Breaking Writer’s Block

Writer’s block–the experience that one cannot write–can be caused by any number of problems. Some people who have written successfully in the past, get stuck when they try to write. Maybe they sit and stare at a blank page. Maybe they surf the Internet every time they sit down to write. Maybe every time they sit down to write, they get so anxious that they just get up again.

Generally speaking, writer’s block has psychological roots: the stuck writer is not unable to write due to a physical impairment. Those psychological roots can be complicated and varied. There are people who argue that there is no such thing as writer’s block–that “writer’s block” is just an excuse to avoid the hard work of writing–but that seems to beg the question: why do people who are perfectly wiling to do hard work in many areas suddenly unwilling to do hard work when it comes to writing? Most of the people I’ve known who were stuck in their writing process–who were experiencing some sort of writer’s block–were hard-working people, and were distraught that they were struggling to work successfully at their writing.

One book that I like suggests that writer’s block is most likely to affect those who are smart and self-critical, and thus become aware of the weaknesses in their own work (Hjortshoj). Another talks about procrastination as coming from forms of emotional resentment (Fiore). I think both of those issues, and some others, can cause a writing block.

As a writing coach, I help people develop a healthy and productive approach to writing, in which the development of a writing practice based on good principles can erode writer’s block.  Writing will always be difficult, but it is a task that is also rewarding when it’s going well. And with a good practice, it can go well. You may never be Shakespeare, but with practice, it is possible to view writing as an extremely useful tool for moving toward many different goals.