"Published author, aspiring novelist . . . welcome to my world of madness!"

Jan 31, 2010

On Writer's Block

Some people pursue writing as a career; others do it as a hobby. I’m sure a handful or more are stuck somewhere in the middle of the road, unsure where they fall. Fulltime, part-time, or somewhere in between: if you write, you are bound to hit a snag. You will eventually stall, falter, or stare at a blank page for hours on end, wondering what in the world is wrong with you. It happens on every end of the creative scale: to novelists, poets, bloggers, and short story scribes. It happens to the masters sitting at the top of the bestseller‘s charts, to the unknown author pursuing his guilty pleasure. We call it Writer’s Block.

*cue the grim face and creepy music*

The mere phrase is enough to strike terror in even the staunchest author’s heart. A vast majority of writers will, at some point or another, bemoan their muses. We scapegoat, shifting the blame elsewhere. I, myself, have done this on numerous occasions. Yes, I have cried to the writing gods in all of my dramatic glory, begging to know why they have forsaken me. I’ve made offerings of solitude, incense, music, and coffee. Then, a well-meaning friend posed a single question that rattled me to the core.

"Why do they call it writer’s block?"

The answer seemed so obvious at the time. Uhmmm. Hmm. Because we write?

Nod in agreement, if you will, but let’s really think about this. Many of us have not yet broken into the spotlight far enough where can support ourselves by writing alone. Someday, yes, but not yet. Am I right? Say you work on the side as a janitor. Sure there have been days where you didn’t feel like showing up to work. Maybe you were having an off-day or simply felt blah. We all have days where we are not as productive, where we just shuffle through the movements without heart or head in the actions. Yet, we don’t call into work to report we won’t be coming in today because we have a case of janitor’s block.

See the reasoning here?

Teachers don’t call off with teacher’s block, cops don’t call off with cop block, truckers don‘t call off with trucker‘s block. They show up, perform the best that they can, and hope they make it through to find tomorrow is a better day.

I’d like to say that writers are lazy. I really would, but by nature we aren’t. Only one who has sat in our shoes know how hard it really is to churn out line after line, to build upon word after word, constructing characters, plots, and worlds out of thin air, and then breathe that magical life into them. It’s a craft that takes years of sweat, hard work, dedication, and tears to hone. Even then, we sometimes fall flat. That’s okay!

Maybe it is not writer’s block after all. Maybe, underneath our creative exteriors, lies a normal person who experiences a very normal thing when you go though the same motions day after day: burn out. It’s easy to fall into this feeling, especially when you pour as much time and energy into your writing as we do.

Allow yourself a day or two off once in a while. Take time to read that book you thought sounded so good. Go for a walk. Do the dishes. Clean the house. Play on the floor with the kids or the pets. Socialize with family, neighbors, and friends. Live, laugh, and enjoy life around you. It’s okay! Not only is it okay, it’s healthy. The burn out will eventually ease and you will find yourself facing the screen with a fresher outlook on writing and life in general.

The next time you feel yourself stuck, don’t blame your muses or cry to the powers that be. Take the time to listen to what your own body is telling you. It may be a few hours, or it may be a few weeks, but all is not lost. Writers are human. Take time to recharge your body and mind. After all, they are our most valuable tools.

~Best wishes and happy writing!~


  1. You're so right, Adriana. No one maintains the same level of enthusiasm or energy for any one task or occupation. I think about motherhood, for example. I'm a much better mom when I take a few steps back once in a while, do something for myself or by myself, and get outside my box. Afterwards, I'm left refreshed and anxious to get back to my kids.

    I admit, though, feeling a sense of panic when I stare at the screen and nothing inspired comes to me. I'm in a place right now where momentum is flowing like the trickle of water along the bed of an almost-frozen creek. It's frustrating, but I know (hope) a thaw is on the horizon.

    Your post reminds me to keep the faith!

    ((hugs)) Nicki

  2. You are so absolutely right about level of enthusiasm or energy for any one task or occupation. But, in our life we have to be always enthousiastic!! Kind regards. Travelling

  3. Excellent post. You're right. Sometimes we have to take a break or take a step back in order to move forward. Inspiring post. Thank you.