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  • J. J. Hanna

The Luxury of Writer's Block

If you hang out around writers for any period of time, you’ll hear about this thing called “writer’s block.” If you’ve ever tried to write something, you’ll probably have experienced writer’s block.

Despite the difficulties that writer’s block presents, if there’s anything I’ve learned this summer, it’s that when you go to work as a writer, you don’t get the luxury of writer’s block. You don’t get to be blocked because you’re getting paid and you’re depended on to produce something, anything, your employer can use, regardless of how many times you want to pull your hair out because you can't make the words come.

Whether, like me in my internship, you end up writing blog posts, social media, or even meta data for individual website pages, you do not get to have writer’s block. Something has to be written, and it usually has to be written on deadline.

Because here's the thing: You can make the words come.

I’ve learned this summer that when I sit and stare at the screen, the blank page taunting me because I have no ideas, I can’t just stare at it and then look at my boss and say, “I’ve got nothing.” Pushing past the “I’ve got nothing” stage to the “Here’s something, what do you think?” stage is one of the hardest things to do. But it’s so nice when it’s done, because you got to the “Here’s something” stage.

That’s probably a bit confusing, so think of it this way. You’re faced with a car that won’t start. You have two options: (1) call a professional, or (2) poke around a bit and try to fix it yourself before you call a professional. When you poke around a bit, you realize that a band seems to be missing, so you think, Maybe I just need to go buy a band. But then you realize it looks a bit like a belt could fit there, so you go find an old belt and try it. In the process of trying to start the car, you realize that not only was the belt missing, but your battery is dead. So you call a friend to help you jump it and you get your car started long enough to get it to a shop where you’re congratulated for your ingenuity and they replace your belt with the band that was missing and they replace your battery.

Okay. So, I’m a writer, not a mechanic, and I don’t know if that actually would work. But the concept is the same. If you can’t think of anything to write, look at the concept from a different perspective. Fiddle with the dials. Press buttons you’re “not supposed to press.” Write from there. If you can get one sentence written, you’ll likely be able to write another, and once you have something written, even if it’s pure crap and you were stumbling around the point in the fluff of it, you can edit the fluff away and get to the point now that you have something to edit.

As the saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page.

This is the difference between writing as a hobby and going to work as a writer. There will be days when writing is hard. There will be weeks and months where nothing seems to be as good as you want to to be. But if you’re serious about this, you will be able to come up with something to write, even on those days when you are drawing more blanks than a stack of unused printer paper. You can beat writer’s block, because in this line of work, writer’s block isn’t an option.


J. J. Hanna is a Professional Writing major at Taylor University. In her spare time she enjoys creating comics and Youtube videos and practicing Karate. She’d love to hear from you, so send her a note or leave a comment.

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