Writer’s Block – Does it exist?

Writer’s block used to be fashionable – a diagnosed condition. That’s always suspect. If you write, you might have said, ‘I’ve got writer’s block’ out loud to friends who ask you how the novel or short story is going, as if a disease has infiltrated your being, like a cold virus.

My mother used to say starve a fever, feed a cold. So, following that advice, if you can’t write, feed your writing self. These days, there is so much online, the poor, blocked writer, might indeed become feverish under the onslaught of ideas. All those tips, all those prompts, all that writing advice, all those tweets urging you to submit work to magazines or enter competitions. Endless hours can be spent reading them, having good intentions and nodding in agreement. If nothing else, it’s good neck exercise.

To combat the  fever, there are those apps which cut off  internet distractions and post you a picture of a kitten if you manage to write for a while. More punitive ones delete all your work if you don’t get to target in a certain time. To help her write, I bought a friend a posh version of an egg timer for a birthday present recently. Not three, but fifteen minutes to watch the sand drain through.

Let’s get obvious – if you can’t write, you have to overcome deep reluctance, and just do it, create a regular habit. Most people say write everyday to get in the zone, or if not that, at least some time once a week, when you can reward yourself with cake. Writers are never blocked, they are either not physically writing, or being over-critical. Anyone can put down the words of a first draft. It’s only in Steven King’s The Shining that authors are taken over by some other phenomena. Remember the film version and  Jack Nicholson typing the line “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over?

The first draft is not going to be brilliant but the critical voice forgets this and says, why bother? The work will never live up to something marvellous that you’ve written before, or someone else has already done better.

I captured
Cassandra Mortmain lives with her bohemian and impoverished family in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere. Her journal records her life with her beautiful, bored sister, Rose, her fadingly glamorous stepmother, Topaz, her little brother Thomas and her eccentric novelist father who suffers from a financially crippling writer’s block.

A few fictional authors have this ‘be perfect’ script. I love these lines from “I Captured a Castle’ by Dodie Smith.

Cassandra: “Father, ‘Jacob Wrestling’ was a wonderful ground-breaking book. There was never going to be a sequel over night.’

Father: “Meaning?”

Cassandra: “Meaning, it will come”

Father: “How old are you?”

Cassandra: “Seventeen.”

Father: “And you still believe in fairytales?”

(Note the book description copied in here under the cover picture on the left suggests the father  is ‘suffering’ from  writer’s block).