Stupefying Stories recently had an op-ed blog post by Eric Dontigney, titled ‘It’s time to retire writer’s block’, in which he stated that writer’s block doesn’t exist. ‘How would you react if someone said they couldn’t work because they had “doctor’s block,” or “engineer’s block,” or “lawyer’s block?” You’d roll your eyes at them,’ he says. ‘Saying you’ve got writer’s block is a less blatant way of saying, “I don’t want to.”’
This got me thinking.
Throughout my writing life there have been periods where writing has been difficult. I’m fortunate that I’m never without an idea for a story. In fact, I’m often overwhelmed with too many ideas. However, there have been times when getting that idea down on paper has been a struggle, because I lacked the skill, or the experience, or the confidence to know how to tell the story the way that I wanted to. I have felt blocked.
Ten years ago I entered a period of my life, which is ongoing, where I struggle daily with mental and physical difficulties, and have had to deal with other challenges including nursing a sick parent.
Now I truly understand what writer’s block is.
My stories are no longer shining in my head, when all I had to do was write them down and edit the words until I knew I had something good. Now I have to excavate my stories, not able to tell if what I find is gold or dirt, but having to trust to the process that something readable will emerge when I am finished. Gone is the joy of writing and losing myself in worlds of the imagination. Now I am mining in the dark, hoping that I am discovering gems, and waiting for the day I find my flash light.
At a book signing, my sister asked fantasy writer Garth Nix (if you haven’t read his Old Kingdom books, you really should) for his thoughts on writer’s block. He answered – and I am paraphrasing – sometimes a story doesn’t go your way, and you have to write through it, but real writer’s block is caused by depression and you have to treat the depression before you can get back writing.
I say writer’s block is real.
I have writer’s block, but I haven’t stopped writing. It just makes it harder. You mightn’t hear about doctor’s block, or engineer’s block or lawyer’s block, but people in other professions get depression too, and it does have an effect on their work. Maybe they leave their job, or don’t do their work as well as they used to. Maybe they suffer in silence until they can’t take it anymore.
Maybe they get help and recover.
What do you think? Is writer’s block real or an excuse? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.