Writer’s Block- Does it really exist?

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The concept of ‘Writer’s Block’ effects us all in some way: Whether it’s writing an article for the paper; working on a creative writing piece; working out how to start an essay or where to begin with your lab report. We’ve all undoubtedly had that horrific feeling of staring at a blank piece of paper with deadlines looming and not knowing where to begin. As a person who loves writing I have to say that ‘Writer’s block’ is a frequent problem in my life, and what better way to bust it than to write about it? (Yes, I do see the Irony).

Many years ago, poets used to claim that the only reason they could write is because the words came to them from a ‘muse’. They believed that they were only able to write under the guidance of this ethereal inspiration, and if the ideas and words were not coming to them then obviously the muse was not willing them to write. This implies that the concept of ‘Writer’s block’ is a relatively modern concept, but does it truly exist? According to award winning author Philip Pullman, writer’s block does not exist, and can be overridden if you are passionate enough about writing. He is quoted for saying: “All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expect sympathy for it?” Terry Pratchett also reinforces this idea, arguing that: “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”

Both of these authors appear to reach a consensus that the construct of ‘Writer’s Block’ is almost an artistic excuse for having a lack of ideas. Personally, I have to agree. Whether it is an essay, story or a lab report, I have noticed that as soon as people come up with an idea or get their head around how daunting a task may seem, they are able to write perfectly. However, the University of Illinois does believe that writer’s block exists.

According to their writer’s block help page ‘Writer’s block is often caused by conflicted feelings. We want the writing to be perfect and we want the paper done as soon as possible. We know what we know but we don’t know what our readers know. We know how the memo should sound, but we don’t have all the facts we need. We know everything about the software, but we don’t know what an article should look like. We know what we have to say but we are afraid that it won’t measure up to our expectations or to our readers’ expectations.’

Whether or not Writer’s Block exists or is a construct is up to you and your own personal beliefs, but if you do find yourself stuck, both writer’s and universities alike suggest trying a ‘free-writing’ exercise. This is where you think about your chosen topic, and write everything you can think of for about ten minutes, whether this is key words, phrases or ideas. When you are finished pick out any information that is useful to you. This is a great way of finding inspiration and overcoming that initial fear of starting a new piece. Good Luck in all your writing endeavors!

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