Blockage? What Blockage?

Lovely and immensely talented author Lucy Coats blogged about overcoming and doing battle with the dastardly writer’s block recently. You can read it and all the useful comments here. Someone raised the question: do fantastically successful writers like JK Rowling and James Patterson ever have writer’s block? While on my slippery- wet-and -generally -unpleasant- though- full -of -healthful- benefits morning walk I pondered this. I have experienced writer’s block but to a very small degree and usually when I am trying to force something which is not working. I think this is the way my snarky muse lets me know that I need to trash a particular passage/character/sub plot (or sometimes scarily, major plot) and try a different approach. It never lasts more than a day or two and usually a regime of energetic walks and a lot of venting (discussion), sorts it out. I was always reluctant to call it writer’s block- something that Lucy points out in her blog- as if that would give ‘it’ more power over me. It has always seemed to me as well (and this is strictly a personal thing) that it was a sign that I was an amateur writer without the discipline and talent to write past it. But my blockages (ewww) were more like stumbling blocks, small barriers, not a yawning chasm of emptiness leading to despair and depression. My brain is quite frequently sludgy but it’s never been completely filled with sludge. I’ve always been able to dig myself out, mostly by putting aside whatever I’m working on, getting enough sleep, writing something new- blog, tweets, short story, other idea- and reading lots of books. Easing myself back into the routine helps too. And banning guilt. Guilt has no place in a writer’s life. We are frequently entirely too hard on ourselves. A little easing off of the whip never hurt anyone. I’m thinking that admitting the existence and reality of writer’s block might defang and declaw ‘it’ to some extent. Saying it out loud maybe makes it less scary. And as for JK Rowling, James Patterson, etc…if there is any truth to that, I’m wondering if it’s more a question of confidence. If you’ve had wild success as an author and dealt with writing block (either on a small scale or large) maybe you know you can overcome it, know that it is perhaps a natural part of the writing process, know that you can obliterate it in a fair fight.

7 thoughts on “Blockage? What Blockage?

  1. No, I think you're right, Jo. Sometimes being stuck – which is what I call it – is a sign from the subconscious that you are heading the wrong way. Go away and do something else, sleep on it, garden, walk the dog. One morning you'll wake up knowing which way to go. And guilt is always destructive.

  2. I have to think that having passed through a writer's block lets you know it can be done. And once you know a thing can be done, the doing becomes easier.

    WB for me is situational. I may be "blocked" on one of my novels, but just fine on the blog. Taking pen to paper, keyboard to screen, etc., and pushing on in another direction seems to work for me.

  3. Thank you, Jo–this is a most useful branch to the wider discussion I was hoping to grow on this sometimes contentious subject. " I'm thinking that admitting the existence and reality of writer's block might defang and declaw 'it' to some extent. Saying it out loud maybe makes it less scary." Yes–that thing of naming your fear somehow helps to defeat it. It's an effective psychological tool in the writer's box. The spectre of 'WB' haunts most of us (though not all as I now know well, having had some fairly bracing comments telling me that it does not exist). Dealing with it early–doing exactly what you do ie walk, vent–taking yourself away for a time from the problem often cures it or moves you and your plot on to a different and better place. Having it for as long as I did–because of illness and depression–and being in that creative wilderness is not something I would wish on my worst enemy (if I had one!). What I would like to do most of all is to give other writers ways to conquer/avoid WB before it becomes the monster it was for me.

    Lucy Coats at

  4. It's a vicious circle isn't it, Lucy???The incapability to write because of things outside our control followed by the depression because you're not writing. Just awful.
    I don't understand why people refuse to admit that B exists for some people. Why on earth would we make something like that up? Perhaps they deny it out of fear as if it's contagious?
    Thanks for commenting.

  5. Right, everyone jump on Donna Hosie and pummel her!
    Seriously though, hurray for you, Donna!
    Sounds like you never stop writing so therefore the dreaded WB can't get a grip on you.

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