I don’t believe in writer’s block.  To me, those words suggest that it’s okay to say, “I can’t write today, I’m blocked,” and then to shrug with a vaguely tragic air, as though this invisible, magical “block” were a valid excuse for stalling.

Not that I can preach about this.  I spent yesterday consciously talking myself out of a non-writing rut that’s been going strong for about three weeks.  And I succeeded, but barely.  I really had to claw for it.

I have all kinds of internal tripwires that stop me from wanting to write.  Often, out of lazy habit, I label these tripwires “writer’s block” – but they’re not.  When I am tempted to call myself blocked, it’s usually because:

1. I’m bleeping sick of my idea.  I sit down to work.  I open the document.  I wince, groan, make a barfing sound, and close the document again, because it’s ugly in there and I hate it and I can’t remember why I ever loved it in the first place.  I tell my husband that my stupid idea is stupid, and I accuse him of not being willing to be honest with me about how stupid my idea is.  My husband never takes the bait.  Wise man.

2. I’m tired.  Most writers I know don’t have the luxury of just writing for a living – most of us have full-time, non-writing jobs.  Even the ones who “just” write for a living do much more than that.  They revise, teach, coach, consult, support other writers, make school and library visits, appear at bookstores and conferences, self promote, construct and maintain social media platforms, take care of their families, manage their homes and bills and taxes, and still try to wedge in some exercise and find the time to read.  Some days, I feel like I’m the only one trying to do all this.  I think “If I were a writer with just one job then this would be so much easier.”  Uh.  Would it?  Self pity, party of one, your table is ready.  We’re all tired.  We’re all overextended.  It doesn’t mean I get a pass.  I can write anyway.

3. I’m afraid I suck.  All the time.  All. The. Time.  The fear of suckage eats at me.  EATS.  And sometimes?  I do suck.  (If you can relate, here’s Maureen Johnson talking about why we should all Dare to Suck).  I can still write anyway.

4. I’m afraid someone already wrote a better version of what I’m writing.   They probably did.  I can still write anyway.

5. I just read a book that was so amazing and beautiful that it was like someone kidnapped an angel and made pages out of it, and I’m having the spiritual epiphany – again – that I have no right to write if I can’t write like that.  Again, maybe so. But it’s not for me to decide.  I should never be the one who decides that I’m not worthy of running the race.  I think of Cyrus, the amazing popper/animator from the last season of So You Think You Can Dance.  That man went into those auditions with his crew, and they all gave brilliant auditions in their genre, and they all went to Vegas for finals week.  In Vegas, one of the crew was eliminated.  Another bowed out – he wasn’t told to leave; he just didn’t believe he could dance outside his genre – and maybe he was right.  Maybe it was too hard.  But Cyrus thought it was hard too, and sometimes he looked downright ridiculous, and yet he kept going.  He left it to someone else to decide if he wasn’t worthy of being in the lineup.  And you know what?  They never did.  He made the show.  And he was awesome.  So basically, we all need to be more like Cyrus, is what I’m saying.

6.  I can’t figure out what’s wrong with the bleeping plot/character/voice.  Sometimes, it’s just hard work.  Hard, gritty mind work, without the soaring, speeding sensation that sometimes does accompany writing. When something in the story is broken, and I know it but can’t quite put my finger on the solution, I get miserable.

I’ve been staring my current manuscript in the face for the past few weeks without writing a word.  My current “block” has been a combination of all of the above factors.  I’m sick of my idea, I’m tired, I suck, someone already beat me to it, other books are more worth reading, and I’m not all that clever anyway.

The easiest way to dismiss all this is to say “I feel blocked,” and stop writing. But yesterday after work, while my toddler napped, I wrote three pages.  Just three – not my usual gush.  Three beautiful, claw marked pages that probably suck but are evidence that I am not, in fact, blocked.

Or maybe I am.  The point, I guess, is that I can still write anyway.

In fact, I’m going to make myself a little deal, right here.  Every time I slip and say “I feel blocked” I’m going to write 500 words.  Yeah.  That’s right.  How do you like them apples, you little demons of self doubt?  Am I scaring you?  GOOD.  GET OUT.  SEEK YE ANOTHER HOST, FOR HERE YOU SHALL FIND NO SUSTENANCE.

7. I’m possibly going insane.  Oh well.

I can still write anyway.



  1. Thank you, Faith! My #8 is coffee. Or ice cream. Coffee ice cream!

  2. Hi, Megan! I just followed Ammi-Joan’s tweet over here–and glad I did! I totally agree with this post. I don’t believe in the mysterious lack-of-muse called writer’s block. There’s always a problem–either with the story or the way I’m viewing myself as a writer. (And great analogy with Cyrus on #5! I struggle with comparison a lot.) But I would add a #8 for myself: I need chocolate. 🙂

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