A Reason for Not Writing

I have often said that there are only a few legitimate reasons for not writing. Given that you’re a writer in the first place.

1. You’ve got to finish your education. You really do.

Because if you don’t, you won’t be able to support yourself while you write. You need a place to sleep, food, and at least paper and pencil. Ideally it means a home however humble, enough food to keep you healthy, and at least a small computer/word-processor. They say artists starve for their art, but you can’t starve and do art at the same time. If you’re really hungry, as I have been, all you can think about is food. So, finish the education, and even if you work part time you’ll be able to live while you write the other part of the time.

2. You have a small child or dependent parent.

They need all your time and attention and energy, even if you have a spouse or partner. I was my daughter’s full time father, since Diane had the outside job and the income. That meant that, until I found a good play-group for her, I was unable to write for her first three years. It was worth it in so many ways, but I still wrote nothing during that time. If Darcy needed me, I put down the keyboard, and did what had to be done. My sister took care of our mother who had Alzheimers. 

3. You are ill, or exhausted, or on medication, so that you can’t think. Grief due to death of immediate family counts.

Writing while you can’t think is theoretically possible, but when I can’t think of the next word, it really doesn’t work. Get well first, take notes, but serious writing demands a clear head, focus, and energy. And by the way, the only drug compatible with good writing is caffeine. Oh, and if you’re dead yourself, you are excused from all further writing.

4. Your commanding officer has other ideas. 

You really have no choice. I know people who have had to put their writing career on hold while responding to the demands of their military career. You really have to do this.

5. You lose the means with which to write.

Computer, or quill and paper, or old manual typewriter. If you don’t have what you need to make a permanent copy of your creative efforts, you can’t write, and what you must do is to get what you need. Also, though you could write with pencil on paper on the table, try sending that off to a publisher.

And on May 18, I effectively lost the means to continue writing, when my computer’s user account finally revealed its corruption. I have no idea what it was. I probably tried whatever somebody might suggest, including disk recovery and professional help. So I started with a new computer, and a new system, and recovered from the back-up I had made just before things went wonky. The backup was also corrupted, and I could do nothing. So I erased the drive, installed the system again, and now I’m moving things from that back-up, one at a time, piece by piece, sometimes reinstalling, fixing permissions, re-validating …

Which is why I haven’t posted in so long. I am writing now, for an hour or two a day, and doing quite well. I am recovering still, for three or four hours a day, and trying to not succumb to all the bad feelings roiling around in the back of my head.

As you can see, I am making progress. After all, I wrote this blog.


  1. Nothing can stop a guy like you, Allen. When the last computer won’t reboot; when the paper factories run out of pulp; when the lights themselves all go out: you’ll be there, with parchment scroll and feather quill, if that’s all there is, showing the rest of us how it’s done.

  2. I’m glad to see you got the computer issue fixed. I’m waiting on an editor’s notes/comments for part one of my book. I haven’t the heart to tell her it has three parts, yet. Nor have I told her that I’ve already started book two. Plus, I still have so much research to do for book two right now. Oh dear, I think I’ve caused myself a little anxiety.

    1. And, my daughter tells me, I’ll retire only two years after I’m dead.

      It looks like I may reply only once to both comments. The computer still needs a lot of work, though it’s new and I can use it. I compare it to when the movers brings everything to your new house, there are no labels on the boxes and the contents are from different rooms. Sorting out and putting away is going to take a long time.

      1. I’ve now found myself using the dreaded “cloud” for my book writing. It allows me to keep everything in order, so the only mistakes made are due to user error.

  3. I have selective writer’s block. I can write up until I sign a contract, whereupon I seem to have ideas flowing for absolutely everything BUT what I contracted to write. Is this common? Is there anyone with ideas how to trick my brain into working on what will actually get me paid?

    1. I believe it is simply (but still very seriously) the anxiety about the deadline. One time I needed a new novel, and spent weeks walking in circles, until I remembered I had a list of fifty to be written. I decided to choose one, and the next morning, I had three new ideas.

      I really don’t know how to alleviate your anxiety caused by signing a contract. Some people will tell you to just go ahead and write, but I know from grim experience that that doesn’t work. Can I assume that you do not yet have a full sketch or outline or draft with which to work? This does make it difficult. If you do have any or all of those, then the anxiety is just (but very seriously) a distraction. The question you should ask yourself at this time, and take a couple days to think about, is WHY? I mean, seriously, the harder you beat your head against the wall, the larger the bruise on your head. (Ask me how I know.) So don’t beat. Don’t think about the story. What is making you anxious? Fear of failure, which you are almost guaranteeing by being unable to write? Fear of success, which implies that if you succeed you could be held to higher standards than you are prepared to meet? The sudden realization that you don’t really have any ideas with which to work?

      None of these may be right. It seems, to me, an odd sort of block, but no less damaging for being so. Some people don’t believe in blocks, they just stop writing for a while — in other words, they are temporarily blocked. Do you really want to write that book or would you much (much) rather write another.

      I can’t give you a solution, but I hope I have been able to give you something to think about.

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