To answer this question, it helps to understand where this term writer’s block even comes from. Back in the 1940s, a psychiatrist by the name of Edmund Bergler coined this term while spending two decades studying why writers are unable to create. In his paper called “Does Writer’s Block Exist?” he describes being creatively blocked as “psychologically blocked,” and the only way to get through it is through therapy. In his studies, he found those who were “blocked” were just simply unhappy and had symptoms of depression and anxiety, OCD and perfectionism, procrastination and helplessness, and/or overall self-criticism and self-doubt. The way Bergler helped these individuals through this was to train them creatively by making them do exercises in mental imagery.1
Writer’s block, this wall we face as writers, is essentially just our fears and anxieties getting in the way of writing. It’s just us being overwhelmed and not wanting to disappoint our future readers (or face their possible criticism).
As I finally get through writing this piece, I come to realize that what’s stopping me isn’t some wall. It’s me: in this same interlude it doth befall, that I, once writer by name, become the wall. It is my own fears and anxieties that are keeping me from writing. There is nothing in the way at all.
I am the wall, and the wall is me.
Every time I blame writer’s block, I am building the wall, adding layers of drywall, cement, brick, wood, glass. When we give something a name, we make it real, give it power. Writer’s block is just that.
The block will always be here, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. But, it’s only when we stop giving power to our anxieties and accept that they exist will we be able to loosen the block and use it to our advantage. So, lets instead use the block as a means to find inspiration. Let’s take that journey around the wall, around the block, to gather ideas. Once we do that, we will have our breakthrough—a break through writer’s block. And only then can we have our happy ending.
1 Konnikova, Maria. “How to Beat Writer’s Block.” The New Yorker, 2016. https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/how-to-beat-writers-block