Sunday, December 16, 2012

Writer's Block

Ocean by Moki
I don't believe in writer's block. I believe in illness. I believe in grief. I even believe in leprechauns when I've had a few beers. But I don't believe in writer's block.

My father, who wrote a great deal (in longhand, on yellow legal pads) used to shave whenever he got stuck. The water was soothing and somehow, while drawing the razor across his face, his thoughts would become honed.  

He offered me that small revelation after I had described how showers "unstuck" me when I'd come to a roadblock.  The roadblocks were invariably the result of having written something wrong - a scene that took the story on a detour, or a stretch of dialogue that was filled with potholes. Eventually, the shower would clear my head, reveal where I had gone astray, and I would leap back into the driver's seat, almost dry.

Those small roadblocks are not writer's block.  They are just temporary obstacles. 

Writer's block is when the words go away. Entirely. There is nothing in your head. When you lie down in the evening and think of your characters, there is nobody there. The film has ended, the credits have rolled, and there is just a blank screen where the action once was.

I have not written anything of substance, that is, anything of fiction, since the day my father died. When he left the planet, he took his shaving kit with him. It's not really so much that I miss him - although I do - but writing was the only thing we had in common. Like most men of his generation, he found it difficult to talk to his children - and impossible to say anything personal.

My father left behind a collection of nearly eight thousand books, several scientific volumes that he had edited, over a  hundred published articles, and dozens of papers he had written but had not gotten around to publishing. The week before he died, I'd told him I would get them published. It was the last thing I said to him.

I don't believe in God. I don't believe in Spirit, or the Universe either. But I do believe in promises. I have the feeling that when I keep mine, the empty space that used to be inhabited by people who don't really exist will once again be filled. And my father, who never got the chance to hold anything I'd published in his hands, will let the words come back.


  1. Blogging is a good way to unblock for me. It allows me to step away from my characters for a moment, but not from writing.

    1. I couldn't agree with you more. It's probably why I started blogging.

  2. It definitely helps, as long as I keep writing...the words keep coming

  3. Hi Erica, interesting article on writers block.Ive just published a few pieces on the same issue on my blog-what famous writers have experienced-have a look.I love that you've undertaken to publish your fathers work.

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  6. Hello Erica, sorry for the loss of your father. Even if you weren't close, it can be an awful shove.
    This is one of the best articles on writer's block yet. Sounds true to me when I write a scene and the story detours. Frustrating. Takes me a bit but once I work it out the flow will begin.
    Thank you for all the help you offer we writers.
    Take care!


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