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May 07, 2004

Writer's Block


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A package arrived from Amazon today with a book I had ordered from a friend and a two volume set of "Isis Unveiled" by Madame Blavatsky, the founder of theosophy. I definitely remember ordering "The Midnight Disease" , but not the theosophy books. Perhaps they were on special, and I inadvertantly pushed "add to cart". Oh well, I will assume that they are here for a reason, and try to read them, or more likely open them to pertinent passages (given the condition of my attention).

Here's the passage that fell open in "The Midnight Disease" in a segment about writer's block entitled "What It Feels Like"

Although writer's block can have many manifestations and many causes all blocked writers share two traits: they do not write despite being intellectually capable of doing so, and they suffer because they are not writing. That definition, though simple, allows us to peel away several other states that have important differences from writer's block.

In some ways block is a phenomenon opposite to hypergraphia. Yet in some surprising ways the two brain states are complementary without actually being opposites, which is why a writer can alternate between hypergraphia and block. Writers can even be hypergraphic and blocked at the same time as when Joseph Conrad frantically wrote letters to friends while putting off novels. "

Could we be talking about blogging?

Following an agonizing hypergraphic quote from Joseph Conrad describing his own block...

"This long passage, even longer in the original, paints vividly the sick horror of feeling block. But it's verbosity also shows how closely related hypergraphia and, at least some writer's block, can be in the overpowering desire to write.

Defining block as writing less (much less) than the writer wants to has the result that there can be writers with normal productivity who have an agonizing sensation of block because they are not as productive as they want to be...

The sensation can arise from different roots. There is the writer's throbbing self-criticism, which may itself be the source of the block. There is also that strangled feeling of inarticulateness, of ideas coming faster than words, of not being able to express what is inside. And there may be the dull gnawing of feeliing empty, of not having ideas to express.

Why is suffering a major criterion for writer's block? Because someone who is not writing but not suffering does not have writer's block, He or she is merely not writing. Such times may instead be fallow periods for the development of new ideas, periods Keats famously described as "delicious diligent indolence".

Blog block is more like not being able to write a letter to your mother, although, come to think of it, that problem may have quite a different etiology.

Photo note: This is a back view of the previous photo without the drapes. I find it quite blocky.

Posted by Dakota at May 7, 2004 05:55 AM