The Semantics of Writer’s Block

I’m sure even non-writers are familiar with the phrase “writer’s block” and understand it to mean a point where a writer finds it absolutely impossible to finish writing whatever he or she is currently working on.

I know that a lot of people, many writers included, would argue that writer’s block is just a myth.

Let me tell you, folks, that regardless of what my fellow Confabulators might say this week – all of their explaining away of the phrase – writer’s block is, in fact, a real thing.

I do need to qualify that statement, however. Some writers are lazy, or pretend to be too busy, or just can’t be bothered with the actual act of writing. Even some serious writers (myself included) will use writer’s block as an excuse to avoid working on a project that needs attention because we don’t want to work.

That is not writer’s block. That’s something else.

Writer’s Block is something deeper. Something more menacing. Something that is incredibly painful. To use a horribly disgusting metaphor, it’s like constipation. Good Lord, it’s not like you don’t want to poop, but you really honestly can’t.

As a writer, I have to write or I start to lose my mind, so when I’m not able to write, it can be as physically painful as being constipated.

Writer’s block isn’t making excuses as to why you can’t write. It’s not giving up because the work is too hard. It’s not waiting around hoping for a muse or inspiration.

It is the chronic (I’m talking weeks or months, not days) inability to write, even though you want to, need to, or try to.

It is paralyzing self-doubt. It is fear of failure. Or even fear of success. It’s working over forty hours a week at a job you hate and that sucks every last drop of creativity out of you. It that point after writing so much that you burn yourself out so you don’t think you can ever write again. It is writing 100,000 words and realizing it’s complete drivel, so you break up with writing forever (all the while wanting to get back together).

It’s opening up a Word document every day and watching the cursor flash but not being able to type more than a few words. It’s opening up a novel you’ve been trying to work on where you know exactly what to do to finish it, or fix it, but you melt down every time you try.

It’s wanting to throw your laptop across the room. It is sobbing in frustration because you can’t make yourself do it. It is writing pages and pages about how much you hate yourself and how you aren’t a writer instead of writing anything productive.

It’s watching everyone around you write, and edit, and celebrate the small successes while you curl in a ball in the dark and rock back and forth cursing yourself for being a writer who can’t write.

Call it what you will: self-doubt, self-pity, fear, depression, desperation, constipation. Those are good words for it, but it’s all just semantics. When those things keep me from being able to write, I call it Writer’s Block.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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