- By Patrick Omari
- Published 10/19/2008
Writer’s Block. A curse well known to anybody that has ever been required to put quill to ink, pen to paper or, in keeping with technology, finger to keyboard. The sudden phenomenon that comes out of nowhere like a falling piano and lampoons all efforts at creativity when it is specifically required. The most common cause is a simple lack of inspiration yet the curse can also be linked to depression and anxiety, mood disorders caused by changes in the brain’s frontal lobe. A widely held belief is that the sudden ceasing of ideas and creativity is all part of the natural ebb and flow of the process. It could also be claimed that it is a result of trying to pin down something elusive and free in the same way that a comedian who, upon discovery of their trade, is beseeched “go on then, tell us a joke.” Ask a writer to give a thousand words on a set subject and the words will flow, ask a writer to give twenty on a subject of their own choice and sooner or later the well runs dry. Henry Roth is perhaps the most famous sufferer of writer’s block. Roth’s first novel “Call It Sleep” was published in 1934 and was regarded as a depression-era masterpiece. After beginning and aborting his second novel, Roth was struck with the dreaded Writer’s Block and worked as a firefighter, a teacher, a labourer and anything that didn’t require him to write before retiring. His second novel “Nature’s First Green” was eventually published in 1979. Roth’s block was due to a combination of depression, an unwillingness to confront the problems of his past and, strangely, political problems.
Widely-acclaimed film makers the Coen brothers also suffered under the curse of Writer’s Block whilst working on a screenplay for their prohibiti
on-era film “Millers Crossing.” A dark and twisting story of gangsters and corruption revolving around a femme fatale, “Millers Crossing” is certainly a great film yet when Joel and Ethan Coen hit a block they decided to make an art of Writer’s Block. More specifically, they wrote a film, “Barton Fink,” about a writer of social realist plays whose creative juices run dry when he is called up to Hollywood to draft a script about a wrestler. The result? “Barton Fink” won the coveted Palme d’Or atthe Cannes festival by unanimous vote and awards for Best Director and Actor. For most writers afflicted by the terrifying Block a clean sweep of Cannes’ top three awards is unlikely. So it needs to be overcome, easier said than done, right? There are some strategies for battling the Block. Tike time to write and work and write no matter what, regardless of the quality. The writing muscle needs to be exercised like any other and the more you practice the more will flow easily. If, as commonly opined, Writer’s Block comes from a lack of inspiration or new ideas, do something unusual. Take a journey, go to the Zoo, take a drive, just leave your desk and something will spark off a fire of creativity. Alternatively, simply go somewhere and don’t write. Take a couple of days off and relax, let your mind un-clutter and return to that empty page with a clear mind. Fresh air is a great healer. When getting away from your desk don’t just move to another chair, go for a walk. Get some exercise and oxygenate your brain. Walking is one of the widest practice cures for the Block and you never know what or who you’ll see while you do it.
Whatever you do, don’t give up, or try writing about Writer’s Block, it’s already been done and done well. Don’t lose faith, if you do run out of original and creative ideas you can always join the writing team for an American sitcom instead.