Please help me perform an experiment. Re-read the title of this post, and ask yourself: What if somebody said those five words – “I don’t believe in diabetes” – to you? What if they followed it up with something like this? “People should just eat less sugar.”
I suspect you might consider that remark insensitive, or stupid, or uninformed, or simply wrong. I also suspect that none of you would ever actually say something like that – particularly to a person diagnosed as being diabetic. After all, it would definitely be insensitive, it would almost certainly be stupid, and it’s clearly ill-informed and wrong, as there is ample medical proof that A) diabetes exists, and B) sugar consumption does not directly cause diabetes.
Let’s try a variation. Consider this statement:
“I don’t believe in depression. People should just cheer up.”
Again, this is something I doubt most people who read posts like this would say, and for the same reasons. At the very least it would be insensitive, and the oversimplified solution it offers is both callous and unhelpful. However, the grim reality is that there ARE some people who would say this – or at least think it. Ask anybody who suffers from depression, and I bet they’ll corroborate this.
Let’s re-cast this sentence one more time, transforming it into something that a fair number of you probably would say:
“I don’t believe in writer’s block.”
I know – this is false equivalence, comparing writer’s block to actual illnesses like diabetes or depression. I’ll address that in a moment. But first let’s explore this premise a bit more. Whether you believe in writer’s block or not, I think you’d have to admit it’s a pretty common punching bag – or punchline – for many writers. Here’s a quick sampling.
Let’s start with Jodi Picoult, who proclaims, “I don’t believe in writer’s block. Most of writer’s block is having too much time on your hands.”
Terry Pratchett apparently has Jodi’s back on this. He’s been quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”
Writing teacher and author Natalie Goldberg says, “I don’t believe in writer’s block. I don’t even think it exists.”
Author Bob Welch calls it “an excuse,” and elaborates that “I don’t believe in writer’s block any more than I believe in ‘plumber’s block’ should the guy fixing my pipes suddenly find the going difficult.”
Continuing with that theme, author Roger Simon, currently the chief political columnist of Politico, drives the stake a little deeper: “Why should I get writer’s block? My father never got truck driver’s block.”
These are all clever, pithy remarks – brimming with confidence and making it pretty clear that writer’s block is just not something that happens to REAL writers.
Um, except for when it does. [Read more…]