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"Couldn't think of any lyrics!
No, I never wrote the lyrics.
So I'll just sing any old lyrics.
That come to mind, child."

When someone is contractually obligated to churn out regular humorous articles, they occasionally reach an inspirational dead end. Sometimes, to deal with this, they write an article about how they can't think of anything to write. This makes such pieces essentially forms of Metafiction since they typically involve the author writing about writing.

Stephen Fry mentions in the book collection of his articles that every humor writer is allowed one and only one of these.

Almost always a form of Self-Referential Humor. Sister Trope to Writer's Block Montage, which is a montage of an uninspired In-Universe creator trying and failing to produce something. Compare and contrast This Is a Song, which is a song that is at least partially about itself. Related to Most Writers Are Writers because Real Life writers often have characters who are writers too, which when gone meta, opens up several possibilities for Breaking the Fourth Wall.

Go to Writer's Block, the general trope for when fictional characters struggle for ideas to put in their work. See also Making the Masterpiece, a dramatization of how a creator's magnum opus came to be. Might overlap with Padding, that extra stuff added to a fictional work purely to fill out time.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • Howard the Duck: An entire issue is about author Steve Gerber's writer's block. So it's essentially a comic issue that illustrates how the creator is lacking ideas for a comic issue.
  • Watchmen: This is how Under The Hood begins. Nite Owl briefly ponders how to start his autobiography. He sets to ask his writing virtuoso of a neighbor, telling her that "[he] doesn't from writing a book". That he's got all he wants to tell in his head but doesn't know where to begin. It's only after following Denise's advice, and thanking her for it, that the actual narration starts.

    Fan Works 
  • This Time Round: Missing the Obvious was written for a "crystals" challenge on rec.arts.drwho. In it, Ceannaideach Daibhid's Author Avatar completely fails to write a fanfic about crystals. It opens with a parenthetical comment that he can probably get away with this just once.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Adaptation.: It's a film telling the story of adapting a book into the screenplay of what eventually becomes the film you're watching.
  • : As early as The '60s, Federico Fellini makes a film about making a film when you've run out of ideas.

    Literature 
  • Animorphs: In The Android, Marco writes a school paper on the topic of how he hasn't come up with a topic for the paper. Later in the book, it's mentioned in passing that his writing about "the use of rhetoric to obscure a lack of content" got him a B.
    Marco: "A topic will... emerge. I just have to keep writing until I come up with a topic."
  • Breakfast of Champions: Kurt Vonnegut's narration frequently goes off to explain what he was going through when he was writing it.
  • Belgian novelist Herman Brusselmans uses this trope on occasion, often as an introduction. The first sentence of De kus in de nacht (The kiss in the night) is as follows: "As usual I have nothing to say and I will do so for about 600 to 650 pages, we'll see."
  • The City of Dreaming Books: This is the subject matter of the manuscript and it's specifically noted that the book should be a Cliché Storm by all rights. Yet, reading it convinces people that it's the greatest piece of literature ever put to the page.
  • Umberto Eco: He had a column in the Italian news magazine L'espresso where he once wrote an article about how he can't think of anything to write about, but the space needs to be filled, so he's now writing this article about how he can't think of anything.
  • Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy once wrote an article in which he explains that he should write a humorous article. Yet, he can't because a young man is standing behind him and reads everything he writes.note 
  • "This Is the Title of This Story, Which Is Also Found Several Times in the Story Itself".
  • Chuck Tingle's story, Pounded In The Butt By The Sentient Physical Manifestation Of My Writer's Block Then Realizing I've Already Found Inspiration By Literally Writing About How I'm Not Inspired.
  • Karl Edward Wagner: "The Slug" is about how creative blockage tends to become The Thing That Would Not Leave.

    Live-Action TV 

    Music 
  • Natasha Bedingfield: "These Words" is about the difficulty of writing a love song that really expresses how she feels about the person she's dedicating it to.
    Trying to find the magic,
    Trying to write a classic,
    Waste-bin full of paper,
    Clever rhymes, see you later.
  • Mitch Benn: Benn wrote and recorded an entire album in 24 hours for charity. The last song, "Party Animals Need Not Apply" is about how this Self-Imposed Challenge isn't fun and ends with a thrice-repeated line about how he needs to pad it out to make the time.
  • Jimmy Buffett: In "Boat Drinks", there's a verse that says, "I should be leaving this climate/I've got a verse but can't rhyme it."
  • Chicago: "25 or 6 to 4";
    "Waiting for the break of day
    Searching for something to say..."
  • Eminem:
    • The hook of "Under The Influence" is Slim telling everyone to suck his dick because he's too high to write a good hook.
    • "Rabbit Run" is about a rapper struggling to think of things to write.
    • "Just Lose It" has a section where Slim runs out of lines and starts improvising gibberish.
    • In "On Fire", Slim claims that he can make his long, indulgent braggadocio verses into a song by just adding a "bullshit hook", which he promptly does.
    • "Guts Over Fear" has a passage in which Eminem admits that, after his Creator Recovery, he has nothing left to write about.
    • "Walk On Water" is a song about being unable to meet the expectations placed upon him as a writer, interspersed with the sound of Eminem crunching up his lyrics sheets and throwing them away.
  • Five Iron Frenzy: "Superpowers", which is otherwise about the difficulties of being a touring rock band, briefly dips into this in its second verse.
    Sometimes I have a deadline
    for writing our songs.
    Five minutes left to write this one...
    la, la la, la la, la la la.
  • Ben Folds: "One Down" is about the fact he's contractually obliged to write 3.6 more songs and he feels conflicted about "turning in a bunch of shit."
  • Tim Minchin: He composed an unusually clean, three-minute long song for pre-watershed TV appearances which is all about the reasons he needs to write a clean three-minute song.
  • Morris Minor and the Majors: "Another Boring B-Side" (the b-side of "Stutter Rap") details the cynical process of writing a song that most people will only listen to once.
    It's another boring b-side, another load of tat
    It has no redeeming features, and we're really proud of that
    You're listening to the product of considerable neglect
    But for a lousy one pound eighty, tell me, what did you expect?
  • Gwen Stefani: Her hit "What You Waiting For?" is about Gwen's writer's block during the making of her debut solo album, Love Angel Music Baby, and addressed to herself.
  • They Might Be Giants: "Number Three", the third song on their first album, is about burning out after writing only two songs.
  • Even Worse: "(This Song's Just) Six Words Long" is about this, with "Weird Al" Yankovic spouting verse about how he can't think of any lyrics, so he'll just repeat old ones.
    "Couldn't think of any lyrics!
    No, I never wrote the lyrics.
    So I'll just sing any old lyrics.
    That come to mind, child."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Hobbes ends up writing this story for Calvin after he tries time traveling two hours into the future to retrieve his completed story, only to find it hadn't been written yet. Unfortunately for Calvin, the class loves it, but it makes him look like a laughingstock.
  • FoxTrot: One series of strips has Jason writing "a running first-person account of the process of writing a nine-hundred-word essay" for school, as part of a bet with his friend Marcus to see who can write the longer essay. Jason wins the bet, but his essay gets a poor grade because it's literally nothing but "This is my fourth sentence. This is my fifth sentence. This is my second paragraph..."

    Radio 
  • The BBC: Many of the quirkier Radio 4 documentary strands do this, with the narrator explaining the difficulties of production, and sometimes describing (or even recording) arguments with the producer. Often the phrase "This is not the programme I expected to make when I started" is involved.

    Webcomics 
  • Arthur, King of Time and Space:
    • A semi-recurring theme in one arc is that Arthur hates "can't-think-of-a-joke jokes", but not as much as he hates failing to update his webcomic.
    • In the space arc, Tristram thinks writing a song about being unable to write a song is "only funny once".
  • qxlkbh: By virtue of being Metafiction, it naturally has multiple examples.

    Websites 
  • Uncyclopedia: Its article on writer's block.
  • Ted: Tim Urban opens his TED Talk "Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator" with a description of his own last-minute writing of the TED Talk as an example of his process.

    Western Animation 
  • Pete the Cat: In "Begin to Begin", Pete is supposed to be writing a new song for his band, but has writer's block and keeps procrastinating. He eventually ends up writing a song about how he should not procrastinate and just start writing.

    Real Life 


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