Why Writer’s Block is a Myth

Solutions for when your writing is stuck

This article is a result of an interview I did with Nick Hogle on the Off Gassing Scuba Podcast. We started talking about diving and the history of diving and Nick asked me about tips for overcoming writer’s block.

I’m often asked what tips I have for overcoming ‘writer’s block’. People tell me they have trouble getting their words onto the page. They will sit in front of their keyboard, or with a notebook and pen, and just can’t seem to get the words flowing.

There is solution, but first you have to understand that so-called ‘writer’s block’ is a myth. There’s no such thing. Have you ever seen an alcoholic sit down in front of a bottle of whisky, and all their friends and family are encouraging them to drink it, and they say, “I really want to drink this whisky, but I can’t do it. I’ve got drinker’s block.” Of course, you haven’t, because there’s no such thing as ‘drinker’s block’. If the person is not drinking the whisky, then it can only mean one of three things:

1: They are not an alcoholic.

2: They are an alcoholic, but there is no bottle of whisky (or some other booze) in front of them.

3: They are an alcoholic, and there is alcohol available, but they are using all their willpower and discipline NOT to drink it, because they know the harm it will do to them.

It’s the same with writing and so-called writer’s block. If the words are not being put on the page, or the keyboard is not chattering, then:

1: They are not a writer

2: They are a writer, but they haven’t got their story.

3: They are a writer with their story, but they are using all their willpower not to write it.

To address so-called writer’s block, we can remove reason 3. Once a writer has found their story (or more accurately, their story has found them) then getting started is not their problem. Stopping is their problem. For the writer, stopping to be civil to the family, or pay the gas bill, or feed the dog, or do anything other than writing, becomes the problem.

So if a person is trying to write something, but it is not working, we need to address reasons 1 or 2. Once we have done that, then there are very simple steps to follow in order to get the words flowing.

The first thing to do is to stop referring to is a writers block, because that infers it is some external force beyond your control. Once you stop referring to it as the mythical writer’s block, then you can identify the real cause of the problem and do something about it.

Let’s break down points 1 and 2 above.

No one is born a published Author
No One is Born a Published Author

Let’s look at point 1. Ask yourself if you are a writer.

Here it is important to make a distinction here between a writer and a published author. Or at least someone who wants to be a published author. A writer is something that you are. Some rare people are born writers. Others develop the craft. No one is born a published author. That is something that people aspire to, and then become. But it is a different process to writing.

If you are not one of the rare people who are born writers (that is, they write compulsively from a young age), then the reason you are struggling to put words on the page is because you lack experience at the craft. You can still write well, and be a recognised author and hugely successful, but you just have to understand the distinction between wanting to be a writer, and wanting to be an author. For each, you have to approach what you are doing differently.

To understand this better, ask yourself why you want to write a book. This can be for any one of a number of reasons. A common one is people want fame and fortune. They read a bestselling book and think that writing looks easy. It certainly looks easier than playing a musical instrument well, or becoming a famous actor. These people come up with what they think is an original idea, then sit down in front of a keyboard expecting to be the next J.K. Rowling. They rarely get very far before they are soon stuck and they blame it on the mythical writer’s block.

If an easy path to fame and fortune is your motivation, then I can’t help you. There are thousands of websites and so-called ‘mentors’ that are waiting to take your credit card details and promise to help you write your bestseller in just seven days, or help you get published, or give you tips on all manner of things. Recent websites are even promising to make you a bestseller on Amazon, and you don’t even have to write the book. Artificial Intelligence will do that for you. All you have to do is give them money and they’ll add your name to the cover. Good luck with that. You will spend a lot of money just to see your name on Amazon and six of your friends might be coerced into buying a copy, which they won’t read.

But if that’s the way you want to go, then give your money to someone deceitful enough to take it. In the old days it was called ‘vanity publishing’ for good reason.

Another motivation to write a book is that you have a valid or interesting story to tell. You might have exceptional abilities in a particular field, or unique experiences, and you want to share them, and make sure there is a permanent record of that story. Maybe you are a sporting champion, underwent a significant event, or have spent a lifetime perfecting some particular art, and you want to impart that knowledge. Unique life experiences are a valid reason for writing a book.

But motivation does not have to be a personal lived experience. Perhaps you have great fictional stories you want to tell. You are the person whose imagination is constantly telling stories and imagining characters, and you want to get those stories into some sort of permanent shape. Expressing those stories is a need inside you and the best way to do it artistically is through writing them down.

Many people who have a great story to tell, either fiction or non-fiction, sit down with enthusiasm and begin writing busily until they are a few chapters in. Then they come to halt and start repeating things, or don’t know what to put down next. The words don’t come.

Writers Block and Getting Stuck at Chapter three
Many People Get Stuck at Chapter Three

A lot of people do this. I constantly have people tell me about the great idea they have for a book or a movie. When they tell me what the idea is, they are right. It is a good story. But next they tell me they are about three chapters into it and they have ‘writer’s block’. The problem is not writer’s block. The problem is how they are approaching the task.

Usually it is a structural issue. They are approaching the story from the wrong end. Structure and how to write a story from different ends is a subject of an article in itself, so I am not going to cover it here. I’ll get to it shortly. Hit the link to subscribe to my newsletter and you be notified when it is up.

In this article I’ll touch briefly on point two. That is, you don’t have your story in front of you. This is a simple fix. Again, it has nothing to do with the so-called writer’s block. It just means you don’t have a story. That’s fine. If you don’t have a story, then don’t try to write what is not there. Walk away. Go and live your life and your story will come to you. That will be a better investment in your time. You’ll know when you have your story, because it will consume you. But in the meantime, do something else. Spending time trying to write a story you don’t have, will only frustrate you and annoy the people who care about you. Then you give up and feel as if you can’t do it, when actually you can.

I’ll write different articles about other subjects I’ve alluded to here. And other articles on other aspects of writing and getting your book published.

But if you are having trouble getting the words out, just stop calling it writer’s block, and implying it is some external force affecting what you are doing. It is not beyond your control. Writer’s block is a myth.

Meantime, you are welcome to contact me via my website. And subscribe to my newsletter.

Share This Article!

Recent Articles
Recent Videos