On writer’s block and not doing anything

Yeah, so, the last few weeks have sucked.

I haven’t done anything on my digital poetry project.

I’ve only edited one chapter of my novel.

I have written four poems, but the one I’m most happy with isn’t publishable (I wrote it while I was upset with someone, which is a shame, because it’s a fantastic poem).

It’s felt a bit like I’ve been drowning in work, despite me not doing anything, and I’ve been torn on whether or not this would be considered ‘writer’s block’, giving I am still, technically, writing.

I wrote four poems.

My solution, like with all problems, was to do some research, and I’ve concluded I do have writer’s block. I have only been able to write about what’s troubling me. The way I see it, writer’s block occurs when a psychological problem interferes with a writer’s productivity (we’ll circle back to the problem part soon).

When I looked up ‘writer’s block’ to try and understand it better, I learnt that the term was first introduced  into academia in the 1940’s by Edmund Bergler (Konnikova, 2016, para. 4). Bergler defines ‘writer’s block’ in his 1950 article, “Does ‘Writer’s Block’ Exist?”, by comparing writers to psychoanalysts (1950, p. 43-54), arguing that a writer “unconsciously tries to solve his inner problems via the sublimatory medium of writing”(Bergler, 1950, p. 51).

Sublimation, for the record, is a term coined by Anna Freud (her father was Sigmund Freud), and it’s a defence mechanism where we displace emotions we’re struggling with, or actions that might be socially unacceptable (1937).

It’s basically a fancy way of saying we replace one bad behaviour with something similar, but less taboo.  We funnel our emotions into something more constructive, like aggression into sport, or by writing about them.

I’ve written four poems because I’ve been using the medium as a way of trying to process and displace how I’m feeling. I’ve been writing poems, but have been unable to edit my novel, because I haven’t been able to focus on anything that doesn’t directly help me cope with how I’ve been feeling.

I’ve lost interest in a lot of things, not just writing.

I can’t watch movies that have sad endings because I get too invested in the characters and their failure feels like my own.

I can’t edit my novel because the trauma the protagonist goes though isn’t resolved enough by the end for me to feel like I’ll be okay.

Everything I used to enjoy seems to upset me, and I’ve been dealing with these emotions by funnelling them into poems.

Right now, I don’t have a solution to writer’s block, and I don’t know when I’ll start editing again. It’s not a writing problem I’m having, it’s an emotional one. I don’t know how to overcome how I’m feeling. I should close this off better, but I need to go shower and put some wine in the fridge. Tonight I’m taking Mum to see Celine Dion in concert. She’s had a much harder time than I have lately, so here’s to a much needed night out.





Bergler, E. (1950). Does “Writer’s Block” Exist? American Imago, 7(1), 43-54. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/26301237

Freud, A. (1937). The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

Konnikova, M. (2016). How to Beat Writer’s Block. The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 August 2018, from https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/how-to-beat-writers-block

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