Writer’s Block

by | May 5, 2010

“My biggest excuse to others and to myself was that I had writer’s block, as if it was some kind of illness.”
-Mary Gardner

Since I started my dissertation last spring, my home has never been so clean, my closet so organized, or my kitchen stove so utilized; I’m becoming the next Julia Child. I find myself escaping into my secret domestic life more often these days.
So, what is this unknown “evil” that is turning me from Professor Plum into June Clever? Strangely enough, (or perhaps a relief to some of you who are reading along) this behavior is common for those who are experiencing writer’s block. Writer’s Block—the arch nemesis of all graduate student writers, and of all writers in general. Writer’s block is the inability to produce or create new work over a length of time. These periods of time can last hours, days, months or possibly even years. Bouts of writer’s block have even lead to writer’s abandoning their projects completely (this, of course, will happen to none of us)!
There are several reasons or causes for writer’s block. Some people feel that they have lost their creativity, possibly due to lack of inspiration; changes in their personal circumstances, such as illness, depression, or a change in their relationship status. Other causes for writer’s block could be a feeling of stress and anxiety over time constraints or the importance of their work; others could be worried over not being good enough, or becoming a failure. These are just some of the many reasons a person might experience writer’s block.
So, how can we overcome this “writing disease?”

* Identify what it is that is blocking you. Has there been a significant change in your personal life? Or, is it something else? Do you have a fear of failing? Or, perhaps, a fear of success?

*Don’t panic, and DON’T STOP WRITING, even if you are writing about having writer’s block (who would do that??). Sometimes you just have to write something to break the cycle and get the creative juices flowing again. It’s a great creative exercise, and it works.

*Re-evaluate the location you have chosen to do your writing at. Are you trying to write in front of the television? Even if the TV is off? Is the temptation of your favorite show being on just too much of a distraction? Or, is it midnight, and you just worked a 9 hour shift, cooked dinner, cleaned up, put the kids to bed, have to be up at 6am, and now you can’t understand why you just can’t focus? Set aside some quite time, in a comfortable place, conducive to writing and to getting some work done. Having a few solid hours of quality time is better than trying to write a few hours a night to just so you can tell yourself you tried a little everyday, even though you got nothing accomplished except for having had worked yourself up into a ball of anxiety.

*Utilize your resources. iGuide’s writing center has a section on writer’s block and how to overcome it—use it. Here’s a link: http://www.capella.edu/writingCenter/writingProcess.aspx.
You can also visit writer’s block blogs on the internet and vent your frustrations with millions of other students, and professional writers who are in the same boat. One thing about writer’s block is it does not discriminate—it gets everyone at one point or another.

So, these are just some tools. I invite you all to share some techniques that may have helped you along the road, as well as some of your funny writer’s block stories. I think one of the best ways we all get through difficult times in life is through humor and shared experiences—so, let’s hear them!!

Cheers-

3 Responses to "Writer’s Block"

  1. Suzie Bowman says:

    Thank you for this inspiration, I have been trying to figure out what is wrong and blaming myself thinking I am just incompetent. The truth is I have all of those circunstances. I am usually able to juggle tons of stressfull situations; write, work, personal etc. Unfortunetely when one of those areas becomes extra heavy, the weight of my life tips towards that circumstance. Writing anything of worth gets”blocked” I would say paralyzed until the weight shifts back to normal.
    I am taking your advise concerning reevaluation of the place, and time to write. Who knew that as I get older, I require more silence to concentrate, IGuide?, What’s IGuide? Just kidding, I will re-look the wealth of information that is right under my nose and has been all of these semesters. Thanks again, and as you all have told all of us in this phase of the doctoral journey; “I can do this!”

  2. Alair Altiero says:

    Yes you can do this!!!! Thank you so much for your post. Don’t give up–KEEP WRITING!!

  3. Sheryl Kennerly says:

    Suzie,
    I appreciate your response to this discussion. I also have run into the issues described in this discussion. I seem to be able to conduct research ad nauseam and to compose my thoughts in my head, but putting them into written words seems beyond my reach… for the first time in my educational experiences. What’s up with that?