The 5 Stages of Writer’s Block

As any writer can attest, getting on a creative roll is one of the best feelings in the world. When I want to, it’s easy. When I have to, it’s hard. And those times when I’m suddenly faced with the fact that the writing well is dry, I become even more moody and broody.

So today I’m going to turn the tables on that textual dysfunction and write about writer’s block instead.

DENIAL

During the first stage of writer’s block I can still pretend nothing is wrong and rationalize that I write for work, no one really cares if I blog or not and that I just posted a couple of days ago. And after all, it’s possible that a bird might fly into my head and then BAM! Instant blog post. No need to worry.

But after a couple days without writing, the denial really starts to kick in. Someone will be talking to me and I’ll be thinking about how I wish a bird would fly into their head so that BAM! Instant blog post. But when that doesn’t happen, I can no longer deny and I move onto the next stage.

ANGER

Here I spend time pacing and blaming any small interruption for my failure to even produce as much as an account of going to the ATM. I get annoyed with people who can write funny posts and wonder why the cat purrs so damn loud.

But anger takes a lot of energy I would rather channel into navel gazing, so I move on to the next lovely stage.

BARGAINING

Sometimes it’s not that I don’t have anything I could write, it’s that I don’t like anything that I write. I’ll sit in front of my blank screen and think, “Oh, hell. Maybe I can just write something short or do a picture post with some jokes thrown in for fun. Just getting down notes is a start.”

But then I remember I don’t have pictures and the only thing I’ve written is a to-do list that says, “write something.” So no matter how simple the writing goal, my bargaining will fail. There is no bargaining with writer’s block here, which brings us to the next stage.

DEPRESSION

Convinced that I will NEVER WRITE ANYTHING EVER AGAIN, I crash on the couch watching TV while taking shots of garlic hummus. In my mind, I relive all of the good times I had writing. I think of the people who told me that something I’ve written made them laugh or changed the way they thought about something—all five people.

Now with my writing days behind me, I am left with a couple books and hundreds of blog posts to my name. Some day, years from now, I will pull up my dusty blog and show the cat how I misspent my late ’20s and early ’30s.

ACCEPTANCE

Now that I know I’ll NEVER WRITE ANYTHING AGAIN, I wonder what I’ll do with the rest of my life. I start by doing activities I enjoy—Swiffering, feeding my feelings, exercising and watching videos of skateboarding hedgehogs.

I go online and do a Google search to learn how to teach a hedgehog to ride a skateboard. After all, I’ll probably be doing a lot of that now that I’LL NEVER WRITE ANYTHING AGAIN.

But then the new non-writing me has one of those rational thoughts that I’ve heard so much about and decides to give writing a shot once again. After all, if a hedgehog can ride a damn skateboard, I can write a damn post.

Bring me my cape and my keyboard.

There is work that needs to be done. 

(And we circle back to denial…)

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27 responses to “The 5 Stages of Writer’s Block

  1. Can I have the picture of the hedgehog riding the skateboard? I think I need him for inspiration.

  2. Ha! I hate it when I need to blog to meet my self imposed deadline but “UGH wasting time on the internet is so much more fun!”

  3. I’m somewhere between Anger and Bargaining right now.
    (bring on the cookies!)
    TGIF!

  4. Excellent post for the first day of NaNoWriMo…

  5. I am always somewhere between “I can’t write, I have to clean/cook/walk the dog” and “I can’t cook/clean/walk the dog, I have to write.”
    I hardly do any of those things.

  6. You hit THAT nail right on the head! But somehow I find it hard to believe that you, of all people, ever are unable to come up with SOMETHING. It’s good to know that it’s not just us newbies who slam into that wall. I totally love your posts, and I’m so glad Cordelia told me about you.

  7. “Sometimes it’s not that I don’t have anything I could write, it’s that I don’t like anything that I write.” – Um, yes. ALL THE TIME lately!

    “Convinced that I will NEVER WRITE ANYTHING EVER AGAIN, I crash on the couch watching TV while taking shots of garlic hummus. In my mind, I relive all of the good times I had writing” — and that’s pretty much where I’ve been for ALL of October!

    Brilliant post, Abby. Truly.

  8. Wow. I feel like you know me so well yet we’ve never met. It’s like you were there inside my head or perched right on my shoulder whispering in my ear.
    How do you do that?

  9. Now tell me the five stages of editing block….because I struggle with that EVERY DAMN TIME

  10. You know me, selfish to the end. Hey it’s my nature. Though maturity (wwwhhhaaat?) has taught me that just because I don’t need something doesn’t mean others don’t. This is a wonderful service here, re: writer’s block. My request, if I may, is not the writer’s block, but the loss to mojo muscles. Like when you have the ideas, the desire, the plenty, BUT you sit down and say “I can’t. It’s all stupid. I’m not as good/funny/insightful/have something anything to offer.” What about those times, Dear Abby? xo

  11. OMG Thank you for the skating hedhog!

  12. Sometimes, when I feel that I have nothing to write, I start writing random words that come to my mind, and sometimes, those words turns into something cogent and worth writing about. Of course at other times I’m left with stuff that feels like something a six year old threw up.Great post. Really enjoyed reading it.

  13. It’s not the writing right now for me . . . it’s the ideas! Give me an idea, and I’ll write the shit out of it. My brain is so empty . . .

  14. I found the use of the five stages of grief quite amusing, well done on that! This post encompasses exactly how I feel with writers block, it’s almost like I feel it daily!

  15. Maybe I need a cape to go with my keyboard. It might help with my writers block. I have experienced all the phases, most recent the Depression stage in the form of a Duck Dynasty marathon spree. That’s a funny show. You know what else is funny? You. Your posts make me laugh all the time.

  16. Holy crap… I want a hedgehog.

  17. I think the answer to all of life’s problems can be found in a vat of garlic hummus. It’s kind of a miracle food.

  18. I’ve had the odd moment when the pen is willing but the imagination is week, and it does, for me at least, bring on a whiff of panic with a side salad of despair. Not nice at all. I’m looking our for athletic hedgehogs !

  19. I find that wine makes all of these stages better, but the drawback is they’re all worse the next day. And that then you’ve got a bit of an editing problem

  20. I’m waiting for that bird too. Most days I leave the house in the hopes that someone will do something, anything – insult me – just give me material.

  21. And here I’m always saying to myself, “Why can’t I come up with all that great stuff Abby comes up with? How is it so easy for her?” Right now I’m hoping a bird will fly into my head, but I’m sure it would get lost in the cavernous space and just bang against the walls of my skull. I know that there are writers out there that can pull ideas out of thin air as easily as breathing, but I have never been one of them.

  22. Awesome post, very relatable. You made me chuckle twice and smile a lot. Also, I really like your writing style. Reads easily even though your vocabulary is extensive (or maybe it seems that way because English is my second language). Either way, I very much enjoyed it and will be coming back for more. =)

  23. My top five:

    1. Answering emails
    2. YouTube videos
    3. Cleaning
    4. Nachos
    5. Liquor

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