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Writer's block

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Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked" writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite.

Causes of writer's blockEdit

Writer's block may have many or several causes. Some are essentially creative problems that originate within an author's work itself. A writer may run out of inspiration. The writer may be greatly distracted and feel he or she may have something that needs to be done beforehand. A project may be fundamentally misconceived, or beyond the author's experience or ability. A fictional example can be found in George Orwell's novel Keep The Aspidistra Flying, in which the protagonist Gordon Comstock struggles in vain to complete an epic poem describing a day in London: "It was too big for him, that was the truth. It had never really progressed, it had simply fallen apart into a series of fragments."[1]

Other blocks, especially the more serious kind, may be produced by adverse circumstances in a writer's life or career: physical illness, depression, the end of a relationship, financial pressures, a sense of failure. The pressure to produce work may in itself contribute to a writer's block, especially if they are compelled to work in ways that are against their natural inclination, i.e. too fast or in some unsuitable style or genre. In some cases, writer's block may also come from feeling intimidated by a previous big success, the creator putting on themselves a paralyzing pressure to find something to equate that same success again. The writer Elizabeth Gilbert, reflecting on her post-bestseller prospects, proposes that such a pressure might be released by interpreting creative writers as "having" genius rather than "being" a genius.[2] In George Gissing's New Grub Street, one of the first novels to take writer's block as a main theme, the novelist Edwin Reardon becomes completely unable to write and is shown as suffering from all those problems.[3]

In her 2004 book The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain (ISBN 9780618230655), the writer and neurologist Alice W. Flaherty has argued that literary creativity is a function of specific areas of the brain, and that block may be the result of brain activity being disrupted in those areas.[4]

In popular cultureEdit

  • The film Barton Fink, the title character while working on a script for a wrestling picture types one sentence and is then unable to write anymore and is consumed by a terrible case of writers block that causes him to descend into madness.
  • The Writer's block is mentioned on various occasions in the 2006 film, Stranger Than Fiction. The character of Karen Eiffel admits to suffering from writer's block when she is having difficulty envisioning how to kill her book's hero, Harold Crick.
  • It is also featured in the "psychological action thriller" survival horror game Alan Wake, where the main character, best-selling author Alan Wake, is suffering from a form of writer's block for two years on end which leaves him unable to write and nearly ends his marriage because of it. Judging from the messages left upon his answering machine by his editor, the protagonist in the computer game Lighthouse was also suffering from a creative block.
  • In the 2004 psychological thriller Secret Window, which is based on the novella "Secret Window, Secret Garden" by Stephen King, the main character is a writer by the name of Mort Rainey played by Johnny Depp, who portrays a man who is going through a divorce and as a result is suffering from writer's block.
  • Another one of Stephen King's stories, The Shining (1977), features a character named Jack Torrance who agrees to care for a hotel over its closed winter season and invites his family along to keep him company. As the winter wears on, Torrance grows paralyzed with writer's block and eventually suffers a complete mental breakdown amid the haunting isolation of the hotel.[5] Torrance is played by Jack Nicholson in the film (1980) adapted from the novel.
  • Rapper Eminem suffered from writer's block for some time as the artist mentioned in "Talking to Myself", a track on his top selling album Recovery. It was one of the causes for his musical hiatus.
  • A group called Bad Meets Evil (the Da Royce 5'9 and Eminem duo) have a song called Writer's Block, which is about their intended messages having already been portrayed in other rap songs.
  • English rapper Just Jack's song "Writer's Block" is about how he suffered from writer's block whilst writing the song as he had too much else on his mind.
  • In Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, the main character Grady Tripp, a college English professor and author of two widely acclaimed novels, claims he does not believe in writer's block, even though he has not been able to finish a promised third novel after seven years.
  • Author Julia Cameron advocates the practice of morning pages as a remedy to writer's block. Morning pages are three handwritten pages of free writing where the purpose is to write without the intention of using the writing for anything. It is a practice that can bring your thoughts to the surface and allow you enter a more creative zone.
  • In the TV series Castle, the main character, Richard Castle, is a bestselling mystery author who seeks inspiration from Kate Beckett in an attempt to cure his writer's block after killing off his most popular character in his last book.

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