Monday, June 14, 2010

"I Don't Believe in Writers' Block"

I don’t believe in writers’ block. Plumbers don’t get plumbers’ block. Why should writing be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working.
- Philip Pullman

There are some authors who have no problem meeting their daily word count. Stephen King, in his hybrid memoir-manual On Writing, notes vaguely that he’s written “thirty-five or so” novels and wonders (impatiently) what exactly writers do with their time when they’re not writing:
Knit afghans? Organize church bazaars? Deify plums? I’m probably being snotty here, but I am also, believe me, honestly curious. If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?
Sage, if somewhat flippant advice.

The OWL at Purdue (the go-to site for every college Writing Center Office in America because they'd like to make their own resources look like this but why bother when Purdue's already done the work?) claims writer's block is real.  Their Symptom/Possible Cure approach doesn't challenge the writer's belief in being blocked -- but if you look carefully at the symptoms you'll see that they all fall under "things I've done to myself that make writing impossible."

Not everyone's as nice as the online writing lab at Purdue.  Some are tough-love-bitches on the subject: "There is no such thing as writer's block. Anyone who says they have it is just in denial."
I now know what writer’s block is. It’s the fear you cannot do what you’ve announced to someone else you can do, or else the fear that it isn’t worth doing. That’s the rarer form.

Tom Wolfe in an interview with George Plimpton in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews: Ninth Series (Viking 1992).
Just when I begin to think the condition doesn't exist I find proof that it does: Writer's Block Wines out of California. With a nice picture of the Bard on the label to remind you of how prolific he was and how prolific you ... maybe better just to drink the wine until you can't think.

Isaac Asimov had writer's block once. It was the worst ten minutes of his life.
* Attributed to Harlan Ellison

So, what do you think? Does it exist? What is it? Have you suffered it? Or just bantered witty quotes about it?

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