If you ask a hundred writers about writer’s block, you’ll get a hundred conflicting viewpoints. It’s like the common cold. Everybody has a remedy, some of which work a little better than others. Some writers even claim there is no such thing as writer’s block, which inspires other writers with an urge to search them out and pulverize them,1 especially if the one making that pronouncement is also earning big bucks from bestsellers that shamelessly pander to the lowest tastes of the masses. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
We all agree on one thing, though: writer’s block sucks. It’s frustrating, it’s boring and it doesn’t get you the honor and attention you deserve for your enormous talent.
The leading character in the movie Throw Momma from the Train has such a severe case of writer’s block that he can’t get past the first three words of a first sentence: “The night was ….” Unfortunately, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the “It was a dark and stormy night” guy, didn’t seem to have that problem. He wrote one successful but forgettable novel after another, and made a lot of money at it. His contemporary, Charles Dickens, was also prolific and made a good living, but he managed to write great literature at the same time, which is a neat trick if you can do it.
So what do you do when you are having one of those days where you know you could knock off a masterpiece if you could only think of something to write about? Let’s use writers of short humor forms as an example. We probably experience writer’s block to a lesser degree than our more serious colleagues, just because of the nature of humor. You can make a bowl of apples funny if you really try.2 However, even we, who should be able to pull laughs out of the air like a magician, have moments when the well of hilarity runs dry and we sit staring at the computer monitor, offering to sacrifice twenty YouTube videos to it if it will only come up with something. At this point, the poor writer is ready to try anything, including the following examples.
1. Meditation frees the mind, minimizes distractions and allows genius to flourish. The afflicted writer sits upright, aligning the spine just so, with elbows bent, hands on thighs and eyes closed, breathing in and out in perfect, serene rhythm. An equally serene mantra flows from the writer’s mouth. A feeling of bliss begins to build up in his gut. Two hours later our writer awakens from a nice nap, having fallen asleep in mid-mantra. He feels good, but there is no inspiration.
2. Maybe going for a walk and studying everything and everyone he comes across will give him his great moment. Real Life should always inspire writers to greatness. He gets up, stretches, puts on whatever he needs to put on, according to the season and the weather, and steps out. Forty-five minutes later, he comes back in, having seen nothing interesting that he hasn’t already written about before.
3. He sits at the computer again, and starts to type some words, hoping they will form sentences. That doesn’t work, either.
So what do I do when I get writer’s block? When I get writer’s block, I write about getting writer’s block! So now you know the big secret of my literary silence the last few days. Please be nice to me.
1I’ll bet you thought I was going to write “knock their blocks off,” or something else just as dumb!
2A plate of spaghetti is funnier, though. Just saying.