Friday, 20 May 2011


By Richard Jay Parker

I've never met an author who has had writer's block. I'd certainly be interested to hear from anyone who has suffered the condition.

Like all writers I've had bad days at the keyboard and even unproductive weeks. It's inevitable that the muse is going to call in sick from time to time. Good stories usually spring from not one but a succession of inspired thoughts and this chain is frequently broken not least by our everyday lives impeding our ability to focus wholly on our imagined worlds.

There are always so many prosaic chores to stifle the thought process - although a lot of writers do most of their best thinking while they're servicing their domestic commitments than when they're seated at their computer.

Writer's block has featured in a lot of fiction but I wonder if there is really a condition that can be blamed entirely for a writer's inability to perform that's not the result of other external influences or events.

I'm hoping there isn't. I'm always prepared to be proved wrong but not happily in this case. I'd hate to think it could be waiting for any of us in the future.

I suppose the key is to keep the brain firing and continue to scribble in the notebook.

You can't live every day like it's your last without seriously damaging your health. I wonder whether we should apply this to our imaginations though...


  1. I spent 10 years not writing anything and a few friends would say I had writers block. In reality, I was just frustrated with lack of writing experience and my impatience and refused to write. It wasn't the writer block people claim exists and now that I've grown and began writing again I have to say that maybe new ideas will be harder to come by as we write over the years. I don't think true writer block really exists and I hope I'm right.

  2. Hmmm, I'm thinking: — Define "author" and "writer's block".

    The subject "writer's block" has indeed been featured in countless stories, but rarely defined. It's like David Letterman noted about the term "director" - We talk about directors, or they are in interviews every day, but what do they really do?
    When James Cameron comes on a talk show, he talks about the end result, the collaborators, the reception etc - he doesn't lecture about the responsibilities per se.

    Furthermore when you say "I've never met an author who has had writer's block" I have to ask if you by that mean a professional writer who has been conventionally published through a major house. Or do you include the millions who actively pursue such a career?

    I have been urged to write stories in all forms since grade school, when the teachers first read my essays aloud to the class. I have been tapped to edit an award-winning career coaching book script, express a lovestruck teenager's feelings through a poem, co-write song lyrics, ghostwrite executive speeches, comment PhD dissertations in several disciplines, rewrite press releases and numerous business development plans. My letters, social as well as formal, are often spontaneously reviewed as 'riveting' and 'thought-provoking' stories. I'm fastidious about linguistics, semiotics and semantics, but I loath grammatical snobbery as well as grammar as a language learning vehicle. The past two years I've been developing television and movie scripts on behalf of a young actress who is becoming "Hollywood Royalty" (if being professionally invited to the same events as the likes of Steven Spielberg counts).

    Do I qualify as (your definition of) a writer?

    In such case, then yes, I've suffered from a severe (and economically devastating) form of writer's block for 15 years or longer.

    Most recently a major stockholder, and top executive, of a Fortune 100 company was inspired by my incidental phrase in an email and wrote: — It's brilliant! Let's do this!

    It took me 2 months to manifest a response.

    Prior to that a self-made millionaire in the fashion industry got similarly fired up about an observation that I had "thought out loud" in an informal email. He called and requested a synopsis which he wanted to immediately take to a major publishing house and work out a distribution deal which he would finance. I could choose the format, style and even topic of the 2-page synopsis arbitrarily.

    It took me 3 months to deliver.

    That's some form of "writer's block" - right..?

  3. I wish I could say I was UNfamiliar with the term. I like what you said about the muses striking at odd hours and during non-writing tasks. As the proud owner of a full-time job, I seldom have the luxury of actually sitting at my desk for hours on end and challenging myself to spit out words.

    Or is that just another excuse? Hummm....

  4. Thanks for your response, TL. I think a lot of us regularly struggle to find motivation - whatever we do. I don't think giving it a convenient label particularly helps.

    Thanks for your comment and for dropping by, Natalie.

    Hi Kevin. As you know, the nature of the business means many writers have other jobs to make ends meet. I would still class them as writers, however

    From what you've said it looks like you've had some inspired moments in your writing career. You sound more like an extremely careful and exacting writer to me. The inspiration has manifested itself but you deliberate over the execution.

    My definition of block is the classic portrayal we see in fiction of the writer who can't find any inspiration and cites it as if it were an exclusive condition.

    I can only speak from my own experience but I still haven't encountered a definitive example of it.

    Thanks for enlivening the discussion.

    Thanks, Bryce. Procrastination seems to be part of many writers' lives. Time constraints make the process even harder. Most writers describe creativity as a compulsion, however - something they have to do irrespective of the obstacles of daily life.

  5. Wise words, Richard, and an accurate and succinct deduction.

    I can only add that indeed when the inspiration manifests itself, it takes over completely - and in the form of copious research mania and sleep deprivation, while taking me on a feverish quest for the 'exact' words.

    It's a block in the sense that I fail "deadlines" miserably and compulsively but it's certainly not for lack of inspiration.
    On the contrary it's like Viktor Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning:

    ”For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words: 'The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.'”

  6. Ps: Mind you - during those deliberations I do write copious amounts of text, and at times when I've managed to break free from the "spell" and unhappily let go of some "early" draft, the reception has been "standing ovations". I just don't feel I've caught the perfection.

    But a moment in life without inspiration or without finding good (not great) words? ..I can see why you would ask how a state like that feels like..

  7. I just came upon this lecture by Stephen J. Cannell, where he discusses "writer's block":

    Best regards.