The following is an unedited transcript for Season 1, Episode 7 of my podcast, Written, Spoken, provided to help all of my readers and listeners — especially those with hearing disabilities or for whom English is not a primary language — access and enjoy the content of each and every episode. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or other platforms here.
How the Story of ‘Writer’s Block’ Came to Be
[00:00:01] Hey there. Welcome back to Written, Spoken. I’m Dave Ursillo. If you’ve been following along in the story arc of these episodes in season one so, far you know that in addition to being a writer an, author, and all-around word nerd by vocation, I’m also a coach to writers, a teacher of writing and creative self-expression. I’m the creator as well of an online course called Unavoidable Writing.
[00:00:26] Everything I create and share exists at this intersection of self-knowledge meeting and self-expression. I believe it is through self-awareness practices and ongoing, lived in mindfulness in our everyday lives that we cultivate a depth of inner resilience and internal knowhow that helps us to live a more fully expressed life.
[00:00:51] If you’d like to learn more about how to support and empower your self-expression practices through self-knowledge especially if you’re a writer of some kind. I recommend you pop on over to UnavoidableWriting.com. That’s the home to my work, my teachings, and lessons around holistic and rewarding writing. I just relaunched the site with all new design over the recent weeks and there’s some new downloadable freebies you should check out too. Check out the show notes for more.
[00:01:19] With that having been said you may be wondering what there is for you in this episode, which is about writer’s block, if you are, in fact, not a writer by profession or trade or vocation, like me. Stick around and have a listen, anyway. I think you’ll have a lot to learn in this exploration of the story behind “writer’s block” because it’s about how stories come to govern major ideas to which we all subscribe in our lives, whether or not we have consciously chosen to believe them. What stories are defining your experience in your life? Who taught you them? Who keeps telling you them? Let’s get into the episode and ask those questions for ourselves. Here’s the episode.
[00:02:04] Dear friend. Stories shape and influence our perceptions of life, who we are, and what we’re capable of. Even a single word choice can contain within itself an entire story. Fine is a story. Busy is a story. And so is “writer’s block”.
[00:02:25] Even if you’re not a writer, I want to tell you about this phrase — this story — because it says a lot about the stories that govern dictate and shape quite a bit of our lives and choices and outlook. Writer’s block is a story. And all stories represent ideas. The idea that this phrase has come to represent is that writers everywhere will inevitably confront a sneaky, mysterious, ill-defined but altogether unstoppable monster at some point or many points in their creative journeys. This boogeyman of an affliction will arrive suddenly and rob them of their creativity — the very fuel that provides them with deep reward and personal fulfillment and even the ability to provide for themselves as professionals. Why is it that writers everywhere allow the story of writer’s block to continue to be told? Why do writers perpetuate a story of victimhood around the art form that they love?
[00:03:32] Don’t get me wrong. I understand that it’s helpful to have a phrase to describe the mysterious feelings of stuckness or resistance that naturally arises in most creative pursuits. But after years of working closely alongside writers, creatives, aspiring authors, freelancers, editors, bloggers, journals-in-secret and other creatively curious people — to develop more holistic and rewarding and fulfilling self-expression practices — I’ve come to believe that the story of writer’s block is an altogether unhelpful and impractical umbrella term.
[00:04:08] When I quit my job nearly a decade ago to pursue a career as a writer, I had no idea that I would go on to undertake a personal mission to eradicate the story of writer’s block from the lexicon of writers everywhere today. That’s exactly what I find myself doing.
[00:04:25] According to The Comprehensive Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, the phrase writer’s block was first invented in 1947 by a psychoanalyst named Edmund Bergler.
[00:04:37] Of course, the idea of writer’s block existed long beforehand with countless writers, poets, novelists, creatives, playwrights, and artists describing similar experiences of struggle with their creativity. But Bergler gave it the name. He attributed it to being a psychological condition. His choice of words, “writer’s block”, codified a story that represented an idea that even the most talented and driven artists could somehow as if by magic lose the inner essence and resource that fueled their creativity. Today, a quick internet search on writer’s block yields more than 31 million results, and yet so far as I can tell no one has gotten any closer to figuring out what writer’s block actually is or how to solve for it.
[00:05:29] Part of my work with writers and creators across the globe is to undermine the story of writer’s block for good. It’s time we bring an end to this two-word phrase invented by one man that has gone on to become a global epidemic in the minds of writers and creatives worldwide. At best, the popular use of the story of writer’s block today affirms that there is some commonality to the shared experience of struggle and discomfort at the root of all creative pursuits. But at worst the phrase writer’s block has become an entirely counterproductive crutch phrase that consistently fails to help writers and creatives understand the subtle undercurrents of their discomfort with creative self-expression. Is there a story out there in the world today that could appropriately replace the story of writer’s block?
[00:06:25] To be honest I haven’t found one. That’s why after traveling long and far in the world, as within myself — and working with hundreds of creatives over the last six or so years — I felt urgently compelled to create my own story and system to help writers better compute what is actually holding them back from their creative desires.
[00:06:48] The result is my online course, Unavoidable Writing. Unavoidable Writing introduces you to a unique three-part system that helps writers, creatives, artists, and really anyone who works with creative people better understand this sneaking, subtle roots of emotional discomfort that are bound to manifest along every creative journey. My writing course flips conventional writing advice on its head throws out the dated story of writer’s block and provides you with a slate of tools, tips, resources, and strategies for unlocking the stubbornness and resistance you feel when you sit down to write. In their place, you’ll learn to apply a few new, holistic and constructive practices to try on for yourself. My hope for you is that by the end of Unavoidable Writing, you’ll never feel like you have to resort to telling the old, outdated story of writer’s block ever again.
[00:07:47] Even if you’re not a writer, remember that even single word choices — let alone whole phrases — contain stories that represent ideas. These stories are powerful and have a huge impact on how we perceive ourselves and what we think we’re capable of doing in this lifetime. The next time you encounter a story of self-limitation I ask you this: Please stop telling it. Yours in writing and beyond. Dave.
[00:08:27] OK. That’s all for today’s episode. Thank you so much for tuning in. I hope you’ll take this exploration of the story of writer’s block and apply the same thinking to a story that you found is perhaps governing your life in a certain way. Maybe, just maybe, that story deserves some rethinking or letting go or telling anew, but this time in your own words.
[00:08:48] Also if the course I describe in this episode, Unavoidable Writing, sounds like something you love to check out. I’ve got a special deal for you. After over a year’s worth of content revisions and improvements including brand new learning mechanisms and an all-new distraction free learning platform and quietly inviting a new class of students to give the course a test whirl at a major discount. I’m calling it a re-beta, or the second edition beta test, since so much has been improved upon over the recent months. You can sign up and get lifetime access to all the content for just one hundred and $179. Go to UnavoidableWriting.com/rebeta. That’s UnavoidableWriting.com/rebeta, like “beta again.” But hurry up. This deal expires in a couple of weeks and is limited to the first 30 sign-ups, so don’t delay.
[00:09:47] Thanks for listening to Written, Spoken. We’ll be back next week with an all-new episode. Until then remember to live the story you want to be telling. I’m Dave Ursillo. Bye for now.