Why There Is No Cure for Writer’s Block

by Davina on August 1, 2012

Writer’s block doesn’t exist

“Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work.”


The “condition” was first described in 1947 by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler. Since then, countless books have been written and a myriad of theories and coping strategies have been offered to writers to help them “cure” writer’s block.

If all these so-called cures, remedies and strategies work, why is writer’s block still one of the most common complaints among writers? Because writer’s block is a term that is so widely used — so prevalent — we can’t get past it.

Labelling our process as such only boxes us in. It stops us from moving past it because we have fooled ourselves into believing that writer’s block is it.

Writer’s block redefined

My theory is we feel blocked because we may have become:

complacent — smug and overly confident;

egotistical — twisted perspective (judgement, doubts); or

inflexible — unwilling to change or compromise.

Or, it’s because we’ve stopped listening as a result of fear. All it takes is that split second where a writer pauses and wonders what’s next. If they are listening, they will know. If they are not listening they will stop writing and start trying to write.

All of a sudden they’ve laid the first brick on the writer’s block foundation. From there it builds strength as coping strategies are sought. Fear, frustration and hopelessness plaster cement over this block and another one is adhered to it. Before you know it you’re boxed in, having dedicated all your attention to defining and curing the block itself.

Break free from the label “writer’s block”

I’ve often complained about feeling blocked. I will do this less as a result of an experience I had while working on the rewrite of my novel, Serious Undulations.

I had written the first page to a chapter a number of times, deleting it in frustration each time. I resisted deleting the writing because I’d become attached to it. I was being complacent, egotistical and inflexible.

I realized that I felt blocked not because I didn’t know what to write, but because I did know what to write. I didn’t want to write IT. However, I had the inclination that at that specific point in the novel, the reader would want to witness the discussion I ended up writing.

Once I figured that out the writing flowed. My advice is to listen carefully while you’re writing. Notice when you stop and don’t immediately start laying down the foundation for writer’s block.

There is no cure for writer’s block. You can’t cure what doesn’t exist. Find a new metaphor for this process that isn’t so indicative of permanence or of building something.

Be honest with yourself about why you feel blocked. Listen. Be open. Redefine that moment when you pause and wonder what’s next. It’s called writing.

Care to share your opinion?

What metaphor would you use to describe this process?

Photo credit: Davina Haisell

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Mike August 1, 2012 at 6:27 am

I’ve experienced “block” at work in technical lesson plan and training manual writing.

I think it was a combination of didn’t-want-to-do-it-their-way, what-I-already-have-is-good-enough, and I’ve-got-other-things-to-do-that-are-more-interesting. Since my contract jobs are always back where I retired from, I’m teaching from material that was developed before I left.

Part of this contract job, though, is development — or I should say RE-development — work, revising training material to incorporate new training requirements. I still didn’t-want-to-do-it-their-way because I didn’t want to write the changes to conform to a formula that meets the letter of what we need to do, but adds little or no value to the training material.

So I came up with a new way of doing what they wanted that does add value, in my mind. I sent two examples of lesson plans and two templates to my supervisor (same guy that was a large part of why I retired early) and he forwarded them to all the other instructors as examples for the changes that they need to be making. And told them that if they had any questions, ask Mike (the contractor).

Later that day, the guy I share the office with said, in jest, “Oh great. Now I have to use Mike Goad’s stuff for guidance.” Then he accused me of being an over-achiever, again in jest.

(“Over achiever” is something I’ve never strived for or been accused of.)
Mike´s last blog post ..Remember these?

Jocelyn August 1, 2012 at 11:06 am


I like how you’re looking at this from a different perspective and asking people to find a new metaphor for it. It’s not that the problem doesn’t happen, but the common viewpoint of calling it a block isn’t helpful in moving through it.

But, a disruption in creative flow isn’t always just a result of someone’s personality or inflexibility. Sometimes it can be the result of a loss of meaning or purpose. Grief and any other periods of unexpected transition can cause a creative block. This is sometimes because our creativity is overwhelmed with trying to find solutions to help us out and is being used in other ways to relieve our anxiety or unease during a very stressful time.

One metaphor I commonly use is to think of creativity as a rhythm. It’s not always in tune with our own life, responsibilities or our desires. We have to learn that sometimes the rhythm isn’t always consistent with quality or quantity. Just like the waves of the ocean, it comes and goes. Listening, as you mentioned, is what’s key. There’s also patience and self-compassion that I believe are vital.

Davina August 4, 2012 at 8:24 am

Lol, Mike.
You just needed to find that hook to bring you into the job in a way that was meaningful to you. I totally understand. Once you found that, you were unstoppable. Then you passed the stick to the guy you share your office with — the creative flow had come full circle. :)

Hi Jocelyn.
Thank you for your insightful comment. Yes, for sure, a disruption in creative flow can be a result of other things, as you have mentioned. It’s like the creative flow is always there but for some reason we step in and out of it, depending on our life circumstances.

I love your metaphor of rhythm. And, especially what you’ve said about how it’s not always consistent with quality or quantity. Patience and self-compassion… yes!

J.D. Meier August 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm

I like the idea that it doesn’t exist.

Writer’s block always sounds like it could be a cool martial arts move … write up there with writer’s parry, or writer’s bob and weave. When the master lunged at me with his backfist, I countered with my writer’s block.

When folks on my team got blocked, I’d tell them just write me an email.

It always unblocked them because they got too caught up in the writing of the writing. When they shifted focus to just helping a friend, or writing a simple email, they flowed their words more freely.
J.D. Meier´s last blog post ..Why Do We Communicate?

Davina August 9, 2012 at 10:43 am


You’re right :) It does sound like a martial arts move. Many, many times I’ve found that while I’m writing an email to a friend something shifts. That is an excellent suggestion!

Chris Edgar August 9, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Hi Davina — yes, I can definitely relate to what you say about writer’s block being ultimately an attachment to my writing looking a certain way, usually with the goal of pleasing some person or demographic. Naturally, because I am constantly in a state of change and transformation, my writing cannot look the same way at all times, and demanding that it do so is bound to be frustrating and paralyzing.
Chris Edgar´s last blog post ..Seeking Fictional Corporate Logo Ideas

Davina August 13, 2012 at 7:29 am

Very well said, Chris!!

I was just chatting with a friend about how spending time writing is important because there is always room to grow. We can become attached to the good aspects of our writing and only focus on that. We can also tend to focus on the blocks or our weaknesses, letting them discourage us! We easily get in our own way…so, guess who the block is? :-)

Hilary August 13, 2012 at 9:06 am

Hi Davina .. I thankfully don’t seem to suffer from that … but as Mike says I do hate to do something and then that messes my life up for a while – other times the words just flow. Then I’m not writing novels etc. I’d like to do some structured writing at some stage – the technical sort …

It’s planning isn’t it … if everything is set down – then there’s a route to follow.

After my last post – I don’t have writer’s block … I have a brain like an active tube map … helter skelter in all directions – slowly but surely I must rein it in ..

Cheers for now – Hilary
Hilary´s last blog post ..Moringa – a.k.a. Tree of Life …

Davina August 14, 2012 at 9:49 pm

Hi Hilary

Lol, I read your last post tonight. I see what you mean about helter skelter. A nutritional bit about horseradish and then… whale poop :-) Your posts are always so entertaining.

I’m glad to hear that you don’t experience writer’s block. We do have to acknowledge that motivation and creativity are sensitive to what is going on in our lives. Definitely. Structured writing does help because it gives you something to aim for. But as with all things, being flexible is good practice.

Jeremy Collier August 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I agree with you 100%! I think writer’s block is more of a excuse instead of a reason or real thing. I realized this when I went through a bad case of so called writer’s block that lasted years. One day, I sat down and yelled at myself (inside my head of course, although yelling out loud might have been more effective!), asking what the heck is wrong with me?? I then started to reflect and analyse on what caused it.

Long story short, I found out I was making every excuse in the book not to write. Even when I sat down in front of the computer with a blinking cursor, I would make an excuse to not start. Eventually, I wrote two short stories that were really bad, but since then I’ve written some of my best stuff! My advice, on top of what was already said in this post, is to look at yourself for the solution, because you probably know it already.

Davina October 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Hi Jeremy.

This is excellent advice! Yes, look at yourself for the solution. Exactly. Thank you for sharing your experience. This will undoubtedly offer some inspiration for anyone else who happens to stumble upon your comment.

It really does all come down to us. Only we can make it happen… just as only we can name it writer’s block and only we can decide to sit with it or move past it.

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