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Writer's Block on the Analyst's Couch -Part 1

Pic of Seward Johnson's Confrontational Vulnerability

The renowned father of psychoanalysis once said: “A man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them.” I don’t know how many writers complain of the condition writer’s block which may be defined as the freezing of constructive ideas, a symptom of a writer’s inability to proceed with a writing task. I also have no idea how they try to overcome it or if it may indeed be called a complex. A writer myself, I discovered that Freud’s insight provides the best approach and that getting into accord with the message that writer’s block may be signaling, is key to moving forward. Clearly, eliminating the cause would have a more lasting effect than attacking the symptom.

Analysis of the condition reveals many possible causes including poor ideas, inability to focus and deficiencies in motivation. Logical analysis also points to ineptness with writing tools as a possible technical cause, but this article will presume familiarity with writing tools. To address the non-technical causes, we must first understand the writer’s job.

Although key to classifying a writer, the task of writing does not alone define the job. Simply put, a writer does more than write. The condition has deeper implications than the symptom that manifests as missing words. Doggedly trying to put words on paper when your brain is saying something else is an attempt to treat that symptom, not the condition and its causes. In addition, words convey meaning. They are not just blotches on a page that a writer summonses to prove that he is a writer. Words are vehicles. They transport the mind to places and people, relaying news, thoughts and ideas, conjuring fantasy or reality and communicating desired messages through writers’ magic. A writer’s job is the art and science of stringing words together to conjure ideas and transport this convoy of particular meaning to readers. The advice to “simply start writing”, misrepresents that job. Writers are not merely churners of words, but conveyors of meaning. Treating the symptom of writer’s block (that freezing) instead of its causes, could sentence an occasional sufferer to life as a chronic victim. Instead, it may be better for a sufferer to consider stimulating the mind that controls the pen and aim to reach beyond the writing blockage.

If writing is seen as a vehicle conveying meaning, the paralyzing ailment faced by a writer with an assignment and a deadline, may be perceived as equivalent to sitting in your car with a full tank of gas and no map to your destination. Writing aimlessly may be worthwhile indeed, if prolific writing is the goal. Meaningful, engaging communication demands a more perceptive, discerning approach. Abundance itself is not success, although it may indeed be its byproduct. Writing that is hollow and empty of meaning, even if it is prolific, is worthless.

To treat this, whether writing fiction or non-fiction, in business and other genres, research can be a source of inspiration. Research may seem an obvious base for non-fiction, but researching aspects of fiction could also spark fresh ideas. Engaging characterizations in a novel, for example may be bolstered by researching biographies and psychological profiles. Information, not fingertips is the seed from which writing sprouts. If you don’t have it, research is one of many ways to obtain it. Although the advice to write what you know is sound, that does not mean that great writers limit what they write to the confines of outmoded learning and antiquated experience. Writers can learn new things. Research can stimulate the constant drive and flow of new ideas and sustain the writing journey.

Like research, fresh experiences could help relieve writer’s block that results from paucity of ideas. Instead of sitting at a keyboard staring at a blank sheet when the mind freezes, simply going out could update the store of situations and ideas that help writers produce. Making this a routine provides endless refreshment. Gaining from experience may require that you be alert when pursuing mundane activities and special excursions. Fresh experiences can be found close to home. If jumping on a plane, bus, boat or train to experience the stimulation of fresh experiences is not feasible, a writer need not feel trapped. Online experiences can be rich and extensive. Local parks, town halls, transit stations, are opportunities for free, accessible scene changes and may also accommodate use of a portable computer or other writing device. Television is ok, but that medium provides scenes that have already been written, parsed and edited to create news, documentaries or movies. Plagiarizing is not writing. Fresh experiences stimulate all your senses and could help not only to trigger fresh ideas, but also refine descriptions and explanations and inject excitement into writing. Fresh experiences help writers bring meaning and information to life, add emotion and color to written content and share pleasure and enjoyment that engages readers.

So don’t be stumped as a writer. Remember that writing does not originate from words on paper or dancing fingers on a keyboard. Those are outputs. The value of writing may be assessed as the meaning conveyed and the quality and appeal of the communication for the intended purpose. Those have implications for completely different therapies in accord with the problem and not according to the symptom experienced.

The premise that the Freudian perspective about getting into accord with complexes can be adapted to help relieve writer’s block, seems to offer hope for shaping vocation therapies directly responsive to the ailing writing session. Share your experiences and let us explore further what ails the process and perhaps we can together embark on the uncharted journey to target real remedies in Part 2.

Karen Sinclair is an insightful writer whose recent books The Quiet Sense, and About Whoever cogently analyze 21st century perspectives and bring reasoned understandings to enlighten readers about hot issues . Check Karen’s books now at

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