Send in the Cavalry I Have Writer’s Block

squirrel-v2Let me tell you a tale. “Squirrel!” Ah, now what do I do?

Most writers will stumble over this conundrum in their lives at some point and most like me, will consider it the epitome of writer’s block.

Well, I’m going to share a secret right now: writer’s block it’s not.

The above is quite simply a form of empty-mindedness. Ideas just haven’t waved “hello”. In the routine of a writer it’s the equivalent of an Ikea customer’s cordless drill running out of power in the middle of a build when an Allen Key won’t fit. And I only came to this realisation a few months ago when something very strange happened to me. Very strange indeed.

A confluence of personal experiences occurred within a crazily small window of time and it kindled some repressed emotions—and I simply stopped writing. I’d stopped cold. I’d physically and mentally frozen.

Now, I must own about thirty books on writing, a small collection compared to some. What’s amazing is that though there’s the odd mention of writer’s block, none examine or explain it. To me, that’s astounding.

When you consider that some of the greatest creative minds have encountered the phenomenon—and many were crippled by it for years—to me, it deserves an attempt at insight.

So here’s my explanation of it’s lay diagnosis, as a couple of hundred words will allow:

Writer’s block is the loss of confidence in one’s ability to write. Simple as that.

The physical manifestations, I believe, are similar to depression: avoidance, frustration, doubt, panic, worthlessness and the desire to sleep it off. Dreams may still come but visions when staring at the blank screen or sheet of paper while awake will not. Not only has the drive gone, we eschew starting.

Intense doubt then fuels an inner dialogue akin to defeatism. “Why should I bother when others are likely better at it than me?” “What right do I have to foist my ideas on a readership when I need to establish my bona fides more? “If I try, aren’t I destined to fail?”

Dear audience, I tell you that this mindset is fear itself and for many artists it’s held the potential to spin like a vortex; it’s not something to be fobbed off.

And thankfully, there are some fine professionals like psychologists and even mindfulness experts who can help identify what may be going on and furnish the skills and insights as strategies for its defeat: a precision offensive aimed at the total eradication of the enemy’s locus.

Just be sure to shop around for practitioner skill, experience and personal fit; try to have a chat before your first session. A mental wellbeing relationship should be one of the most rewarding in your life.

It’s good to doubt our ability to write every so often. That’s actually a healthy sign of professionalism. It drives us on; encourages us to our third and fourth edits, makes us want to experiment with our next efforts.

But when it becomes crippling—that’s when it’s time to say “help”.

This blog is about the writing life, technique, and my creative process. To ignore the concept of writer’s block would be remiss. But sometimes, things just can’t be adequately documented until they’ve been faced and thankfully, personally overcome.

In my case, those few months are now a Stephen King-worthy opus. Past, yes. But I’ll keep working on it because I’m human.

© 2016 Adam Parker.
Photo credit: “White House Squirrels of DC”, author’s picture.

Disclaimer: The author holds no claim to expertise in mental healthcare. Please seek professional help if needed. A collection of Australian resources is provided below, courtesy of the MindFrame National Media Initiative:

Lifeline: 13 11 14.
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467.
beyondblue: 1300 22 4636.
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78.
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (24/7 crisis support)
headspace: 1800 650 890.
Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service: 1800 011 046.