"He had writer's block once. It was the worst ten minutes of his life."
Someone struggles with putting pen to paper and can't get their thoughts out. Regardless of whether it's something as simple as a school report or as complex as a full-length novel, they just can't bring themselves to write what they want.
This tends to involve one of two things: either someone tackling a temporary writing assignment, or someone who writes for a living
. Often, to get past it, the person in question has to overcome some kind of mental block in order to continue writing. A "World of Cardboard" Speech
may happen as the character breaks their restraints and moves forward.
In these cases, it rarely crops up more than once in a work. In the former, this is because the task of writing is never mentioned again — it's a subplot or single episode plot only. In the latter, once overcome, said writer never runs into that obstacle again.
Occasionally, the whole thing will be lampshaded
, sometimes with some sort of Visual Pun
May result in a Last Minute Project
, and can lead to An Aesop
. Writer's Block Montage
is a subtrope. See Fictional Document
and Most Writers Are Writers
. Do not confuse this with our Writer's Block forum section
For a work written about the writer's own writer's block
, see How I Wrote This Article Article
This is very much Truth in Television
. Writing is not always easy; just ask any Real Life
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Anime & Manga
- Happens to Nakuru in episode 13 of Mayo Chiki!. After a boy confesses his love to her, she gets very confused by it as she feels she's not the type to attract boys, since she's a Mega Nekko and obsessed Doujinshi writer/artist of BL manga. She then asks Jiro out on a date to see if it's simply because of her boobs, and after he helps her by barely resisting her advances, she seems to snap out of her block. But then she also has a Love Epiphany when she looks at him afterwards as well, and hilariously runs away.
- One example comes from Asu no Yoichi!. When Chihaya is stuck on new ideas for her manga, she lets Yoichi read one of them, and he tells her that it's very interesting. She then gets excited, and in order to get some new ideas, decides to flirt with him a little bit. Although he lets her down gently, she laughs and says she was just joking about it, then her sister Ibuki walks in, and Chihaya jokingly lies and says that Yoichi was trying to strip her. Hilarity Ensues as Yoichi gets chased by Ibuki.
- After seeing some of Chihaya's classmates mock her hard work and trash her illustrations, then talk about not wanting to do anything with their lives, Yoichi beats them up for their lack of motivation, as well as their attempts to put down others who are trying to do something with their lives. His actions inspire some more ideas for her manga as a result.
- In HeartCatch Pretty Cure!, Tsubomi and Erika aid inspiring mangaka Ban, who is stuck on a portion of his doujinshi about the Cures. In his story, Blossom had fallen in love with a handsome young man (who looks like a fusion of Ban and Itsuki) and Marine decides to help her out. However, Marine ends up falling for him as well, setting up a Love Triangle. Ban has absolutely no idea how to solve the problem. Tsubomi and Erika end up acting out the logical solution - that Blossom and Marine decide that their friendship and duty is much more important that a guy.
- In Issue 5 of 'Mazing Man, Denton gets writer's block, and the main story is all his friends coming over and telling him stories to put in the comic. This issue came out without The Comics Code stamp of approval because one of the stories told to Denton concerns zombies, which was a no-no.
- The Sandman volume "Dream Country" includes the story "Calliope", about a writer whose first book was a critical smash, but who has writer's block so badly that he can't even start on the follow-up book. He is given the Muse Calliope, and by keeping her captive and raping her repeatedly, he is inspired to great writing. When asked to release her, the writer complains that he won't have any ideas without her presence, so Morpheus grants him an unending stream of ideas — there are so many and they come so fast that he goes mad trying to even write them down.
- The Great Fables Crossover centered around return of the leader of The Literals - race of Anthropomorphic Personifications of literary concepts - The Writer, who had power to change reality according to what he wrote. Having decided that world ran out of control since his dissaperance, he wanted to fix it...only to meet his brother, Writer's Block, whose existence made him unable to write. For most of the story he consults Literals embodying different genres, trying to find a way to get rid of his writer's block without having to murder his brother.
- Jonathan Law (Tarantula) struggled with both this and alcoholism in JSA: The Golden Age.
- This is the story behind the film Adaptation. The screenwriter got writer's block trying to adapt a book without a story into a film, and ended up writing a story about a screenwriter with writer's block who is trying to adapt a book without a story into a film.
- In Her Alibi, Blackwood is suffering from a long dry spell in his writing. To resolve it, he goes to the local courthouse to watch the criminal trials and mine ideas, and it's there he meets the enigmatic Nina, who stands accused of murder, and decides to give her an alibi so he can use her presence to fuel the premise of his book.
- The short film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life is about Franz Kafka suffering this while he is trying to write the opening line of The Metamorphosis.
- Mort Rainey in Secret Window suffers from this at the film's opening.
- Also the plot of Stranger Than Fiction, where Karen Eiffel has a case of it in trying to kill Harold Crick, the main character.
- Author Calvin Weir-Field, until he's urged to write down his dreams about Ruby Sparks.
- Barton Fink: The movie is about a writer suffering from writer's block, written by The Coen Brothers as way of getting around a bout of writer's block on another project.
- Swimming Pool (2003): The story revolves around a middle-aged English mystery author, who is having writer's block that is impeding her next book.
- The Shining: The fact that Jack is a writer who is suffering severely from writer's block is the reason the family goes to the hotel in the first place.
- Christopher Walken's character in Communion suffers from it but eventually overcomes the blockade.
- If You Believe: The movie's protagonist Susan is a jaded book editor. One of her star writers Dylan suffers from a long depression or some other mental breakdown and is currently off medication. He has written two third's of a brilliant novel and knows what to do with the rest, but he cannot bring himself to finish it.
- In The City of Dreaming Books, the most perfect piece of writing is a short story about the author dealing with writer's block.
- A crippling case strikes one of the supporting characters in David Lodge's novel Small World.
- The main protagonist of Bag of Bones is a writer suffering from it after the death of his wife.
- A researcher once published a peer-reviewed journal article entitled "The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of Writers' Block". Everything except the title was blank.
- In The Plague, Joseph Grand starts writing a story about a woman on horseback, but never gets past the first line, which he keeps rewriting by changing around the adjectives.
Live Action TV
- In series 1 of Spaced Daisy has aspirations of being a writer, but struggles with writers block / lack of motivation and comes up with distractions for herself. This is highlighted in the last episode of season 1, where during an argument, Tim references several of the plots of previous episodes (to the backdrop of Tekken 2):
Daisy: I am not avoiding work!
Tim: Oh right OK, oh well, ooh let's have a party, ooh let's do some theater, ooh let's get a dog, ooh let's spend hours in front of our bedroom mirror BOGLING TO ASWAD!
Daisy: That was research!
- In a two-part episode of The Golden Girls, Blanche wants to write romance novels based on her life experiences, but doesn't know where or how to begin. What follows is one of the best exchanges on the show; here it is.
- Castle: The first episode has the eponymous mystery novelist kill off his most popular character and struggle when trying to write something. After helping the police solve a case connected to his novels, he makes an arrangement that allows him to tag along on Detective Kate Beckett's investigations for material to use in his books and ends up using Beckett as the basis for his new character.
- The West Wing:
- Sam is told by Leo to write a birthday message for a minor official, a busywork task that would normally go to a junior staffer. When the President sends it back for a second draft, Sam starts to obsess over it and winds up roping in Toby in to "nail it." The shot of him scrunching a paper in his fist and pounding it on the desk shows up in one of the 'previouslies' next season.
- Toby, as a result of massive writing fatigue and nerves, falls victim to this on Bartlet's second inaugural address. He deals with it by setting his failed attempts on fire right there in his office.
- An episode of the Beetlejuice cartoon featured Edgar Allan Poe having writer's block.
- One episode of Muppet Babies has one of the kids trying to write a story, and has trouble writing, which shows up as a giant writers block in-story. The solution? Writers Termites.
- An episode of Kappa Mikey had Guano getting writer's block, to the point where he can't even type his own name.
- Poet Smurf dealt with writer's block in The Smurfs episode "Poet's Writer's Block".
- In season 4 of Metalocalypse, Nathan Explosion undergoes a bad case of songwriter's block. This is particularly bad for him because the economic health of the world is dependent on Dethklok, and Nathan destroyed the master of their next album after a freak storm sank all of the ships transporting the copies. How he gets over his writer's block is perhaps worth mentioning. He's forced into a situation where he either writers a new song on the spot, or has to suck off a sultan looking for a new harem. Seems like pretty good motivation.