Friday, January 31, 2014

Writer's Block: Identify Your Anti-Muse

Writer's block. Half of all two writers reading this blog have now run away at its mention. It is the one shared fear of every writer, but what is it exactly? Some claim it is a literal affliction - like a mental block - preventing them from getting words on the page. Others bravely say it is their own laziness and unwillingness to actually write - just kidding. No writer admits that. In his reddit AMA on January 6, Jerry Seinfeld, a comedian and writer, said:

Writer's block is a lot of things. I like to think of it as the anti-muse. If my muse is everything that inspires me and keeps me filling the page, then writer's block is the culmination of all my doubts, fears, and inadequacies which stop me dead in my tracks. Whatever it is - and I do think it's subjective for each person - it is a real thing. Sorry, Jerry.

Everyone who writes has met their anti-muse. Even if it's a kid writing a letter to Grandma, they get stumped. What does one say to a Grandma they hardly ever see, but feel obligated to write to because Grandma just gave one a gift through the mail? One can't only say "thank you". That's impolite.

To keep it as simple as possible, I'll define writer's block or the anti-muse as anything that stops writing flow. I think there are a few common reasons people run up against writer's block. They worry about it being good - perfect, even. They worry if it will sell. They don't want to write until they have inspiration. And - and do admit this, because we've all known it to be true deep down in some uncomfortable little crevice of our mind - we don't write because we're lazy - sometimes. There are days where the last thing I'd like to do is write. Sometimes it's nice to play video games for a day. Or two. Or maybe a week.

The key to beating writer's block is identifying what your anti-muse is. What keeps you from writing? Are you afraid of not being good enough? Are you upset because a published author wrote something similar to your premise and you no longer feel the idea is original? Find your anti-muse. Then beat it senseless with mental wiffle bats. And by "beat it senseless with mental wiffle bats", I mean: overcome what makes you stop writing.

Whatever it is, whatever fear you have, whatever form your anti-muse takes, find it and deal with it. Then keep writing.

Next Time: If your anti-muse takes the nasty shape of perfectionism, you're in luck! That's mine, too! I'll be diving in to my own writer's block and telling y'all the tips and tricks I've used to stop beating myself up over less than perfect work.

How do you deal with writer's block, and what form does your anti-muse take? Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Writer's block is real, but the key is pushing through it. (That's not to say it's easy.)
    Here's a relevant sound bite on first drafts, writer's block, and just writing in general from NEIL effing GAIMAN...

    1. I love that interview. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and he's so classy too.