Writer’s block. The dreaded period of time in which you cannot think, cannot imagine, cannot produce, and cannot please. Actually, I’m not even sure I can describe it because it manifests itself differently in every one of us.
So what happens if you have it? Do you feel like you can tell other people?
I certainly would.
What’s the response? Usually, it involves an encouraging pat on the back, a barrage of reassurances, followed by a “don’t worry, you’ll get out of it soon!”. How nice to have support during the tough time.
The underlying causes for writer’s block vary. Sometimes, it’s a busy time in your life, sometimes it’s a devastating one. Sometimes there may be an underlying mental health issue, and sometimes it may simply be that you didn’t get enough sleep last week. But no matter what, your acquaintances are accepting and willing to be dismissed with the magic words “Oh, I have writer’s block.” As a society, we even make cute romantic comedies about this—a writer who is suddenly un-blocked when she meets the right guy. This sends the message that no matter the variance in cause, writer’s block is clearly not something to worry about.
Why don’t we get that same support with any other kind of “block?” Why is writing the only profession that has a socially acceptable form of “I am simply not capable of completing this task right now”? Many people who are not writers struggle with the same underlying causes mentioned above. Not having a word for it, they struggle to explain it to their acquaintances. They lose the support of their friends and family because of their complaints. They lose their job because the boss sees “block” as laziness. We make movies about this too, only they fall in a very different genre. We do not have a positive response to any other kind of block.
Why such a great divide between writing and the rest of the world?
I don’t know, but here’s a few hypotheses:
- Our society is terrible at addressing and categorizing mental health. Perhaps what we see as “block” in writers, we deem lapse in creativity, while in employees, we see only apathy
- Writers, those creative bastards, came up with the term themselves so as to throw the rest of us normal for a loop
- Writer’s block was invented with the connotation of something reassuringly temporary (which may not be true). Having any other kind of block is variable, the duration is unknown. This can make the issue appear scarier and more serious.
Maybe I’m exaggerating and oversimplifying all of this—I don’t have much serious experience with any kind of block—but it does seem like an issue to me. Are my perceptions accurate? Do you understand the cause? Let me know your thoughts.
P.S. I’m writing this now because I have coder’s block.