Why I Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

That’s right. I said it. I do not believe in writer’s block. Go ahead, let the shudder go all the way down your spine and wait for the gasp to suck all the air from your lungs. Done? Okay, good. Now, let me explain.

The idea of writer’s block and I have a long history together. Our story begins with Teenage Kate. Teenage Kate called herself a “writer” and was dubbed the token writer by her group of friends. It made sense. She had written stories and shared them in elementary school, and she openly admitted to writing several fan fiction series online. However, when Teenage Kate decided to “get serious” and write a novel, she wrote about twenty pages in Microsoft Word, got stuck, and stopped. While researching ways to get herself “unstuck,” Teenage Kate discovered the term “writer’s block.”

It was an excuse made in heaven.

It was so much easier to say that Teenage Kate had “writer’s block” than to admit that she was simply too lazy, too unmotivated, and too distracted by high school shenanigans to write a novel. After all, her “inability” to finish a writing project could never be her fault. She was an artist, a delicate soul, one whose muse needed proper care. If her muse were uninspired or absent, that wasn’t her fault. Teenage Kate just had “writer’s block.”

Flash forward to College Kate. Admittedly, College Kate had a lot on her plate. She had a full course load, belonged to a sorority, participated in a few extra-curricular activities, worked three part time jobs, had a social life, and managed an international long-distance relationship. And trust me, she listed off those things every time she explained why she wasn’t writing outside of her creative writing classes.

College Kate did a lot of talking about writing and a lot of complaining about her “inability” to write. After all, her classes used up all her creative energy and left her, you guessed it, blocked. Again, she was a suffering, delicate artist. It was never her fault.

Post-College Kate got her shit together. She dove into research about writing craft and independent publishing, and she made the most important admission any Kate ever made.

She admitted that she simply wasn’t ready to write a novel yet.

Not that she was busy. Not that her muse had abandoned her. Not that she had “writer’s block.”

She just wasn’t ready.

While she waited to feel ready to write a novel, Post-College Kate kept researching and began making business plans. One by one, she had her traditional and stereotypical views of writers, the writing lifestyle, and the publishing industry flipped upside down. And finally, armed with her new knowledge and new attitude, she felt ready.

And you know what? She wrote an 80,060 word novel in 29 days.

And she never once got writer’s block.


Okay, leaving the narrative mumbo-jumbo behind, let me make myself explicitly clear.

Never in my life have I had writer’s block. The rough truth of it is that, before NaNoWriMo 2014, I simply was never ready to put in the time, work, and energy it takes to write a novel. I spent the first 22 years and seven months of my life looking for a quick trick for writing a novel. Why? Because I was lazy, scared of success, and more in love with the idea of being a writer than the actual act of being a writer.

If you feel like you are “suffering” from “writer’s block,” chances are, you’re not. Yes, you may feel uncreative and unable to write, but if you are truly a writer, you are not blocked. There is simply something else at play that is keeping you from doing your work. You might be:

  • Stressed out about other things in your life
  • Scared of failure
  • Scared of success
  • Too inexperienced to put a novel together
  • Subconsciously not ready to write a novel
  • Lazy
  • Unmotivated
  • Busy
  • Tired

But you are not blocked. Your writer’s artery is not clogged. Your muse has not abandoned you (not that she exists, either).

If you are a writer, if you have the determination to write, the motivation to start writing, and the persistence keep writing, you will end up with a novel. You may have to sort through your other issues first, but once you have overcome the outside obstacles and your own apathetic tendencies, you will start writing and keep writing.

If you are truly a writer, if this is your passion and your intended profession, once you figure out your system, you will never get writer’s block. Sure, you will have tricky plots to maneuver, characters who won’t behave, and sentences that just won’t flow.

But you won’t be blocked.

You will be working it out, you will be finagling, you will be problem-solving. You will realize that, like every other job, there are challenges to writing.

But that’s just the thing: you will be writing.

Because once you take care of your other responsibilities and commit yourself to writing, you will write. There will be no metaphorical brick wall, no mental clog in a creative pipe. And there never was.

You are, and always will be, in control of your creative life.

There is no writer’s block.

 

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Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

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Posted in Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips
37 comments on “Why I Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block
  1. Wise words as always. While we are in different areas, the same thing happened to my thesis. It was not that I was “blocked” but rather I was tried, stressed, hungry, or just plain lazy. Most of the time, all it took to find my writing energy was a break, a cup of coffee, and a chat with my wife.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jonas Lee says:

    I’m not sure “Writer’s Laziness” is quite as catchy as “Writer’s Block”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Fia Essen says:

    For some reason, I feel like jumping out of my chair and shouting, “Bingo!” You said it, Kate – there is no writer’s block. It’s an all too convenient excuse, handy to employ at the drop of a hat for a myriad of different reasons. None of those reasons have anything to do with the MYTH OF THE BLOCK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Fia! I feel like there are plenty of reasons writers don’t write, but I just can’t buy into “writer’s block” as this metaphysical, intangible, all-encompassing excuse. I feel like we just all need to own our personal issues and external stressors. Having bad days (or months) does not make us any less of writers (or people). Thanks for reading and sharing your two cents!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Whitney says:

    This post has some great perspective. It’s true that it’s better to act than to be acted upon. Like, we can’t blame some uncontrollable, external force for not making it to the manuscript that day. It’s a lack of time management—something we all will continually work on until we’re paid bucketloads of money to be awesome and we can work all day as authors. Or so I’m told. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much, Whitney. I agree. Time management is a huge aspect of being a creative, and I think some writers blame their lack of time management on writer’s block, too. Which is, of course, not the best practice. And yes, I’ve been told that one day full-time authorship may be a reality…I just hope it comes sooner rather than later!

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  5. coffeennotes says:

    I think I get “Writer’s Blog” where there is too much on my plate or when I’m too stressed. But after a good relaxation, I’m all new.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t believe in writers block as such either. If I can’t start, it’s probably because I either haven’t thought through it enough before writing, or I don’t believe enough in the story itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. hirundine608 says:

    Whether or not Teenage Kate had writer’s block? That was just plain funny!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great article! Though I personally believe in writer’s block, I respect your way of seeing it too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. How would you define writer’s block? Maybe your definition is just a little different from how I have viewed it in the past.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s not really about the definition. It’s just that sometimes I just can’t write (not because of the reasons you listed, not because of laziness, but because of something that has more to do with psychology or subconscious… because of something that I find quite mysterious and for me that is the Block! It’s just there, no matter how much I try to avoid it, no matter if anyone believes in it or not, but it’s there! Something like God, some believe in him but some don’t. I an atheist myself. It’s as simple as that, somethings we simple believe in and in somethings we just don’t! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very interesting! I’d definitely be interested to hear more from people who do believe in writer’s block. As I said in this post, I used to, but I’ve hit a stage where I can see that my “block” was just myself. Either way, I’m glad it’s gone, and wish you the best of luck in the battle against yours! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for being so receptive! I hope I can find the root cause of mine, so that I can be free… 🙂
        It was great having such a ‘healthy’ discussion with you 😀
        Also thanks for presenting a new perceptive on the much talked about Block. It was really interesting to know what you think!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank YOU for being brave enough to disagree. I love to hear other writers’ opinions on issues like these. Feel free to disagree with and challenge my thinking any time!

        And yes, good luck finding the cause of your block. Honestly, I’m confident that if you do some soul-searching and life-examining, you can find a way to stop (or at least reduce) it. There will always be days where you don’t feel like writing, but anything you can do to reduce those or figure out how to write in spite of those days is a step in the right direction!

        Liked by 1 person

      • *I’m an atheist myself! (correction)

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Lani says:

    I agree with you which is why I wanted to read about Teenage Kate and then her friend College Kate and so on 😉 Speaking in third person is too much fun….I never tell myself I have writer’s block and I never will. And I think you explained it well. Often when you say “I don’t have writer’s block” folks either turn greenish or think you are lying. I wonder who was the first person to use it? 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed my narrative journey. Honestly, I have no idea where the term “writer’s block” originated or how the concept emerged. That would make for a very interesting research study (or guest post, if anyone out there happens to know!).

      Liked by 1 person

  10. sprytely50 says:

    You are quite right of course.
    I have been blocked, or rather blocking myself, for some time. Yes, there’s plenty on my plate to keep me distracted from writing but I have decided on a “Small Steps” approach. I now do something every day. Perhaps it is just an hour or so doing research, character development, tweaking the plot… it is something concrete that I now have ready for the next time I sit down that can be built upon.
    Thanks for the post and the insight.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ace says:

    Hi,
    The 3rd point on your list (fear of succes) stuck a chord with me. Not sure I understand? Are you saying we limit ourselves at times because we are afraid of fame that might follow the succes? Please let me know.
    Love your writing by the way! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • For me, fear of success is the apprehension of having to live up to an image and life we create. For example, I’m actually a bit worried that my self-publishing will be successful…am I really ready to commit to that business? How will others react to my writing? How is this going to shape my future?

      I think of it kind of like the high school athletes who throw a game or don’t play as well when a college scout comes to visit, simply because they get nervous about what may come if they do well.

      I hope that makes sense. Thank you so much for asking and for reading! Glad to have you here!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. […] I was roaming  about in the halls of my Blogging University, one particular headline caught my eye:Why I Don’t Believe In Writer’s Block. The title is compelling, I must admit. I had to read it. So I […]

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  13. I kind of agree and disagree. I do agree that what most people call writers block is essentially laziness, fantasy about being a writer instead of doing the writing, or sometimes fear that they can’t write a novel that anyone would want to read. Thankfully I’ve never suffered from any of those or writers block. But I have met writers who have suffered with real writers block, and it’s not a case of not writing, but more that whatever they write it seems to come out wrong. They lose their magic touch. They still write, they never stop writing, but what they’re writing feels dead, isn’t worth reading. That’s a very depressing place, and is nothing like what most writers understand writers block to be. In some cases an entire novel can be written with writers block. No laziness or reluctance involved, just very hard going work and totally painful. I think when a writer gets to that stage, they need a break, do something else to get out of that terrible state of mind. That is real writers block, a lot of people misunderstand what it actually is.

    Also some writers as they get much older suffer from it because they feel they’ve written themselves out, they’re not sure if there is anything new or worthwhile to write. You don’t look anywhere near old enough to have experienced something like that yet. So please come back and tell me in another 20 years time that I’m wrong – until then, give it a bit more thought. I hope you never experience that at all, but if you ever do, you will know it’s very different from an excuse not to write. It has nothing to do with avoidance, but more an extreme and often temporary lack of creativity.

    We can only really judge how ‘we’ feel, we can’t an shouldn’t judge how others are feeling or what they are experiencing. It would be a bit like deciding how tired we ‘think’ someone is – how can we know? Only the person who is tired can know if they are genuinely tired.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and your interpretation. I definitely agree that there is value in distinguishing between laziness and when writers experience creative stagnation. I appreciate your perspective and will keep it in mind if I revisit this topic in the future.

      Like

  14. DC says:

    No, this doesn’t make sense. You may have recast your own experience (possibly correctly) as something other than writer’s block but it doens’t follow that writer’s block doesn’t exist, or that everyone who experiences an inability to write does so because they’re lazy, unmotivated, etc., etc. “Writer’s block” is an ambiguous term, but the fact that creative people sometimes can’t get their creativity flowing is a documented fact–here’s science writer Maria Konnikova with a little history of the research done on the topic: http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/how-to-beat-writers-block. Just because it’s never happened to you doesn’t mean it never happens at all, and acting as though everyone who’s gone through this horrible state is just like your 22-year-old self is both unjustified and insulting.

    Like

    • I apologize that my article offended you. After re-reading it, I can see why it did, and that was not my intention. It was meant to empower writers to take control of their creativity by tackling whatever in their lives made them feel blocked and moving past it through determination and dedication. Perhaps if I had not focused so much on my own narrative, that message would have come across more clearly. As you so adamantly pointed out, I am young, so there’s still plenty of time for me to improve my communication skills.

      Thank you also for linking to this New Yorker article. It’s always fascinating to read about other writers’ experiences, and I enjoyed learning about the study and the visualization exercises that helped unblock the writers involved. Best of luck with your own writing endeavors.

      Like

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