything in your line of sight will prove that you can still write, and even if it doesn’t help you with a project that’s due soon it’ll still exercise those muscles that convert synaptic misfirings into something readable.

Or, walk from the desk to the sofa and read something else. Reading something that’s very good will inspire ideas of your own. At minimum, you’ll stop thinking about the kind of writing that you hate (your own Projectus Horribilus) and start thinking about writing that you love (Wodehouse; always reliable).

Or just knock off work for the day.

But don’t say you’re “blocked,” ever. And for the love of almighty God, don’t seek answers from the sort of madmen who insist and reinforce the idea that “writer’s block” is a real thing.

Your brain is highly malleable. If you train it to believe that you need to pull over to the side of the road and stop moving forward the instant a “Writer’s Block” indicator on the dashboard turns red, then over time, that’s the only solution it’ll ever offer you.

Writing is hard. That’s why so few people stick to it and actually finish things. It’s also why you have a right to be immensely proud when you finish something.

There is no such thing as “Writers’ Block.”