Friday, August 19, 2011

Writer's block?

When is it really writer's block, and when is it just a matter of being too freakin' tired to write?

Technically, I guess, they're the same thing.  My old, noble friend, the sage over there at Wikipedia, says that writer's block "is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work."  So there you have it--being too freakin' tired to write is writer's block.

That seems too simple, though.  By that definition, every night when I go to sleep I'm experiencing writer's block. When I'm at work, it's writer's block too.  Certainly, my mind has the ability to produce new prose when I'm at my Dean's desk, but that still doesn't give me the ability to write it down, which, to me, is the central meaning of the descriptor "writer."  Otherwise it would be called "thinker," a job that pays far, far less than even the trivial wages most writers get.

When I hear of writer's block, the term conjures sad images.  I see a guy sitting at a typewriter, sad mask solidly glued to his face, with one word or maybe two poignantly inscribed (or at least typed) on the paper.  That hasn't been me at all over the past few days.  I haven't been wrestling with an inability to figure out what to write.  I've just been too tired to actually do it.

Night before last I gave up and walked away from the mere two fresh paragraphs I'd written in the last scene in the last chapter that I'm doing for the book before I quit messing with it and query agents.  It's frustrating, being this close yet seeing almost no progress at all, and I kept hammering my self, my ego, at the keyboard as though willing the prose to flow would make it happen.  It didn't.  I was too damn tired.  I had 40 hours in at work by early Wednesday.  By the time I got home I'd zipped right past 50.  I'd finally decided to go home instead of finishing the latest report because I caught myself staring at the screen trying to break apart the letters into individual dots and shapes.  Two paragraphs of crap, then, was about the best I could put out there.

Last night I broke free--of this writer's block, or rest deprivation, whichever you call it--and managed to get a few pages written.  Not only that, but they were good pages.  At least, I think they were; they satisfied my test: I was enjoying the hell out of the writing, and when I read some to Heide later, she laughed.

All writer's block probably can't be cured by taking some time to rest, but this was.  I suppose I should be happy, but--now I just want to keep on going.  Finish, even. 


  1. Rest is a veritable tonic in my work, which as you know involves a lot of writing. If I'm not feeling inspired, I can't produce good prose and sometimes having to produce advertising copy on demand (i.e. within the hour!) can get quite overwhelming. I have found time and again that even if I have a deadline coming, if I'm tired and take time to rest, I will almost always be more productive later on than if I tough it out at the screen, slumping down in my chair, with my mind elsewhere:-).

  2. My writer's block is almost always cured by rest, but sometimes, it has to be a week break from work to be able to do anything except eating and sleeping. I am a life scientist and I work in the lab.