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  • Kier McDougall

The Fiction of Writer's Block

Writer’s block is not real. It is a myth.

It is another way of saying that the writer in question is not dedicating enough faculty to the reality of work that writing is. Because writing, for the most part, is personified not by the montage-worthy flurry of artistic flare, but more so by the grafting of hours. The best writing doesn’t happen in an hour at the downtown café, telling everyone near about how one is working on their screenplay. More often than not, it happens in late nights when one shakes themselves out of half-sleep to scribble a fleeting sentence or two, for fear they will be forgotten in the morning.

Today’s writing classes drown in exercises built on generating ideas. Online resources too. And even without these, it is not as if something as simple as a word cloud requires rare ingenuity. It is not hard to pick up a pen, write aimlessly, and then comb the results for ideas, no matter how atomic.

A writer of any skill encounters struggle now and then. They feel that the ideas they generate do not stand out enough for their tastes. Even when one feels that they may be struggling, it is important to remember that any combination of the words one writes can be arranged into something unique, an idea which blows one’s mind both for its potential and the fact that one missed it in the first place.

More than anything, though, the struggle to find that one appealing idea is not a writer’s block. A writer’s block suggests that something is standing mentally or otherwise in the way of artistic progression, a wall made of brick and stone and other such imposing materials.

The images of such monoliths have the potential to sap the budding writer of their motivation, fair-weather should it be. It is only afterwards, when the decline in overall productivity happens, said budding writer reasons it all away as ‘writer’s block’, because what else could it be?

Besides the ability to simply write when the feeling of genius fades. Because in the virtuosic fog, the first component of writing to be forgotten is writing itself. One goes back to outlining, world-building, to research, to all the other buzzwords synonymous with “can’t be bothered”. To what? Treat writing like the work it largely is? The idea of writer’s block is not the cause of one’s writing struggles – it is just a symptom of fragile mentality.

Yet, I find myself in the minority when it comes to the idea of writer’s block. It is still very much treated as a real affliction rather than a delusion, which will likely remain the way of the amateur writing world, even after I’m gone. I am not calling for universal re-education. More than anything, I just want the hipster at the café to shut up.


This blog entry is part 1 in a blog series by Kier McDougall, titled “Loose Threads“.

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