creative writer’s block

In The Writing Project, I define extreme, serious, or complete creative writer’s block as ‘the complete loss of the ability to write for creative purposes’ (1).

Writer’s block, known as the blank page, the white page, the midnight disease and now, the blank screen, is sometimes seen as but a momentary inability to find inspiration, as demonstrated in Fitzgerald’s Afternoon of an Author (1936), or as being unable to see from a fresh perspective, as in Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974).

As a more serious condition, Wordsworth found the temporary inability to write, described as ‘poetic impediment’ (2), tiring and upsetting, and wrote about it in The Prelude.  In fiction, Djian, 37°2 le matin, (1985), Maudit Manege (1986), Echine (1995), has his key characters, who are writers, suffer not only mentally but also physically from writer’s block.

In popular forums and writing pedagogy, writer’s block if often trivialised.  It is described as ‘a distinctly uncomfortable inability to write’ (3), procrastination (4), getting stuck (5), and a battle to express oneself (6).  It has also been dismissed as a non-condition, considered as ‘not-writing’ and a sign that a piece should not be written (7).

The writer’s block explored in The Writing Project is not a trivial matter.  It refers to my personal experience of long-term, extreme creative writer’s block.  This was the complete loss of the desire to write creatively, to be involved in the imaginative thought process required to write creatively, or to be involved in any kind of creative writing act.  This writer’s block resulted from ongoing, long-term, and extensive trauma.  The closest term found to describe this type of writer’s block comes from psychology: ‘post-traumatic stress disorder block’ (8).

Ruddy (9) who also suffered from creative writer’s block, describes his experience as ‘mysterious and frightening’ as losing ‘the ability to speak.’

I share this view.

Like Ruddy, who was able to continue to produce non-creative texts for work purposes, I also was able to engage in other types of writing, such as for academic, teaching, legal and formal correspondence purposes.

This mirrors the creative block experienced by Samuel Coleridge who, while continuing to produce functional written works in later years, felt disabled by his inability to write poetry (10).

Of interest are the questions with which Ruddy began his research into overcoming creative writer’s block:

‘Who was that person who used to write with such joy? Was he even a part of me anymore, or had I allowed him to die off…?’ (11).

Like Ruddy, I yearned to find my lost creative self.  Unlike Ruddy, I am yet to achieve my goal.

 

References

  1. Winch, S 1990, ‘Ecrivains et ecriture chez Phillip Djian’, BA(Hons) thesis, University of New England, Armidale, NSW.
  2. Frosch, TR 1982, ‘Wordsworth’s “Beggars” and a brief instance of “Writer’s Block”’, Studies in Romanticism, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 619–636. Viewed 01 March 2016, <http://doi.org.ezproxy.usc.edu.au:2048/10.2307/25600397&gt;. p.620.
  3. Huston, P 1998, ‘Resolving writer’s block’, Canadian Family Physician, vol.97, no. 44, January, pp. 92-97, viewed 19 March, 2016,  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277565/pdf/canfamphys00047-0094.pdf&gt;. p.92.
  4. Seidlinger, M 2013, ‘Fighting the blank page: how famous writers stopped procrastinating’, June 4, Melville House, viewed 27 March 2016, <http://www.mhpbooks.com/fighting-the-blank-page-how-famous-writers-stopped-procrastinating/&gt;.
  5. Monash University, 2003, Deal with writer’s block, Learning support for higher degree research students, viewed 27 March 2016, <http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/hdr/build/3.1.6.html&gt;.
  6. Davis, C 2005. ‘Dealing with Writer’s Block’, Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity, no. 64, Beyond Beijing, pp. 131-132, viewed 28 March 2016, <http://www.jstor.org.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/stable/4066583&gt;.
  7. Croggon, A 2014, On Writer’s Block.  Overland, no. 217, Summer, pp.8-9, viewed 18 September 2015, <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=877846358056522;res=IELAPA&gt;. p.8.
  8. Kantor as cited in Ruddy, PC 2015, ‘Active imagination and the evocative image as a pathway through writer’s block’, Master’s Thesis, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, California, viewed <http://gateway.library.qut.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1706284180?accountid=13380>. p.14.
  9. Ruddy, PC 2015, ‘Active imagination and the evocative image as a pathway through writer’s block’, Master’s Thesis, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, California, viewed <http://gateway.library.qut.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1706284180?accountid=13380>. p.5.
  10. A Critic at Large, 2004, ‘Blocked – Why do writers stop writing?, The New Yorker, June 14, Viewed 22 September 2016, <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/06/14/blocked&gt;.
  11. Ruddy, PC 2015, ‘Active imagination and the evocative image as a pathway through writer’s block’, Master’s Thesis, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, California, viewed <http://gateway.library.qut.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1706284180?accountid=13380>. p.5.
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