“When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Crumpled papers.

Photo by ds139. Used under CC2.0.

As I am writing this, I find myself struggling with writers block, and I discover Nietzsche’s famous words echoing through my mind, though slightly construed. As we stare onto the blank, the blank also stares back onto us, and so it goes, the terrible cycle of empty page and empty mind feeding one other. The question at hand: is writer’s block real, and if so, where does it come from? The notion that there is a psychological aspect associated with writer’s block seems to be wide reaching and yet altogether misguided.

Robert Boice notes in his essay on writing blocks that references to this problem have been strewn, and that they have often been based on a writer’s subjective experiences. Psychologists have little to say on the subject and yet the fact that the term is often used interchangeably with writer’s anxiety brings it again, though somewhat problematically, into the realm of psychology.

Is this so called block a manifestation of our own insecurities and inexperience as writers? This would seem to be plausible. During the write up of my own research, I often felt overwhelmed and unequal to the task at hand. However, there is hope for us yet. Keith Hjortshoj writes in his book Understanding Writers Block, “Young inexperienced writers rarely encounter serious blocks… writing blocks are most common among advanced undergraduates, graduate students, scholars, and other professional writers who are not supposed to need help” (2001: 3). (more…)