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Writer's Block

by Phantomimic
Ever suffer from writer's block? If you have then you are in very
distinguished company. Notable writers like Ernest Hemingway, Virginia
Woolf, Leo Tolstoy, Katherine Mansfield, and Joseph Conrad went through
bouts of lack of creativity. For others it was a more permanent thing. After
writing "Moby Dick", Herman Melville was never able to write anything
worthwhile again. Harper Lee of "To Kill a Mocking Bird" fame, decades
after the book, has yet to produce her second novel. Finally there are those
that went into a tailspin that led them to an early grave like Francis Scott
(The Great Gatsby) Fitzgerald.

What is it about writing that can be so hard at times? Here are some quotes
from some of our own brethren.

If I'm trying to sleep, the ideas won't stop. If I'm trying to write, there
appears a barren nothingness. - Carrie Latet

Writers are not just people who sit down and write. They hazard themselves.
Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake. -
E.L. Doctorow

Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think


that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do
something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a
vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy. - Georges
Simenon

Writing is so hard. It’s the only time in your life when you have to think. -
Elizabeth Hardwick

Every creator painfully experiences the chasm between his inner vision and
its ultimate expression. The chasm is never completely bridged. We all have
the conviction, perhaps illusory, that we have much more to say than appears
on the paper. - Isaac Bashevis Singer

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a
vein. - Walter Wellesley Smith

The anxiety involved is intolerable. And the financial rewards just don’t
make up for the expenditure of energy, the damage to health caused by
stimulants and narcotics, the fear that one’s work isn’t good enough. I think,
if I had enough money, I’d give up writing tomorrow. - Anthony Burgess

Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself. - Franz
Kafka

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives
lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout
of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were
not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. -
George Orwell

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. - Ray
Bradbury

It would seem that writing is a long and difficult uphill trek that even some
writers wish they could avoid. By the way, that last quote from Bradbury is
interesting. Does drinking somehow lessen the "pain" of writing? There is a
long list of writers who were also alcoholics. For example:

Dorothy Parker
Dylan Thomas
Edgar Allen Poe
Ernest Hemingway
Henry Bukowski
Jack Kerouac
James Joyce
John Cheever
John Steinbeck
O. Henry
Raymond Chandler
Scott Fitzgerald
Sinclair Lewis
Tennessee Williams
Truman Capote,
William Faulkner

So there you have it. Do we approach the "empty page" with the anxiety and
dread with which the exorcist approaches the demon with whom he is about
to wrestle? No wonder we get writer's block! And you know what? We don't
get a lot of pity for it.

Even the creator of the term "writer's block" who claimed he could "cure it",
psychiatrist Edmund Bergler, didn't have very kind words for writers. He
wrote, "Every writer, without exception, is a masochist, a sadist, a peeping
Tom, an exhibitionist, a narcissist, an 'injustice collector', and a depressed
person constantly haunted by fears of unproductivity." He claimed that he
"had never seen a normal writer"; that regardless of our normal outer
appearance writers are "entirely surrounded by neuroticism in private life"
and that the reason we write is that "the megalomaniac pleasure of
creation...produces a type of elation which cannot be compared with that
experienced by other mortals".

Oh boy, are we a sick and tormented lot or what?

Anyway, even granting all that, what do we do when we get writer's block?
How do we continue deriving the...what did he say, ah yes...the
"megalomaniac pleasure of creation" when our muse has deserted us? Some
of us seem to think it is just a matter of discipline, dedication, making it
happen, and doing things the "right way".

Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out


of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can
to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point
where you have to write. - Paul Rudnick

The only cure for writer's block is insomnia. - Merit Antares

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the
chair. - Mary Heaton Vorse

To write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is to write is


to write. - Gertrude Stein

I learned to produce whether I wanted to or not. It would be easy to say oh, I


have writer's block, oh, I have to wait for my muse. I don't. Chain that muse
to your desk and get the job done. - Barbara Kingslover

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is
breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks,
and then starting on the first one. - Mark Twain

I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is
idea block. When I find myself frozen–whether I’m working on a brief
passage in a novel or brainstorming about an entire book–it’s usually
because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into the passage or story where it has
no place. - Jeffery Deaver

If you are a genius, you’ll make your own rules, but if not–and the odds are
against it–go to your desk, no matter what your mood, face the icy challenge
of the paper–write. - J. B. Priestly
My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of
discipline. - Mary Garden

I think writer's block is simply the dread that you are going to write
something horrible. But as a writer, I believe that if you sit down at the keys
long enough, sooner or later something will come out. - Roy Blount, Jr.

Others think that we are too hard on ourselves and we should stop trying to
live up to unrealistic standards.

If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word. - Margaret Atwood

Don’t get it right, just get it written. - James Thurber

There is no such thing as writer's block for writers whose standards are low
enough. - William Stafford

Yet others are much more pessimistic about our prospects of dealing with
writer's block.

There is no cure for writer's block. If it persists into the third day the writer
must abandon all hope of authorship and go into the family business. Those
who refuse this common sense alternative should identify the source of the
block. When it is the result of fear the writer must complete the work and
submit it even if humiliation and death are sure to follow. When it is the
result of visceral disinterest, which sometimes emerges after agreeing to
write something or other, it is better to own up frankly and abandon the
work. - Thomas Powers
Writer’s block is a disease for which there is no cure, only respite. - Laurie
Wordholt

If you search the web you will find many opinions about what writer's block
is or is not and many suggestions for dealing with it. Have you ever suffered
writer's block? What is your way of dealing with it? Please leave a comment
and share the information with your fellow Scribd scribes.

There is one particular way to deal with writer's block that is seldom
mentioned. Check it at my blog:
http://phantomimic.weebly.com/2/post/2011/04/writers-block.html
The photograph, Writer's Block (52 Weeks, Week 17), is by Adam Lyon and
was used with his permission. You can check his photographic work at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamlyon/