When writers don’t know what to write about, the topic of writer’s block invariably comes up.
A Google search for the term “writer’s block” comes up with 3,900,000 results. Books have been written about writer’s block. Every writer has written something about writer’s block. It’s an inexhaustible and endlessly deep source of material. Writing about writer’s block is important work that often reveals something about the writer and can lead to new insights in the reader.
Charles Bukowski wrote that “writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
Steve Martin wrote, “Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.”
Perhaps the best advice for overcoming writer’s block comes from Robert Pirsig’s Novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in which the narrator, Phaedrus, recalls a creative writing student who was having trouble with writing a 500 word essay about the United States. He advised the student that “the more you look, the more you see” and revised the assignment to be limited to the front of the Opera House in Bozeman, Montana — starting with the upper left-hand brick. The scope thus narrowed, the student turned in a 5000 word essay.
Writer’s block isn’t just an affliction of fiction writers, newsletter writers, or newspaper columnists. Artists suffer from “lack of inspiration,” programmers suffer from “blank page syndrome,” and musicians have “songwriter’s block.”
The only people not known to have bouts of writer’s block are our relatives on Facebook who hold extreme religious or political views.
The fact that those who are most passionate and fervent about spreading their views are often the most prolific writers reinforces the theory that writer’s block is a problem of having too much to write about. The enemies of self-expression are alternate points of view and careful analysis. That’s not to say that creativity only comes from ignorance, but it may just be that the best way to become unstuck with any endeavor is to make a choice and ignore everything else.