The Root Cause of Writer’s Block

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As someone who wrestles daily with writer’s block, I have come to a conclusion. It may or may not be profound, and it may not be true of everybody. But it is definitely true of me.

My writer’s block (or creative block) manifests itself in many different ways, but I believe that there is one root cause: fear.

Here’s an example, not from writing but from my other love, art. Last year, I completed a pastel portrait of my twin DanielNathan2nephews, Nathan and Daniel. They were eight or nine years old when I began working on the painting.

They’ll begin their sophomore year in college later this month.

It took me ten years to complete a 15″ x 22″ pastel painting. Good grief! Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in only a little over four years!

Why did it take me so long?

First, I didn’t think the likenesses were quite perfect. Second, I was afraid that if I continued working on the portrait, I’d only mess it up worse. And so I put the painting away and forgot about it. I was so afraid of ruining the portrait, that I hid it away rather than face the fear of failure.

As I look at my own struggles with writer’s block, I see fear.

Fear that my writing isn’t any good.

Fear that editors and publishers won’t like it.

fear word in wood typeFear that readers will hate it.

Fear that I won’t be able to sell it.

Fear that I won’t be able to top my last book.

Fear that I’ll mess up what I’ve already done.

Fear of failure.

Fear of success. (What if I get too much writing work and I can’t stand the pressure?)

I run away from what I fear.

When I do that with my writing, it’s called writer’s block.

And writer’s block is nothing less than creative paralysis.

Join the discussion: Do you agree that the root cause of writer’s block is fear? Why or why not? What other causes would you point to.


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  1. Darlene Flanigan says:

    I agree 100%!! Why? Because I have those same fears about finish my life story. I am not a young lady anymore and I need to get it finished, which is a bit scary in itself…needing to get it done! I need to face this feeling of fear and get going!!! Thanks so much for helping!!!

  2. There are a lot of us out there, Tori. Keep pressing on, and keep writing.

  3. Tori Aul says:

    Thanks for sharing! I too suffer from this. It is encouraging to know I’m not the only one.

  4. Donna, that’s awesome. You are truly blessed. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Donna Clark Goodrich says:

    None of those reasons above is true for me. For me writer’s block would come when I don’t enjoy or feel anything for what I’ve writing. I can honestly say I’ve never had writer’s block. I believe so much in what I’m writing, and have so little time to write, that by the time I sit down, half of it is written in my head, or I’ve collected material in file folders so I know where I’m going. I had a writer friend who had a contract for a book with a large secular publishing house and she kept putting it off. One day I asked her, “Do you really want to write this book?” She thought a minute, then said, “No, I really don’t,” and she canceled the contract. (No advance was involved.)

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