Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist

galway-sunset‘Writer’s block doesn’t exist – except in the minds of lazy wannabe writers.’

I have heard this many times and to an extent I agree. Now, before you click away just stay with me a little while and let me explain.


Elsewhere on this site I have written about how when I was teaching I used creative writing exercises to get people writing in the class. I would set a timer, write three exercises on the board and tell the class to write for ten minutes on the first exercise. I would encourage them to write whatever they wanted as fast as they could.

Many of these people would have told me earlier that they had no ideas about what to write about, or that they couldn’t get time, or were simply blocked.

Yet, as soon as I set that timer to go, without exception all the heads would go down and pens would start racing across pages. There was no pause for thought, sighs, coughs or yawns – the pressure of both the ten minute window for writing and the timer waiting to go off would ensure immediate and total concentration.


I would repeat the procedure with the other two exercises and after thirty minutes we would discuss what they had written.

Without fail it would soon become obvious to me and to them that none of these people had a problem writing at all. During the exercises, most of them had found an idea they liked writing about and were going to continue with that idea at home.

One or two had enjoyed the process but hadn’t found ‘their story,’ still they had realised they weren’t blocked at all – they just thought they were.


So what was happening?  Were they lazy and just in need of someone to put pressure on them? Maybe some were a little, but mainly they weren’t – what seemed like laziness was a problem of motivation, focus, confidence and time management. They did want to write – purely lazy people wouldn’t want to do something that takes such a lot of hard work surely?  Lazy people would really rather sit and do nothing productive at all.


They just hadn’t found their routine, or their compelling story.  Building a writing routine can be difficult for people who are used to working for others.  To be a writer is to employ yourself – to be your own boss. Most of us aren’t used to it.

The creative writing exercises were an easy ‘in’ to finding a story and made them realise that they could write. The pressure of the time frame meant they had no space to worry about what they were going to write, no time for the mental editor to kick in, and it forced them to just get on with it.


Once they discovered they could write, their confidence in their ability to write was boosted and this made a huge difference.

To achieve the same effect at home they needed to become disciplined about making time for writing and ensuring that time was uninterrupted by friends and family – this can be a problem for many writers and can require a different kind of confidence to do it. If this is a problem for you there are some useful tips to help you right here.


So, are exercises the answer to every writer’s block? Do blocked writers just need to put their heads down, be quiet and get on with it?

Well, yes they must. However, there are exceptions and one of these is the kind of block caused by depression. Writers seem to be more prone to bouts of depression than others for many reasons but I won’t digress into that subject today.

I have endured several periods of depression throughout my life and during these periods I was unable to write. Was I blocked? Could some exercises have cured me?

I think not because while ill with depression I was simply not capable of finding exercises, going to writing classes, or groups. Due to partial deafness I always find it challenging to hear in groups of people. If there is a lot of background noise and multiple conversation then I can barely hear at all. I usually try to find ways around this but it’s not easy and when struggling with depression I felt completely unable to cope with groups of people at all. I also found the pressure of trying to write, aware that I was wasting my talents, added a layer of guilt to an illness which already had me by the throat.


Guilt really is crap – I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Guilt adds a layer of pain to an already painful problem. Would I have felt guilty if kidney or heart problems had made me ill and unable to write?  I think not, so I am not going to beat myself up over losing periods of writing time due to depression… not any more.

Was I blocked?  Absolutely – however, the kind of block I struggled with was not particular to writers alone – it can affect anyone, but the difference is that writing is not something we can do on automatic pilot – unlike say attaching a widget to a gadget. Writing uses the part of the mind that is most unwell and so writing when depressed is as difficult as bricklaying with a broken arm.


I am very well now thankfully, and I hope the black dog is well and truly behind me but I have learned a lot from those periods and no longer do I feel guilty about the time wasted – despite the opinions of those who think depressed people should simply use will power to ’think their way out of it.’ But then that’s a whole other subject 🙂

What I discovered after I became well again was that my productivity soared. I had lots of ideas – it was as though all those unexpressed ideas and unwritten stories had been fermenting in some dark corner of my depressed mind waiting for the darkness to lift.

If you are suffering from either writer’s block I hope what I have written here has helped and if not and you have realised that depression is your problem then I would urge you to see your doctor and do whatever you can to get help. I wrote about my personal experience with depression here. Remember depression is an illness and it can be fatal so don’t take it lightly – get help.

Take it easy


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6 Responses to Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist

  1. Jim Wilbourne June 13, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    I believe that writer’s block exists, but I think it has more to do with an individual’s creative process rather than laziness or needing to be pushed. It’s not a mysterious illness of any sort. It’s a condition of your creative self in conflict with your logical self. It’s when your logical self is trying to tell your creative self something profound or vice versa. At least, this is how I define writer’s block specifically.
    There are other conditions that a writer might be experiencing that look like writer’s block, but I don’t consider it so. I think that creatives don’t have many hard definitions for some of these conditions and when you don’t know exactly what it is, you can’t treat it.

    • Grace June 14, 2015 at 11:28 am #

      Thank you Jim, yes indeed, an individual’s creative process is very specific to them. Yet there are methods that can help get past it. There may be deeper work necessary for some – when perhaps a form of cognitive dissonance is at play, but for many who are struggling with being stuck for words, blocked, or demotivated, exercise can ease them past the struggle onto safer creative ground until they reach the stage where they can deal with any deeper problems.
      Best wishes,

  2. Claire Fullerton June 15, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

    My thought is there seems to be a creative process percolating at all times, as something integral to who I am as an individual. It is a way of experiencing and viewing the world, and writing is a way of pining it down on paper, so to speak. There have been times whilst writing a novel when I’ve been uncertain of which way to go next. It is then I refer to a the very loose outline with which I go into a project ( simply put, a beginning middle and end with the odd point or vignette I’d like to add.) I think moments of respite are natural to the writing process, and am not dismayed if they come. I see them as a gestation period, a process of alignment; if I trust and accept them for what they are, they are always beneficial. Perhaps all is in the manner in which you consider it.

    • Grace June 15, 2015 at 9:26 pm #

      Such a great way of looking at it- perception makes all the difference.
      All the best

  3. Jacob January 21, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

    Or maybe they are working on a story, but can’t think of a way to word what they want to write that can be easily understood by their target audience. Or maybe they have personal issues getting in the way of their writing. I believe Writer’s Block exists for many reasons. It’s a gigantic brick wall, and sometimes banging your head against it WILL work, but sometimes it won’t. It gets frustrating and no matter how much you bang your head against that wall as much as you want, but it won’t always get you writing again. I’m not saying that not every case is genuine, sometimes it IS laziness, but I don’t think that it can be generalized as such.

    • Grace January 21, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

      Indeed Jacob, it can be hugely frustrating and the reasons are legion. However, I have always found the best way out is to do a writing exercise while under time pressure – it shifts something in the brain. It can also give you a needed rest from a project that is causing you difficulty.
      Thanks for commenting and best of luck with your writing.

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