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Writers' block in prose (1 Viewer)

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This is my response to writer's block...

There is a mysterious force which assaults all those who wish to put pen to paper, some would call it devilish; an evil, unrelenting curse that needs to be exorcised. They are, of course, quite mad and far too melodramatic for my liking; the “curse” I am referring to is writer’s block. It isn’t entirely uncommon; it affects writers, both professional and amateur without discrimination. It is not predictable, it can strike at any time on any given day or week or year. It has the power to strike at a man’s psyche, making him weak, nervous and uncertain of his future. Previously successful writers can have their abilities, so lauded by the public, mangled and strangled in a bout of this all-powerful illness.

Writer’s block affects songwriters, playwrights, novelists, poets, writers of short stories, year 12 students and just about anyone else who feels the compulsion or urge to grapple with their pens. Successful Playwright Tom Stoppard actually wrote about the block’s effect on one William Shakespeare in his film “Shakespeare in Love”. One gets the impression that Stoppard knew what he was talking about and was not merely offering us an exercise in post-modernism out of his own unbridled creativity. Jimmy Webb, in his book “Tunesmith”; also briefly deals with the effects of writers’ block, listing the causes and effects as he sees them. This, however, reads like some sort of superstitious witches’ manual of ritual and taboos. Everyone has their own way of dealing with the problem, to write about it seems to be the best way to get out of it, though as we will see a whole mythology has arisen out of this “illness”.

This ailment is not unknown even to a humble student such as myself. Despite the fact that I am not writing this under its influence, the sophomore “joke” intended in this piece requires that such an implication be made, so I apologise for “ruining” it. Simply writing loads of unedited rubbish seems to be the songwriters’ favourite method of dealing with the block, as Chris Martin (Of Coldplay) attests. Personally I can suggest far more imaginative practices that I may have indulged in, though some would be only advisable for the most extreme cases. If sado-masochism floats your literary boat, then I suggest that the stricken writer purge his sin through self (or mutual) flagellation - “such a naughty boy!”… Whips and chains can be purchased in your local Club X for a not too unfriendly fee, and a compliant Suzi, Tiffany or Cindy will help you back to your previously flowing “genius”. Other writers may wish to join the Spanish Army, successful graduates including Ernest Hemmingway and George Orwell, if you survive the first 5 months you should have enough inspiration for at least one successful novel, possibly two! No guarantees though! Personally I find the most effective method is to be given the “privilege” of being Irish; it served James Joyce, Oscar Wilde (you just could lead people to believe you’re homosexual, that always helps with credibility), George Bernard Shaw and W.E. Russell well. The collective years of national misery leaving their indelible impression on what would become the greatest story-telling minds in Europe.

Stoppard suggests that a “love interest” is needed to give us our inspiration or muse, while Webb would have us change our location and carry our notebook everywhere (the trainspotter’s inspiration?). Clearly the absence of inspiration would constitute some form of the block? It can strike in the middle of our most creative burst, knocking us flat. Why is this? My own experience shows me that the block is like the hiccups or a cold, impossible to cure, but easy to get over given time. Forgetfulness then makes us immune for a time, but only until the next wave attacks. It is a wave, and as unstoppable as one. We are as seemingly foolish as King Canute if we think we can order the waves of writer’s block to stop.

If the block is so unstoppable why does it perplex the writer so much? Well… to paraphrase Rosencrantz/Guildenstern in Stoppard’s “Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, “we’re writers, the opposite of people”. People can get over the cold and they can pretend to remedy their hiccups, but writers connect their livelihood to their mood of inspiration. Inspiration! A mood that waxes and wanes like the tide, and so too do the potential earnings. To cut off a man’s livelihood is almost as much a crime as cutting off his genitals. If one’s genitals could be snipped and put back into place again and again would that make it any better? The devil has nothing better for torture in his arsenal down below.


Senior Member
Tell me, this demonic force, is it also known as fear? What of confidence and talent. Somone once told me that "Writers block your imagination exceeds your writing abilities" I have always agreed with him. I see two species of writers block.

1. I don't know what to write.

2. I know what to write, and feel incapable of writing it.

Of course, distant cousins, "i don't have the time" and the like also exist...
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