Writer’s Block Is Not Real

by Laura Michelle Thomas

 

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, writer’s block, a term coined in 1950, is “a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.” 

Writers BlockA “psychological inhibition.” Sounds pretty serious. Does that mean writer’s block can only be treated with $200-per-hour counselling sessions or anti-anxiety pills? Funny how the term was coined in the 1950s when counselling psychology really started to become mainstream. Anyway, it’s rubbish.

Real writers don’t get writer’s block. By “real” I mean skilled, professional writers, not wannabes.

Why don’t writers (real, working writers) get writer’s block?

Because professional writers understand the writing process and have the skills to problem solve and forge ahead, no matter how snarled a piece of writing becomes. Just as a joiner carpenter with twenty-five years experience can install kitchen cupboards when walls are not straight or plumb, a professional writer can fix weak plots and lame protagonists without loosing ground or giving up.

It might not be easy to install a challenging kitchen or juggle complex plot lines, but to the professional, it’s just part of what they do. They might step away in a moment of frustration to clear their heads, but they don’t walk away from a project. It is their job. And short of breaking their arms or their typing fingers, they will get the work done.

So what is really going on when a wannabe writer gets stuck on a piece of writing? Is it a situation that should be called writer’s block?

No. Wannabes are not yet real writers. So when they get stuck on a piece, they are not suffering from writer’s block, they are just coming up against the limits of their skill. Like the apprentice carpenter, they are in over their heads. That’s not a block, that’s a deficiency. And it’s time for more training.

The cure for moments like this is to turn to the master writer and ask for guidance.

Sometimes the master will help the apprentice realize that he or she is not ready to install an entire kitchen or to write a novel. Some of the basics need to be practiced on a smaller scale with easier projects. For the wannabe writer, that means working on short stories, short poems, blog articles, monologues, etc., before moving on to novellas, novels, and feature-length screen plays.

Seriously, no one pops out of the womb and starts writing grand novels. Talent matters, but as with any other profession, writing requires the progressive development of skills before one truly becomes a professional writer.

I wish I knew who coined the term “writer’s block,” but I don’t have access to the mighty tomes of the Oxford English Dictionary. If you happen to be reading this article from the bowels of a university library, which has the OED, please look up the term tell us who first came up with it. I would truly appreciate that.

In the meantime, when you come across those two words in your everyday travels as a wannabe writer, just remember that they refer to a condition that is not real, not for real writers. You don’t need counselling or pills. You need training. When you get stuck on a piece of writing, understand there is nothing wrong with you on some fundamental level; you just have more to learn.

Still not convinced that writer’s block is a fictional disorder?

Take a deep breath and read the title of this article out loud three times. Let the truth sink into your bones. Let the reality of this statement slip like a muzzle over the maw of your inner dragon, that voice inside that tells you your writing sucks, and just work. That’s what real writers do.

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Laura Michelle Thomas

About Laura Michelle Thomas

Laura Michelle Thomas is a novelist, freelance writer, writing mentor, and the owner of Laura Thomas Communications. She is the creator and administrator of the Junior Authors Contests and Junior Authors Conferences. Laura is publisher and senior editor of jaBlog! and is dedicated to fostering the development of young writers worldwide.

6 comments on “Writer’s Block Is Not Real

  1. Aleeza Seaweb

    Edmund Bergler coined this term=p

  2. Hailey

    I found this article interesting because I don’t actually use the term ‘writers’ block’.
    I call my personal variation ‘wall of Jell-o’. It refers to when I hit a point in a story where I KNOW what’s supposed to go where, but just don’t have the enthusiasm to put it ON the page. Like hitting a wall of Jell-o. It’s not like I can’t get through it – it’s just more effort than I’m willing to put in at that point.
    I got a very bad case of it quite recently. One of the characters in the novel (series?) I’m writing needed to learn how to ride. Unfortunately, I’ve never touched a horse. It stopped things for some time, until I sent an e-mail to someone who actually rides. Now, I know more than probably necessary. Which, in my opinion, is the perfect amount of information to have when writing. Stories are more convincing if the writer knows what they’re talking about. And it means you don’t get stuck just because of a minor detail.

  3. Sharon Gibbs

    Hi Laura,
    Having a limited secondary education, raising my two children and working at several different jobs over my working life so far. I suddenly had an idea to write a book. Good idea I thought, would make a great story. That was December 2012, this little story that started out as just over two pages of writing (mind you if I reread it now it seems a bit lame) but it has grown and developed into a massive manuscript so far my current word count is 105,000 (approx) words. I don’t know about writers block as the story already exists within my head. If I am stuck at all its usually just being able to juggle the words to sit better within the story. Will my writing be good enough I hope not. I want it to sing and soar as my heart does when I write. I don’t know the rules for writing and I don’t think I want to. I love what I do and encourage all no matter who you are have a go you never know where it will lead you. If the passion is there, If you know where your story starts and finishes have faith the story will unfold in its own time. (Editing will be my challenge) By the way love your page Write Q&A

    • Hi Sharon. Thanks for sharing your story. I wish you all the best and encourage you not to worry about the word count yet. Just get the first draft done. Write your ending, then stand back and take a look at your lump of clay and start sculpting.

  4. Ravi Teja Tadimalla

    Awesome :D I heard somewhere that writers who think their writing is good are bad writers. Is this true?

    • Hi Ravi. Good question. A professional writer does not have to say his writing is good; the pay-cheque speaks for itself. If you can write well enough to get paid, then it’s a moot point. Just like there are good plumbers and there are good-enough plumbers.

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