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Writer's Block? Or "Can't be arsed"?

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Old 05-01-2006, 09:58 AM
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Writer's Block? Or "Can't be arsed"?


Does writer's block exist? Or is it a convenient tag to describe those times when you've got better things to do with your time? Or the times when you really can't be bothered?

You know those times. You're tired, you've been at work all day, and you'd rather vegetate in from of the TV in the evening. "I don't have the muse" you say to yourself, and it lets you off the hook. People ask: "how's the writing?" Do you say: "actually, I can't even be bothered to pick up a pen or open the word processor". And everyone moves away, or talks about cars or religion or football or sex.

Or do you lie, and say: "I've got writer's block", and everyone sympathises. What it must be like to be that creative, and then be blocked. Oh, the trauma!

But in reality, there's no such thing as writer's block. Maybe you can't think of the next scene in your novel, or think of a topic or theme for your short story. Does it stop you writing? Does it stop you updating your website? Posting to your weblog? Does it stop you writing some flash fiction? Some poetry? A haiku?

If you get stuck, write something else. If only to prove to yourself that writer's block doesn't exist.

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Old 05-01-2006, 11:13 AM
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it exists, I have all the time in the world and all the inspiration but I sit down with pen to paper, fingers to keys be they my laptop or my typewriter and the words wont come, not like that used to, it's picking up but I struggle and spend hours working on something that used to take me so much less.. but hopefully the quality isnt diminished, I just have to spend more time and work harder..

I guess when the stress goes from certain parts of my life it'll be much easier..
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Old 05-01-2006, 12:47 PM
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I agree with Kal that writer's block is real, but it's also tied to other issues.

A writer has to find his or her particular niche, where talent and interest coincide. Do you want to write The Great American Novel or a simple entertainment like mystery or romance? Be the Poet Laureaute of your country or write a thin volume of personal poetry? Write fiction, literary essays or basic journalism? Or maybe a memoir of your life? Is your talent level high enough to be a writer at all? (Not everyone is destined to be a writer.)

I think many cases of writer's block are caused when the writer leaves his or her natural niche and reaches for the moon.

For example, I have written four novels and managed to get two of them published, but I am not a novelist. I don't like writing novels because (1)they take too long (2)I get tired of the story and the characters before I finish (3)I feel somewhat out of my depth in sustaining the narrative portion.

Short stories, screen and stage plays are my natural niche in fiction, mainly because they depend so much on dialogue (which is my strong point.) I can also handle a certain type of essay rather well because of my journalism experience, but I would rather stick bamboo slivers under my fingernails than write an academic essay with footnotes, etc. I WISH I was better at humorous writing and I keep trying.

A couple people I've known seemed to be natural-born writers. I hated them, of course, because I have to work very hard to produce a good piece of writing. But the truth is they have more talent for writing than I do and I have grudgingly learned to accept it.

As long as I stick to my niche, I never have real writer's block. I may not write anything for weeks, but I don't feel "blocked" because I don't try until something inspires me. A couple years ago I had an amazing burst of writing output that lasted for several months. I wrote at least two short stories every month and a few were among my very best. At the same time I also wrote an award-winning magazine article and a screenplay. Then the bubble burst and I slowed way down, but I don't worry about it. Manic writing sprees come and go and in the meantime I just plug along, writing occasional fiction when the Muse whispers in my ear. I think it's counter-productive to be too self-conscious about the impetus for writing. It's a mysterious process that doesn't lend itself well to logical analysis.
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Old 05-01-2006, 12:56 PM
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I, too, believe that writer's block is real.

True, sometimes, it's just an excuse for lack of motivation but I really truly wish I could write poetry but I can't seem to find the words to say what i'm thinking and feeling and it's the most frustrating thing in the world.

I haven't found my "niche" and haven't really wrote "seriously" for, well ever actually. I like writing and I can usually put sentences together that make sense and teachers seem to like that but I have no particular writing talent, nor is the creative side of my brain well developed. I love reading, I love books, I love poetry, I love music, I love lyrics, I love words and would love to make that my major but I'm not that good at/with them so...anyways, I write for fun, on the side but I can't seem to really write of late.

So basically, after all my rambling, what I'm trying to say is that I believe full heartedly in the power and frustration of writer's block.
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Old 05-01-2006, 02:29 PM
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I agree that you have to find your place in writing. I prefer writing shorts thought I have 2 graphic novels (long comic books) and 1 novel within me that I know I can write, it's just a matter of finding the time and the ability, so they're on a back burner untill university is over; other than in the summer I just don't have the time.

Writer's block differs from writer to writer, I am very rarely uninspired but my block occurs when I try to write down my idea, the words just do not come to me, why I love exercises like this. You can ramble away and you have atleast acomplished something that could maybe, at a later date be improved upon.
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Old 05-01-2006, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Belle Ringer
...I like writing and I can usually put sentences together that make sense and teachers seem to like that but I have no particular writing talent, nor is the creative side of my brain well developed.
I don't know how old you are, but I didn't learn how to write until I was 19 and even then I wasn't very good at it. If your teachers like your writing, you're on the right track.

Originally Posted by Belle Ringer
I love reading, I love books, I love poetry, I love music, I love lyrics, I love words ...
That's the first step in becoming a writer.

Originally Posted by Belle Ringer
so...anyways, I write for fun ...
Then write fun things for now: humor, childrens or young adult stories, fantasy, adventure, etc. Try the more serious stuff when you get older and feel up to it.
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Old 05-05-2006, 09:26 AM
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I mostly write short stories or poetry when I'm bored. But most of my short sotries are based around the same world, with some characters the same and stuff.

Of course, there are other random peices, like the one I did about the vegetales known as "Saurkrauteers" who wore saurkraut waistcoats and terrorized a town... That was pretty funny.

I love doing descriptive peices. Once I did like, three pages about this cape I made up. Of course, I had it be a professor talking, and thn it ended with someone asking "That's all very nice, but what does that have to do with Spanish class?"
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Old 05-07-2006, 09:58 AM
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Writer's Block does exist, I'm living proof.

I'll really want to write but I won't be able too. Nothing will come out of my fingers and on to the keyboard.
I've had stretches of Writer's Block that've been months long.
I HATE Writer's Block.
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Old 05-09-2006, 04:17 AM
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I'm afraid I don't understand writer's block.

I can see how some writers might not feel able to work on their novel or short story, but to not be able to write ANYTHING? Is this what happens?

I read sometime about 'cures' for writer's block. Amongst those was keeping a journal / diary / blog. Can blocked writers do this? Is it worse than that? How about writing a non-fiction article (if you're normally a fiction writer)?
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Old 05-10-2006, 08:16 PM
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Originally Posted by doolols
I read sometime about 'cures' for writer's block. Amongst those was keeping a journal / diary / blog. Can blocked writers do this? Is it worse than that? How about writing a non-fiction article (if you're normally a fiction writer)?
My prescription (works for me at least):

Copy passages from my favorite writers. Just sit down and write it out word for word. Eventually your brain screams in desperation, and begins to come up with original prose. In the meantime, you get the benefit of seeing in close detail how your favorite authors do it. Details like word choice, sentence structure, characterization, etc., are things you can't see when you just read a passage.
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Old 09-03-2006, 05:29 AM
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I don't generally suffer from Writer's Block but here are some secrets I use to get going if I feel it is slow.

First, if I am really tired, sick or anxious (not just a little, but really pissed off or upset) I don't even bother to try. Better to read a book, listen to some music. My life is pretty calm so I don't often have to choose this.

1. Number One best way to get something rolling - mow the lawn. It's dull, repetitive and it neutralizes the part of the brain that worries. Walking the dog is almost as good.

2. Number Two best way - go on a short trip. Fredric Brown used to do this one. He'd buy a round-trip ticket to somewhere and by the time he got back he had the idea for his next novel. Again, dull, not much gong on so your brain tries to occupy itself. I used to get a ton of ideas riding the bus to uni each day. Twenty minutes and I carried a notebook to write down ideas. Now I have 45 min drive to work and a car pool. When I don't drive, I often think up ideas. (Really chatty car pool isn't going to work so well.)

3. Number Three best way - listen to music that has no lyrics. I like Tchaikovsky and the other Russians. Again you are putting yourself into a neutral state where the mind has time to wander. This is the biggest problem today. We don't have a lot of time where we can escape the TV or other noisy distractions. (There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who come into a room and turn the TV on and those who turn it off. I am the latter. My wife is the former. Fun ensues.)

Want more suggestions? Find a copy of the May 2006 issue of THE WRITER. I have an article on "Jump Starting Your Creativity".

GW
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Old 09-03-2006, 05:54 AM
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I used to believe in writer's block until I read something by someone who said it didn't exist. Since then, it hasn't come back.

Cheers,
Rob
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Old 09-03-2006, 06:20 AM
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I once spent 8 hours writing, only to end up with 2000 words, and only 500 of those were usable, even though I knew what I wanted to write..

The next day I wrote 8000 words in 3 hours. Every word was pure gold.

Writers block is very real.
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Old 09-03-2006, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by darthwader
I once spent 8 hours writing, only to end up with 2000 words, and only 500 of those were usable, even though I knew what I wanted to write..

The next day I wrote 8000 words in 3 hours. Every word was pure gold.

Writers block is very real.
You just described two scenarios in which you weren't blocked, then said that writer's block is real. Was that deliberate?
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Old 09-03-2006, 06:40 AM
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Well rather the first case was that I knew what I wanted to write, but the words just would not come. By definition that's writer's block.
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Old 09-03-2006, 06:46 AM
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Yeah I can write crap for you when I'm blaocked.. but to me that's not writing. It's words on a page or a screen.

I'm getting better at over coming it but it still happens from time to time. I went five months with loads of ideas and everytime I at down to write them nothing came, no great turns of phrase, no magic sparkle, it was awful..
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Old 09-05-2006, 01:41 AM
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The same thing had been happening to me for the last one and a half months. All these lovely ideas were flowering in my head and when I sat in front of the computer or picked up a pen, nothing happened. Then, when I started studying for my exams (first ones I've had since March), the words started flowing again. I got better ideas, which are easier to set down. I'm just a bit scared about the fact that I write best when I'm supposed to be studying (I started writing seriously in December, when I was supposed to be studying Chemistry). I don't want to be dependant on that tension to write well.

Conclusion: Writer's block does exist and if you can identify the cause (crazy as it sounds, like not studying for too long) maybe, just maybe, you can overcome it.
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Old 09-05-2006, 04:51 AM
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For me, I just "can't be arsed" at the moment. It's sad, it really is, and I'm not happy about it. But I know that things will come back to me once I go back to school (kind of like you said, angel) so I'm just waiting this out. I could write if I made myself, but that's never been fun.
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Old 10-05-2011, 08:37 AM
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Writer's block is very real. That time when you do have the time, but you can't think of anything, that time when Jack London would buy a sailor a beer at the closest bar and have him tell a story, that's writer's block. Even Stephen King gets writer's block. I do, I think we all do, even you, you just don't know it. It's when you've got all the ideas in the world, and don't know how to put it on paper.
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:09 AM
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Writer's block only exists for those who let it exist. I've written a dozen novels and have never been afflicted with any kind of block. That's because I refuse to believe it exists, ergo it can't affect me.
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:50 AM
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It’s never happened to you, so it doesn’t exist. Ha ha. The arrogance of that is astounding.

Well, it has happened to me – and I might have been inclined to think it may not exist -- until it did happen. And no – sitting down and pounding out crap didn’t make it go away either.
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Old 10-05-2011, 11:43 AM
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Well,that's all well and good gents, but you've just resurected a thread that has been dead nearly five and a half years!!

Can we find a slightly more current conversation.
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Old 10-05-2011, 11:54 AM
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Note to self-- ALWAYS check all post and thread origination dates before replying. Don't rely on the previous two posters to do it for you.

Besides, do you think someone is going to pass up a perfectly good opportunity to tell us again that he's written a dozen novels??

Last edited by JoeMatt; 10-05-2011 at 12:09 PM..
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Old 10-05-2011, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by JoeMatt View Post
Besides, do you think someone is going to pass up a perfectly good opportunity to tell us again that he's written a dozen novels??
Haha. Seconded. And also seconded about the astounding arrogance of people assuming that, just because they don't encounter a thing, it doesn't exist for anyone else either.

Apologies to your lovely self, Lorry, for joining in a ressurected thread. I blame the first guy.
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Old 10-05-2011, 10:29 PM
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I said I refuse to believe it exists. I didn't, however, say you should refuse to believe it exists. If you all want to tell yourself you can't write because some unseen force has 'blocked' your writing skills, knock yourselves out.

Hey, just the other day I encountered a case of painter's block. I stared at an empty canvas for days. The day before that, it was musician's block. I forgot how to play the damn guitar.

Try making a living from writing. See how long you believe in 'writer's block' then.
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Old 10-06-2011, 01:45 AM
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Just because something is unseen and mysterious doesn't mean it isn't felt. A lot of people take that attitude with my ME - just because people can't see the muddle in my brain or the pain in my limbs doesn't mean I am not feeling it.
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Old 10-06-2011, 02:58 AM
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Giving up and joining in... sigh

I think 'Writer's Block' is a nebulous term that's used to refer to a period when a writer can't write. I'm not saying there's no such situation as being unable to write, but I find the term 'Writer's Block' really pretentious.

I imagine the term being used to full affect by a character dressed in green silk smoking jacket with maroon brocade, swooning back into a highback, winged chair, glass of scotch in hand. "Oh Dahling, it's dreadful, one hasn't been able to write for days and days, I am affraid I have been struck by the cursed writers block."

It's not an illness


I prefer to look at the reasons as to why someone can't write and see what, if anything, can be done to overcome them, things like:
  • emotionally drained
  • over tired
  • unable to concentrate
  • being too close to a project for too long
  • lack of inspiration
  • over stimulated
  • real-life intrusion into writing time
In most cases a break or fresh inspiration is called for, but sometimes people can't see the wood for the trees and feel that such an approach is giving up. If that's the case and they are utterly compelled to write then I whole-heartedly advocate the practise of sitting down and writing oddments on junk and rubbish just to get the creative juices flowing.

I also agree with Daedelus, when you have to write for a living, the people who hold the purse strings don't give a damn about 'Writer's Block' they want delivery and if you don't deliver you don't get paid.

If I told my boss I had writer's block he would laugh in my face, quite literally, and I would be told to get over myself. However if I said I couldn't concentrate, or find the time to write, or hadn't done enough research he would support me in finding quiet space, finding time, additional research.

Last edited by Redlorry; 10-06-2011 at 03:07 AM..
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Old 10-06-2011, 03:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Daedalus View Post
Hey, just the other day I encountered a case of painter's block. I stared at an empty canvas for days. The day before that, it was musician's block. I forgot how to play the damn guitar.
Not so clever. As someone who paints and writes music, I can tell you, those are really dumb analogies. The same applies -- call it creative block if you want. I can pick up a paint brush and slather paint on canvas or pick up a guitar and play – but I might not be able to paint or write music that meets my standards. If you’re going to use analogies – think through them first, or you’re not going to make sense.

Originally Posted by Daedalus View Post
Try making a living from writing. See how long you believe in 'writer's block' then.
That’s just it. I’m not a professional writer. I can’t make up deadlines or create the same kind of pressure. I have other commitments and responsibilities, things I took on long before I started writing -- and I have limited time to write. There have been periods when I sit down to write in those short windows, absolutely nothing happens. Knocking out shit doesn’t help me – it only makes me more frustrated. Part of it is that I am distracted by those other commitments – not some unseen force. And since I don’t have all day to write, like some people – I have to move on and try another day. I’ve had this go on for weeks.

And the whole thing that professional writers don’t ever get writers block is pure guesswork. We really don’t know how many authors have cranked out substandard shit because they had no choice. We don’t know how many authors have stopped writing because they ran out of ideas, or how many once successful writers found their readership dwindling because they couldn’t maintain the quality of the writing. Sure – they kept writing, because they needed the paycheck. And no one really knows why Harper Lee never wrote another book. Maybe she couldn’t. One of my favorite authors, Raymond Carver suffered from writers block and even wrote a story about it. I guess he was making it all up. A lot of people make their livings as writers -- it's asinine of you to think you can speak for all of them.

Some creative people go through periods where for one reason or another – they can’t create. It happens – even though it hasn’t happened to you. Pull your head out of you know where and consider that others have had a different experience than yours.

Last edited by JoeMatt; 10-06-2011 at 03:55 AM..
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Old 10-06-2011, 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Redlorry View Post
I'm not saying there's no such situation as being unable to write, but I find the term 'Writer's Block' really pretentious.
Oh, OK. So you're saying it exists -- you just don't like the term. Why don't we call it "The thing where you're unable to write." That has a real ring to it.
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Old 10-06-2011, 04:01 AM
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Originally Posted by JoeMatt View Post
Oh, OK. So you're saying it exists -- you just don't like the term. Why don't we call it "The thing where you're unable to write." That has a real ring to it.
Why can't someone say I am too tired to write or I am too busy to write. Or I have no inspiration right now? Honesty over pretention.
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