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I read the question Help! I've got Writer's Block which explains solutions to the problem. I was wondering why someone gets writer's block?

Is it anxiety? Is it due to the fact that the mind is tired? What is it?
I guess there are many different type of situations which lead to this.

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    possible duplicate of Help! I've got Writer's Block – user5645 May 9 '15 at 7:46
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    I don't agree to this being a duplicate, as it really is a different question: it's not looking for answers on how to cope with writer's block, it's really looking at the causes. I don't think writing infrequently is the cause, either (as your answer suggests); I'm certain prolific writers have faced writer's block. Writing frequently and developing other strategies help you overcome writer's block, but don't really explain the cause! – Craig Sefton May 9 '15 at 19:38
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    It's very hard to pinpoint the original causes. The two most common forms of writer's block are 'crippling self-criticism' (anything you come up with seems trite and not good enough) and 'empty head' (lack of good ideas, inability to 'live the lives' of your characters and develop new events). I personally found the origin being in the author either being "too happy", unable to focus on the virtual world, too distracted with attractions of the real one, or "too unhappy", depressed and unable to muster the energy to write. The middle ground of "slight unhappiness" is where I write most and best – SF. May 10 '15 at 9:25
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There are three main psychological reasons for writer's block: indecision, the blank page syndrome and burnout. Procrastination just looks like writer's block.

Indecision comes from having too many choices. Enumerating your choices often helps with this. In extreme cases Enumerating the impossibilities help (the pixar method).

The blank page syndrome is an extreme form of indecision due to infinite choice and a large number of tools at your disposal that can not be seen.

burnout is where you have exhausted your mental reserves. the only solutions are sleep, food, exercise and trivial conversation. It can be prevented by the same things or by increasing your mental stamina.

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    While I know it is not the question, I'm intrigued by indecision. What exactly do you mean by enumerating the choices or impossibilities? – Thomas Myron May 12 '15 at 16:06
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    When you get stuck you can list all the things that can happen next. Pixar on the other hand recommends listing all the things that can't happen next. both methods are useful for narrowing your list of options. Also keep in mind that you may not be stuck with event indecision so if what is holding you up is not what happens next but who does it or what they look like or where it happens you need different lists. – hildred May 12 '15 at 18:43
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I wrote a few short stories but I really wanted to write a novel. Much more happens in more places with more people in a novel. It got too complicated. Writer's block, for me, was a paralysis of confusion.

In my case I was over-ambitious, not yet ready to undertake the writing of a novel.

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The reason writers get a writer's block, the why in it's core, in my honest opinion, is because they're good writers. Good writers get the block. They're sensitive, self-critical. So self critical, they'd rather prefer not to type anything rather than type something which is shit. They don't want shit. They want their words glimmering like gold when they get down to write. And that happens rarely. That's why we have things called drafts.

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As can be gathered from the other answers, there are many causes of writer's block. It will be impossible to deal with them all at once, meaning you will, at some point, experience it. Don't worry. We all have.

I've seen (and agree with) several answers mentioning fatigue and stress. Hildred also mentioned various forms of indecision, which is, in my experience, the most common form of writer's block. I believe there is a very large cause however, which everyone else has overlooked: lack of a theme.

If you'd like to look into themes in detail, check out chapter fourteen of Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. It is an invaluable resource. In a nutshell though, a theme is the point you are trying to convey with your novel. A lot of novels (and more so movies) do not have a theme. They consist purely of twisty plots, complex characters, or a combination of the two. Those things drive the novels forwards. In these novels, there is no theme, no message.

NOTE: In such novels as character studies, the theme is the character. The author feels it is important for you to meet this person, or occasionally, place.

A theme is important because it is the message you feel passionate about. You feel your readers need to know about it, and it is for this reason that you write the whole novel in the first place. Your passion gives you drive to keep writing. Being the opposite of boredom, this passion also keeps you writing.

Build your novel from your theme, not the other way around. Do this, and no matter what writer's block hits you, you will always be able to overcome it in the end and keep writing, because you believe in what you are writing about.

Short answer:

Cause: A lack of theme.

Solution: Build your story from a theme you are passionate about.

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    If you or your writing (even for a short while) don't have a clear purpose, then the writing doesn't have a soul (or you just can't get in touch with it). And, for fiction especially, it can't just be an idea. It has to feel important and you have to feel passionate about it and relate to it personally. That kind of connection is hard to maintain. It comes and goes based on everything else happening in your life and can be blocked by all the technical issues of writing too. – Joe May 13 '15 at 10:01
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    Precisely, which is why your purpose in writing needs to be something you feel really passionate about. If it's a topic you could go on for hours about it, your interest is not going to fluctuate. – Thomas Myron May 13 '15 at 19:03
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For causes of writer's block, I point you to "The Writer's Brain: What Neurology Tells Us About Teaching Creative Writing" as one potential explanation, which focuses primarily on stress, feeling under pressure, or feeling threatened, which causes the brain to "shift control from the cerebral cortex to the limbic system":

When the limbic system is in the ascendant, behavior is instinctual, based on the fight-or-flight response, or the result of deeply engrained training. Without significant input from the cerebral cortex, the individual is temporarily deprived of the ability to perform nuanced analysis and creative thought. Moreover, the individual is rarely aware of this shift and often attributes the resulting inability to perform her or his usual creative thinking as a lack of willpower, character or ability.

If this is true, one should probably focus on the causes of stress that could trigger this type of reaction. For example, lack of inspiration, getting distracted, or procrastination can all contribute to a stead build up of worry and stress resulting in writer's block. Fear of failure can be equally paralysing. There may also be an issue with worrying too much about "the rules" of writing, rather than just learning by writing.

There's also the problem of self doubt: writing is an inherently lonely, solitary activity, and it's not difficult to fall into the never-ending cycle of self-criticism and loathing of what you create, believing it to not be good enough.

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Professionals would say "writer's block" doesn't exist. They have contracts with publishers and deadlines to meet and they have to get on with the "day job" same as everyone else, but...

"It's just that it's so hard..." (Prince Arthur character in Shrek 3). And it is. Really. Really hard. And sometimes you just want to give up, and your enthusiasm and ideas evaporate, and that's when the ole block of concrete falls out of the sky and drops on your head.

The thing is, writing is a subjective and emotional activity, as are all creative arts, so a good dose of inspiration is vital. However, in the real world, successful writers will tell you the inspiration is only the 1% and the remaining heavy digging, I'm afraid, is 99% (Thomas Edison, if you want to check it out).

Having said that, the first thing is not to beat yourself up. Writers are notoriously over-sensitive souls. They have to be, to tackle those life and death issues that inspire them in the first place.

Top Tips to beat the writer's block:

Make a regular writing time and always sit at the blank sheet of paper for at least half an hour. Learn not to be scared of it, and write anything - notes, a character description, keywords for an outline, post some tweets, compose a kick-ass Facebook post. Always do this, every day. Serious writers write something every day.

Take a break. Get up from the desk. Walk the dog. Go for a swim. Have a coffee, scoff some carbs, give yourself a sugar rush. Do deep breathing. Do the vacuuming. Give your brain a treat. Turn the music up. Anything.

Recognise that a piece of written work is an organic, evolved product of your brain. Sometimes you can't rush it and your subconscious is working on an issue that you can't solve immediately. Read Stephen King's On Writing.

Work on something else. This is often the most effective solution.

Don't beat yourself up. To produce top quality written work is difficult, very difficult (otherwise everybody would be doing it. lol) It takes talent, creativity, skill learned over decades, focus and faith in yourself.

Get some feedback. I have a small group of writer friends (serious writers) and from time to time we critique each other's work. It really helps.

Join a class or writing group. You'd be amazed how much collective inspiration there is.

So, as I said, don't beat yourself up. Be patient with yourself, but at the same time develop the discipline of a daily habit, interact with other writers, read writers who inspire you, and keep going. Don't worry about the writer's block, but look for ways round it.

  • +1 for mentioning Stephen King's On Writing - best book on writing I've ever read. – Nicole May 9 '15 at 22:03
  • This answers a different question. The original question is asking about the causes of writer's block. Perhaps you can post a version of this answer here? – Neil Fein May 11 '15 at 6:41
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Writer's block is the result of writing infrequently instead of making writing a habit, as I explain in this and many other answers on this site. Other members have given useful advice as well. Use the site search.

  • I've often wondered what's your real name... No puns intended... unless you want. – Amin Mohamed Ajani May 10 '15 at 18:17
  • Why do you wonder about my real name? There are many others who are here anonymously. Why me specifically? – user5645 May 10 '15 at 22:38
  • Because it's 'what'. – Amin Mohamed Ajani May 11 '15 at 18:52

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