Plumber’s Block

It is frequent to hear people complain of writer’s block.  Although I am in general an extremely prolific writer [1], there are certainly times when I have not been able to write as much.  Some of these periods of relative fallow have been the result of depression–I may have had the time to write, but I simply lacked the emotional reserves to write it.  At other times I lacked the time to write.  At times I lacked both the time and the energy to do very much writing.  For example, while I was afflicted with major depression between 2006 and 2011, I worked full time during much of that stretch and from 2006 and 2010 obtained two master’s degrees.  During the first half of that period, I would get up early, shower and head to work from about eight to five with an hour for lunch, and then I would rush to the other side of Tampa for class from 6 to 9 or 10PM, after which I would shovel food down on my way home and then do homework before falling asleep, repeated 3 or 4 days a week.  Obviously, under such conditions writing a great deal was simply impossible, and during this period I still managed to write some long essays on Romans 13 and 14 as well as my short book Terra Nullis and an essay on the Road to Christian Maturity.  Clearly I am a glutton for punishment.

How does one get rid of writer’s block?  Like all activities, writing is something that can take a lot out of you.  If your writing, like mine, tends to be somewhat personal and confessional in nature, writing can be an activity filled with stress and occasionally conflict when other people do not appreciate or agree with one’s perspective and one’s observations.  My own solution for this is to greatly vary the sort of writing I do.  I stumbled upon this solution rather accidentally being a person of many diverse interests, so from the beginning of my public writing I made it pretty clear that I would be writing about whatever caught my interest.   Fortunately for me, this meant that my writing has always been sufficiently diverse that periods of personal reflection have been balanced by posts based on observation or thought experiment, where the light and the heavy were in some sort of balance.  Through this writer’s block was avoided because depth and breadth were combined and that has created an atmosphere that has encouraged prolific writing, and sometimes even compelled it.

It is strange that while writer’s block is defined, that other forms of block are not defined.  One does not hear, for example of plumber’s block.  While reading a book about how writers get their ideas–probably a book it was not necessary for me to read–I was inspired to think of other professions where complaining about a block would be ridiculous.  Plumber’s block seemed to be the most ridiculous idea one could think of.  Imagine, if you will, a middle-aged and somewhat stout gentleman complaining to his wife that he feels unable to clean the plugged drains of the world, that he simply does not feel inspired to engage in plumbing.  Try as she might to nag and encourage, the wife simply cannot get the man to feel inspired to clean the drains of his community.  He cannot be bribed with material rewards or threatened by the dire consequences of losing his livelihood.  He cannot be inspired by the knowledge that his efforts help people overcome crises because of blocked pipes or the way that doing his task well improves the lives of those around him.  No, instead he mopes because he has plumber’s block and just doesn’t feel inspired to work with pipes.  I can’t think of anyone outside of a Woody Allen movie who would act like that–clearly it is ridiculous.  Often what is considered writer’s block is more generally a sign of some kind of exhaustion or depression, properly considered.

So, what are we to do about this?  How do we avoid the exhaustion that leads one to be unable to write?  Part of it involves taking care of ourselves.  We have more energy to write if we sleep enough and eat well, admittedly not things that writers are known for.  If many writers are of the slightly bipolar or at least cyclothmiac variety, then writing happens most often during manic periods and dies off during depressive periods, which means that a smart writer allows himself or herself to get a bit ahead when the energy is good in the knowledge that there will need to be some days to take off when one has less energy and is feeling a bit more gloomy, thus maintaining a consistent pace of work.  Other than pacing oneself, it is worthwhile to put enough of one’s attention outward in order to gain inspiration.  I find myself inspired by songs I listen to, videos I watch, personal observations, travel, books I read, conversations I listen to or participate in, and so on.  Nourishing on material that causes us to think and reflect is usually a good way to be inspired enough to keep writing, and to keep writers in general from being afflicted with something as ridiculous in its own way as plumber’s block is in its way.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/07/21/an-accidental-lifehack/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/12/11/the-silence-of-jarvenpaa/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012/07/03/never-thought-id-see-the-day/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/07/16/book-review-the-complete-thinker/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/07/a-modest-proposal-for-the-development-of-sermon-collections/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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