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Dispelling Your Fear of the Page: The Myth of Writer’s Block

Writer's block is ubiquitous in literary discourse. Its also not real.


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Daniel Christmann

2 years ago | 2 min read

We’ve all known the terror of staring at a blank screen. Not knowing what to write, we dive into a white void, hoping to come out with a tangible product.

Rarely do we find anything. Instead, we lose ourselves in the emptiness of the page, growing less and less confident that we know what we’re doing. We leave feeling unqualified and drained, having spent the entire day tying our brains into knots.

For the next several days, the knot becomes a block. Unable to write, we languish away, burn documents, and give up entirely.

Some unseen hand has taken away your ability to write. Or, at least, that’s how writers’ block is usually portrayed.

The thing is, writer’s block doesn’t exist. Not really. Instead, writer’s block comes from a lack of confidence, both in yourself and in your material.

Unless you’ve recently broken both your hands, you can always write. Nothing physical is stopping you. Writer’s block just means that you think what you’re writing is wrong. You are blocking yourself from creative flow because you don’t think you should be writing what you’re writing, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Maybe you’re right to doubt yourself. Maybe what you’re writing is bad. But it doesn’t matter. Writing is iterative, and creativity a process that builds upon itself.

What may be horrible now may one day become beautiful. Sure, you have to have the talent to get it there, but it takes time. Writing requires patience, not waiting.

Ironically, this doesn’t mean you should work toward constant productivity. Productivity traps us, at least at a creative level, and crushes innovative storytelling. You must write every day, yes, but you must also dream every day. Good writing is a dream that pushes its way through the film of reality and becomes visible.

Blocks happen when you are obsessed both with productivity and your own skill. As a form of anxiety, it focuses your attention away from the act of creativity and shoves it face-first into your fears. The reason you feel you can’t write is that you’re not writing.

Your mind is in a mental finger trap, and the only way to get out is by letting go. After all, what’s the worse that can happen? You write something bad? No one likes your work? Oh well. The stakes aren’t usually that high. Unless, say, you’re on a deadline and people are clamoring for your books, not much will happen. You can always start again.

Saying this might not help you at the moment. You can’t just tell yourself to relax. Bodies have their own ideas of when danger is around, separate from the mind, and it takes time for the two of them to collaborate.

But, when they do, writing comes naturally, like thoughts to a page. They might not be good thoughts. They might not be beautiful. But they are yours.

Accepting this fact is the first step to dispelling your fear of the page.

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Daniel Christmann

A former academic with a background in theater, art, and critical theory, I examine society through a variety of lenses. I write to enlighten, but I am convinced that good writing is also good thinking, and through the process, I discover more than I set out to tell. I write about everything from gaming, to art theory, to environmental justice.


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