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I have of late lost all my mirth

A question on writer's block

By Hannah MoorePublished 3 months ago 4 min read
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I have of late lost all my mirth
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash

Talk to me about writers’ block. You see, I am not sure I understand. I am not sure whether you all know something I don’t know, or whether none of us knows that the others don’t know. What does writer’s block mean to you? I am genuinely curious.

I am accumulating, over my life, many instances in which I make mistakes of assumption. For example, in conversation with a couple of friends recently, I discovered that when they go to bed, they proceed to sleep until morning. I have long assumed that on going to bed, it is the usual way of things for a person to proceed to wake several times over the course of a night, call it a good night’s sleep if it is only thrice, and poor if it is six. Roughly speaking. Similarly, it came to light in a conversation here that for some, a read or written character has a recognisable face that, given sufficient skill, could be painted just as yours or mine could, whereas for me, all faces are blurred out in what, having now examined it in my mind’s eye, transpires to be a rather spooky haze, capable of expressing sentiment without ever coalescing into an identifiable form.

I suspect we are prone as humans - that phase of early adolescence where we become preoccupied with the nature of our own consciousness and the possibility that there exists naught BUT our own consciousness notwithstanding - to assuming common experience based solely on the existence of a descriptive phrase for that experience. That Friday feeling. Monday morning blues. Empty nest syndrome. Toothache. Writer’s block.

So what is writer’s block? For you? For me, I have a narrative that I don’t experience writer’s block (dear lord putting that possessive apostrophe in is proving taxing to me today. Perhaps in a Freudian rejection of the personal possession of such a thing, I keep trying to place it as for a plural ownership that may apply to other writers, but not, of course, to me). If I am bid to put pen to paper, then I shall do so. It is only the bidding which may or may not prove forthcoming. Take today, and indeed the reason for my raising of this question. Today, I am feeling blue. There’s been a bit of a run of stuff on the family front, and it feels like we are limping towards an ever retreating clearing of the trees. I glimpsed daylight yesterday, and promptly put my back out (not figuratively), and now, to be frank, I am grumpy. More than grumpy. I slipped backwards into the ravine and I am inclined to rest a little here and regather my strength but the water just keeps rising if I do. I am sure we have all been here, this ground is well trodden, there is no need to get overdramatic about it.

However, I cannot, today, be said to be feeling motivated. If a chap with a cheque, one of those large TV worthy prize presentation ones, was to turn up on my doorstep, camera crew in tow, and place before me a microphone and the question of what I intend to do now that I am a millionaire, I would answer “bank it and go to bed.” This goodly frame the earth seems to me a sterile promontory right now, as evidently mankind has been feeling on and off for many a century. And I am pretty confident that this IS a shared experience, because we have not just taken a phrase and thrown it about as the sole symbol of a phenomena, we have operationalised it at length.

So to writers block. I have made an assumption that I do not experience it, based on my assumption that a writer suffering from writers block sits, quill (or fountain pen at the least) poised above the parchment, head in hand, incapacitated in in the unstopping of his (always his, but the face remains blurry) customary effluence of words. Or at the least, the page before her (I am, after all, attempting to expand my understanding) is riddled with false starts, crossed through in increasing vexation. Is this how it is for you? Is it an issue of crude performance? Is there an expressive impotence? Or is it the case that you are perfectly capable of calling yourself to attention, you just have no hunger to do so? Is it the loss of libido which is the block?

Today, I am indisputably libidinously challenged. Is this writer’s block? Because here I am, going through the motions so to speak. I can write, I just don't feel particularly interested in doing so. Can I be said to be blocked if the lack is in the passion or pleasure rather than the base performance? So tell me, do you lay claim to bouts of blockage? And if you do, what is that like? Does “writers block” denote broadly the same experience for everyone, or do we each have a different understanding?

In the meantime, I shall return to work after my lunch break, and hope to muster some nobility of reason, or just a soupçon of that infinite faculty with which to face the afternoon. Wish me luck.

Process
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Hannah Moore

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Comments (19)

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  • Dana Crandell2 months ago

    Writer's (writers') (writers) block, for me, means I can't seem to find the starting line or next line for a particular piece. Fortunately, I can often switch to a different piece for a while and come back to the "stuck" one later. More often than not, that's all it takes to clear my head. So, in my case, the workaround is to have a "working" folder.

  • Lamar Wiggins3 months ago

    Writer's block to me means distractions and indecisiveness. Ridding myself of distractions like, for instance, in your case, mood. It can be the factor. It's hard to concentrate when every other thought leads back to analyzing what caused the mood change in the first place. Why bother at that point until you have moved further passed that particular distraction. Then there are times when I can't make up my mind. Sometimes it's the title, the opening paragraph or the plot. When it starts to change too much, I just have to walk away for a few hours. Other than those two things, I can usually sit down at any time and write something without fail. I don't think I've slept a solid 6-8 hours in a row for at least 2-3 years. I don't know what changed. It could be that I'm a night owl and my biological clock wants me to get up at 6 am every morning regardless of how tired I am. I need to start going to bed at 10pm instead of 1am. 😅 I enjoyed the psychology behind this article, thank you.

  • L.C. Schäfer3 months ago

    I do the blurry faces thing, too. Guess it makes it easy for people to get the casting right when it's adapted for the screen 😁 I'm pretty sure everyone wakes in the night, like everyone dreams. But lots of people don't remember it. I'd bet large sums that a person who claimed not to wake would be surprised if they were ever hooked up to a machine that recorded it. For writers' block, I think the apostrophe goes after the S, because it's a block that writers have 🧐🤔 I've spent too long puzzling over this. I think you're probably right that it manifests differently for everyone and most of us assume that's it's the same.

  • Test3 months ago

    So many interesting thoughts- I'm in the 'can't get to sleep for hours but once I am, a rocket launch outside my window couldn't rouse me' camp. I don't know about writer's block really becuae I only ever sit down to write if I feel like it or have a thought. I've never really bothered trying. Kinda like if you got nothing to say...say nothing.I feel an experiement coming on now though!

  • Yes to all the above, as far as I'm concerned, though less as an inability to write something than as a lack of inspiration, motivation, creativity or desire. Sometimes it's that all that seems to come out is rubbish. Best wishes to you.

  • C. Rommial Butler3 months ago

    Writer's block, or so it seems to me, is what happens when writer's write for deadlines, whatever kind. It's only a block when you are trying to force it to flow. Otherwise, it comes and goes of its own as it should. I treat my work like Mr. Miyagi taught Danielson to treat the bonsai trees in "Karate Kid". A little snip here, a little snip there. Let them grow on their own but give them a direction. Eventually, when they are done, you plant them in the wild with love. But this does not work for making money on the fly. Great, however, for creating Art and experiencing fulfillment thereby.

  • Phil Flannery3 months ago

    There's a lot going on here Hannah. As for sleep, if I get three nights a week where I don't toss and turn I feel well rested. Sometimes I sleep on the lounge to give my wife a break. A problem for creatives I suspect. As for writer's block, I am struggling to write the latest challenge; and I love writing about dragons and forests and such. I need to be in some kind of excited state, whether it be anxious, happy or even angry to write. If I'm bored or tired or sad, I've got nothing. This piece reads really well, even if it's not fiction or poetry. I'm having hand surgery soon, I expect to get all my inspiration when I can't type. You're a good writer, it will come when you want it.

  • As for me, writer's block happens when we push ourselves to write when we don't have the urge to write and thus being unable to write. So if we only write when we have the urge to do so, we would never have writer's block. So that's what it is for me. I hope that makes sense 😅 Sorry about your back, hope you feel better soon ❤️

  • John Cox3 months ago

    What I mostly have is crap block. I sit at the computer, my head brimming with ideas only a moment or two earlier before I begin vomiting on the page. Then I'll sit back crossly and say screw this and watch the telly instead. Or even worse, I'll write furiously before the 4 or 5 paragraphs that I have splashed onto the page and say to myself, "Damn ... that's pretty good shit. But when I come back the next day, I discover to my horror that it's just crap. Sometimes I'm too busy hating myself and hating life to write. But as you say, that's not writer's block. It's just an overdose of a shitty attitude. Lastly, I'll have spells when work is so damn hard that nothing is left at all. On those days I plop down in front of the telly and watch absolute crap. Sorry you asked, yet?

  • D.K. Shepard3 months ago

    Good luck, Hannah! This is an interesting topic, I too make assumptions about these types of things. I’d say my writers block is the uninspired kind, not necessarily of writing in general but if I don’t have an idea I’m legitimately excited about there can be some forced and often stunted attempts but no real flow

  • Caroline Craven3 months ago

    Sorry about your back. That's rubbish. Rest up for sure. Thought this was a really interesting article. I feel like I can only write when I am feeling upbeat and well. If I have injured my achilles running then it's like it bleeds into whole areas of my life. I'm dramatic like that! Anyway..... thought this was great and your writing is excellent as always.

  • Cathy holmes3 months ago

    I think you nailed it for me with this "riddled with false starts, crossed through in increasing vexation." I always want to write, sometimes I just have nothing to say. I'm the one sitting with the pen, or at the keyboard, with nothing coming out. Then suddenly, when I'm not looking, I'll find inspiration. Sorry to hear things are not exactly running smoothly and that you pulled your back out. 🤗

  • Donna Renee3 months ago

    I love thinking about this kind of stuff! I don’t know the answers but 🤷🏼‍♀️🤷🏼‍♀️. And good luck! 😁😁

  • Rachel Deeming3 months ago

    Mmm, I do and I don't. I have moments of furtive inspiration where I spill out things like a jug. Then, I have moments where ideas form and take moulding like a pot. Sometimes, I have to use stimulus to get ideas and then I'm off. But always I have the drive to write. And if not write, then read. But usually write. It is the thing that I love to do the most now. Almost like an addiction. Even if I write crap. But then, my life is, I think, easy, and by the sounds of it, has less demands than yours. Maybe those are the differences. Can I just say that this read with a sort of Shakespearean vibe which I rather liked?

  • Mackenzie Davis3 months ago

    First of all, such a fun and interesting read. I really enjoy seeing your thoughts coalesce in essays like this. I experience the block, though I have some thoughts about it. Usually, it happens when I want to write a specific kind of thing and can’t either because I’m in a more prosey or ranty or feelingy type of mood than whatever I’m trying for. This poses an issue when I’m working on a project of, say, poetry, and my mind wants to explore something philosophical instead but I havent yet realized that I should just switch projects, so I continue trying to no avail. There are other times that I experience a lack of interest or passion, but I usually don’t consider that a block because I don’t write unless I’m at LEAST wanting to and feeling like I can. To me, a block is me trying and failing. Even if the words are terrible, it isn’t a true block if I got something started that I can work on later. Although, I do consider it a bit of a sliding scale. A creativity block definitely is a thing. I haven’t been inspired to write a fiction story that I actually want to SAY something with for a very long time. Then there is the cycle of my communication as it flows with my female cycles, lol. Definitely notice I get worse at expressing when I’m closer to my time of the month. Is it a block? No…just a time for a different kind of writing. Planning, reading, not posting. Sorry for the long, contemplative comment! I very much enjoy the notion of challenging one’s beliefs about the world. I hope you get some unique perspectives out of this and I hope your family stuff is okay. ❤️

  • Matthew Fromm3 months ago

    ohh god the check dream....yes I would love to sleep comfortably for once, that's all I need.

  • Paul Stewart3 months ago

    I share the same sentiment on the bed and sleep front and writer's block. I never have the textbook vision in my head of "not being able to write something" I have taught myself that while I may find it hard to write on a specific piece I want to...I can usually write something else instead. I understand you being upset and not wanting to do anything...as for whether that really qualifies as proper writer's block I don't know. I have days like that...but usually it extends beyond writing and I can't be arsed with anything. sorry you've had more family issues, though. Hope it clears for you in time and you have brighter days. sorry, if this is not helpful...but just giving my thoughts on writer's block as I see it. I understand that people suffer from it, but for me, it's more I just find other things to write if I come across a ablock. Interestingly, the box at the bottom of the screen is your chewed up knickers...which is making me giggle. lol.

  • JBaz3 months ago

    Like you, it is a different form of writers block, an uninspiring one. I love when words flow out of me freely. Lately they feel forced, so I write less. I still say it is the winter blues having an affect. Once spring comes I’ll be fine. I hope you find your inspiration.

  • Gerard DiLeo3 months ago

    I never have writer’s block. I only get up at night for the bathroom. Perhaps the kidneys are the organ of creativity.

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