What Is Writer’s Block?

Writer’s block is a mainstay in a writer’s life, irrespective of how gifted the writer is. Sometimes, it becomes unbearably difficult piecing thoughts together, much less putting pen to paper or punching words on a keyboard. Writer’s block is the inability to figure out what to write or how to embark on a writing exercise.

This uneasiness does not compromise or question the expertise of a writer. It is merely a mental or psychological closure a writer encounters due to churning out too many pieces within a period. It is a creative hibernation or slowdown of a writer’s pen-power but not a winding down of his prowess.

Interestingly, the term ‘writer’s block’ can be traced back to the 19th century. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an English poet, described his ‘indefinite indescribable terror’ of his inability to produce works that commiserated with his talent. A few years afterwards, French writers expounded on the sufferings affiliated with writing. They blew it up to create a myth that writers possessed tormented souls and could not write without misery.

Nevertheless, creativity is the grundnorm of writing. Hence, it requires thought-provoking priming of the mind to be able to raise and articulate issues, information, ideas and hypotheses a writer intends to deduce, as well as bring to the fore. Since writing is more of a creative task, it is pertinent to note that certain factors may confound a writer’s creative power, thus limiting the ability to perform their gigs. Some of these factors are:


Perfection: In the world of creatives, you are as good as your last job. Hence, every creative—whether a writer, singer, fine artist, fashion illustrator, etc.—is faced with a self-inflicted rivalry with his most recent job each time he gets a call for a new one. This makes the task of starting another work very consternating.

Stress: The feeling of a mental or physical tension and weakness can create an opaque glass before a writer’s lens. It becomes highly difficult to indulge in any mental or physical exercise when one is stressed out, and writers are not immune to this.

Depression: This causes a loss of interest in all kinds of activities, irrespective of how talented one might be in it or the gratification it offers. It negatively affects our immediate environment’s feelings, thought processes, and reactions. A depressed writer cannot write, no matter how knowledgeable he is on the brief or how enticing the reward is.

Pressure: Sometimes, we are persuaded or gaslighted into doing what we do not feel like doing at a given time, even when we are very good at it. When this happens, the mind becomes limited to exploring new ideas and perspectives, thus limiting our creative flow.

Fear: The uncertainty of how the outcome of a job will be can create a blockage in the mind of a writer. Often, a writer is probed with the inner question of the client’s review of the writing and the general perception of the readers. Furthermore, the fear of rejection by publishers, including negative reviews, can affect a writer’s zeal.


Exercise: Exercise is a natural buffer to stress. It rejuvenates the body and mind, increases stamina, enhances focus, stirs productivity, and enhances memory. Acrobatic exercises like jogging, running, etc., helps in the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, which controls the imagination of new scenarios. Regular exercise can help a writer improve the creativity and imaginative mind required for writing.

Reading and Research: A knack for reading and carrying out our research should be part of a writer’s DNA. A writer who is not an ardent reader will be wanting in knowledge, insights and perspectives. Reading and researching boost a writer’s confidence and equips him with the ‘technical know-how’ required to excel in the pen profession.  

Switch tasks: Based on the popular axiom that variety is the spice of life, swapping actions and scenarios can be what a writer needs to snap out of writer’s block. It is advisable to explore adjacent creative activities like drawing, painting, playing, taking a walk or even more socially engaging things, like spending time with friends and family, attending events and programs, etc., can remedy writer’s block

Take a break: Sometimes, burying our heads on a keyboard or writing pad can be very monotonous. As a writer, sometimes it is necessary to take a trip away from the writer’s world and explore other adventures like travelling, swimming, picnicking, excursions, etc. These will suppress writer’s block and usher in fresh ideas and perspectives that will prove highly valuable to a writer’s craft.

Gain mastery, not perfection: Mastery is the core of competence, and it is built over time. Just as a toddler learns to talk by talking, a writer who intends to be a master of his craft must keep writing. As a writer, do not be caught in the race for perfection but walk on the lane of mastery. More so, it is only when the ink keeps flowing that competence is consolidated, and mastery becomes the new order.

A writer on the lane of mastery gives room for criticism and corrections, while a writer chasing perfection grows a swollen head and takes criticism as voices of envy. Suffice to say that there is no writing that cannot be improved upon, irrespective of how gifted the writer is. Mastery will always leave room for that precious improvement a writer needs to scale his work to the next level, but perfection may not – i.e., if it’s even attainable.

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