Re-Thinking Writer’s Block

Rethinking – yet again – that lively condition/situation/happenstance known near and far as Writer’s Block (or Writers’ Block, or Writers Block) because, hey, it beats trying to write, yeah?

by Will Dowd

Writer’s block is a serious disease. Whether it manifests as blank page syndrome or second novel disorder, the onset of symptoms is the same: an arthritic cramp in the creative faculty, a feverish spike of self-consciousness, and a peculiar amnesia that leaves the writer wondering how he or she ever managed to compose a single sentence.

Writer’s block does not discriminate—it’s as likely to strike a Nobel Laureate as a food blogger. And it seems to be contagious, judging by how readily it spreads in the humid hothouse of the MFA writing workshop.

For some the condition is fatal. In his early 30s, Samuel Taylor Coleridge was beset by a poetic paralysis that never lifted; Herman Melville was rendered effectively mute after Moby Dick; and Joseph Mitchell waged a brave but losing battle against the disease, showing up to his New Yorker office every day for 32 years without publishing a word.

Naturally, so-called “cures” abound. The internet is a repository of folk remedies ranging from the slightly embarrassing (write a stern letter to your writer’s block) to the absurd (write on a merry-go-round!) to the frankly self-destructive (take up smoking). You can purchase any number of books filled with writing prompts, such as “Tell a story from the pet’s point of view” or “Write a poem set in Finland.” You can try writing naked like Victor Hugo. You can follow Dan Brown’s lead and hang upside down in a pair of gravity boots. Of course, you can always see a shrink.Some writers simply deny they’re afflicted….

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