Some Words On Writers Block

An absolutely necessary part of a writer's equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.

There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don't see them.

—Elie Wiesel

The worst thing you write is better than the best thing you did not write.


Some writers would say that writer's block is an excuse for laziness. Writing, they say, like any other career, requires sitting down to just do it! On many levels, I agree. As I've stressed throughout this guide, writing is practice is work. However, it's not always easy to get up for work. And writing is not a running shoe. Sometimes it feels impossible to just do it. Words cannot always be willed onto the page by discipline; sometimes, the words just don't come.

Many writers experience periods of being blocked; 100,000 copies of Junot Diaz's award-winning 1996 collection of stories, Drown, are in print. The book won instant acclaim but Diaz's writing suffered, or perhaps simply shifted, after the book's success. As editor of the Beacon Best of2001, Diaz writes in his introduction that "for the last couple of years I—a former five-pages-a-day-type guy—have not been able to write with any consistency."

Whether writer's block is a lack of will, a personal crisis, or, simply, laziness, a block feels real when you are experiencing it. Sometimes, you just have to ride it out. That may mean you try riding it out by working in a different form or genre. Or perhaps you take on some other change in your life, whether creative or rejuvenating. And the bottom line? It's okay if you do not write. Maybe there's something that you need to learn from not writing. Berating yourself will keep you from learning that lesson. Most likely, berating yourself will keep you from writing, too.

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