Ten Reasons Writer's Block Isn't A Real Thing

Yes, I said it. Plenty of other people have, too. Writer's block isn't a thing. It's not actually a very good excuse for not doing something you want to do. It's not a good reason for stopping and not carrying on - especially if you don't feel your writing life has got "there" yet - wherever "there" may be for you.
It's definitely not a good excuse for stopping just because things are hard. Yes, writing gets hard. Of course it does. That's the moment you're supposed to roll up your sleeps and heave to, with extra blood and sweat and effort and tears and joy. Extra! Not less. Why would you put in less

Writer's Block
Calvin and Hobbes © Bill Watterson
Don't hide behind ideas when you're meant to put down words, and don't hide behind words empty of meaning when you're supposed to be crafting ideas.

Writer's block? No. Don't get me wrong - I'm sympathetic and empathetic and a few more -ethics about getting stumped by how a story should go, or for choosing the best word, or for starting one (Oh, starting stories. Why does that bit have to be so rough?). But I don't like rolling out a handy, ready-made excuse for what might, really, be a slight misunderstanding of what writing is.

  1. If you're writing for a living, then stories are your job. You have to write, or next time you call a plumber, be willing to accept 'plumber's block' as the reason they can't help you.
  2. If you're writing for pleasure (which can be the same as above) then you have even less reason to pretend it's tearing you apart. Think your work is rubbish? OK. Write it down, though.
  3. Anyway, you can always edit it later.
  4. You can delete it too, if you like. Remember what Hemingway said about first drafts and shit and all that.
  5. If you're telling other people about your writers block, that's probably a clue as to why you're not getting much writing done.
  6. At the end of the day artists thrive on attention. Being blocked can be a fantastic way to get sympathy. Stop it.
  7. Have you ever seen a kid tell a story? They go mad. Everything links up. That's the heart of storytelling. Do that.
  8. If you're claiming writer's block because you can't find the right words, you need to learn more words. 
  9. You do Number 8 by reading more words. And if you're not writing because you're blocked up, maybe your brain needs a flush. You do that by putting a few books through the system.
  10. It's important not to confuse being blocked with being confused about where a story's going. Tease out a few ideas and write multiple endings, different choices, different styles. Produce work. Change the tense, the person, the gender. Are you blocked or just lost?
Does this make me seem a bit black and white? I'm not saying that there aren't moments when it won't work and it all seems rubbish and dark and you just want to burn the pages. I'm not. I am saying that that's all pretty normal, usually happens around chapter seventeen, and is something to power through. 

Fight the myth that you need a muse. You are your muse. Or, life is. Or, other books are. Whatever. Everything can be. 

Write. Create. Flow.

And bugger the block.


  1. I agree. I wrote a short essay on how writer's block isn't real for a novel writing class once... the room was silent after I read it. I may have offended them, but I don't care. Writer's Block isn't real!

    I'm so glad I found this post. Thanks for writing this.

    - Jen

    1. I'm glad you agreed / enjoyed. I think some writers find the idea of a block beyond their control to be comforting - a thing they can blame when they don't feel in the mood. Truth probably is that they need a kick up the backside...