Writer’s Block and Problem Solving

Some would argue that writer’s block doesn’t exist. That it is simply an excuse used by writers who have struggled to produce work.

There is an oft cited quote on writer’s block from Philip Pullman that speaks to this view. In fact, my friend and fellow writer, KM Alexander, author of the Bell Forging Cycle recently had a post using that very quote and it got me thinking, which for those who know me, is usually a rabbit hole. I definitely fell into this one and thought it might be fun to work up a little rebuttal. Love ya buddy! Anyway, here’s Mr. Pullman’s quote.

“All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?”

Philip Pullman

Now, I want to agree with this quote. To be honest I almost do but I can’t ignore a fundamental oversight happening within the words. Plumbers and doctors do suffer from their respective blocks. They aren’t referred to as blocks yet they exist. All of these “blocks,” writer, doctor, plumber or otherwise, are simply puzzles that need a solution.

All forms of labor, thought, and creation come with difficulties. All forms of work come with problems that must be solved before one can move on. Problems that take time to solve.

Mr. Pullman is spot on when he points out that it is ridiculous for writing to have its own special name for and to expect sympathy for the puzzles inherent in the work. It’s childish. Even so, what happens if we strip away the silly name and the need for pity? Continue reading