A Writer’s Dilemma

It was Friday night, and, knowing I had an assignment due, I prepared myself for an evening of writing and editing. After a few hours of work, I would meet the minimum requirement of 350 words, post, and continue with my life.

However, sitting in front of my laptop, all I could do was stare intently at the blank Google Doc. It seemed to smirk, daring my mind to spark at least one idea. But the longer I stared into the void, the more stuck I became. My fingers tried to push the plastic keys, hoping the movement would stimulate the ideas in my brain all I got was gibberish.

Nothing. No life-changing ideas, spicy metaphors, or intriguing philosophies jumped out at me. My mind was a donkey, refusing to walk until I smacked its rear a few times. Even then, it slugged forward a few slow steps, before leaning down to munch on the grass again.

My mind was being an ass (no pun intended).  

Being someone whose ideas had always come so easily, this situation caused high levels of frustration. I was now smashing my head against a wall, scolding my brain to birth at least one thought I could write about.

Desperately, I tried to write a story about the circus: a topic I knew so little about. I held the firm belief that if I was a writer, then I needed to be able to write about anything, but as I tried to weave the story together, my creative process was continually interrupted by Google searches and YouTube videos. How did a circus look like? Smell like? Sound like? What was the swing that acrobats did tricks on called? I had no clue. Although the circus was a creative setting, my mind was unable to develop a logical flow of ideas. After a while, I gave up altogether.

Like that, I became a victim of writer’s block.

Writer’s block is defined as, “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.” It is the sneakiest of all monsters, pouncing at the most unexpected moments, attacking the most oblivious people. It causes paralysis of creative and spontaneous thought, and an inability to think logically about the ideas in the mind. When experiencing this numbing sensation, one needs to understand what causes it, why it hinders creative thinking, and how it can be overcome.

Time Limits

When lacking ideas, a time limit inhibits the development of creative thinking.

Let’s say that you want to improve your health. So, you exercise at the gym every morning, lifting dumbbells, and running on the treadmill. Protein shakes to replace pop and salads to replace pizza. Naturally, you would become muscular, build stamina, and contribute to the long term well-being of your organs and tissues. 

In the same way, creative thinking is developed by training the mind daily with new ideas. By emulating others, creating lists, and forming mind maps, the creative process becomes easier, compared to someone who never takes the time to stop and think. Just like how daily exercise allows for greater strength, a daily dose of new thoughts and ideas allows for refined and healthy creative thinking.

Contrary to popular belief, however, this relationship is not linear, but a reflected parabola. A maximum can be reached, but after, the results can only go downhill. Malcolm Gladwell brings up this idea of the “inverted U curve” in his book “David and Goliath” which states that in a world of consequence, there must be a balance between the two variables: too much or too little of the dependent variable does not allow for desired results.

Returning to the health example, let’s say you and your buddies make a bet: whoever can lift the heaviest weight by the end of the month receives a cash prize. From then on, you spend almost all your waking hours in the gym. Do you expect yourself to be the next John Cena in a month? Or are you going to have severe back and muscle pain every day? Research has shown a direct correlation between over-exerting your body, and the weakening effects on one’s muscles. Therefore, when a time limit pressures the development of strength, an individual is essentially at the same place as if they had done no exercise in the beginning.

The creative process coupled with dwindling time does not produce fruitful results. It strains the brain, for enough time isn’t given to transition random thoughts into coherent ideas.  

In my case, I knew this assignment was due, and as I got closer and closer to the deadline, my mind refused to cooperate. It was Saturday night, and I almost screamed in frustration, for the absence of creative thinking had, until then, been an experience unknown to me. It was as if I was forcing myself to vomit out thoughts, rather than letting them come naturally. Mental and physical processes take time to develop, and thus, cannot be demanded at whim.


Searching for inspiration is the best strategy to find any ideas, for thoughts in the mind are just reactions to the things we sense. When one is confronted with a lack of inspiration, they are told to, “look at the ordinary” and find meaning from the smallest objects, or “do some research” and write about an interesting topic. By doing this, they are doing exactly what a writer is supposed to do: observing and applying their thoughts.  However, there is a clear flaw in this way of thinking.

The reason the writer’s block is called the writer’s block is that nothing can motivate an individual experiencing it. So, by frantically searching for inspiration — writing poems, jotting down observations, emulating quotes — an individual paralyzes themselves to the point their thoughts are no longer coherent.  

An observant writer is a successful writer, but the brain needs a chance to recover from the bombardment of thought. If it is constantly asked of meaningful ideas, then fatigue clouds its logic and process. Try writing about a topic you are “inspired by” when all you have been doing is trying to get inspired. Your plot is incoherent, your characters are overdramatic, your poetry is cliché and bland. By demanding creativity, one is hindering their ability for spontaneous and thoughtful ideas.

I was adamant to write about the circus. It was interesting, so I channeled all of my efforts into understanding the topic, not allowing myself the freedom to think and create. As a result, my story was sprinkled with meaningless and incoherent sentences, such as, “A circus is the greatest show on earth. It is one of chaos, and chaos hides the truth. It is up to you to find it.” The quality stressed my mind because I knew it was nowhere near the publishing stage. 


Instead of complaining, I needed to find a solution. I could have gone on Google again and searched for hundreds of thousands of ideas, but I knew none of them would click. I was suffering from writer’s block and needed some rest and time away from creative thinking. So, I slept for a bit, studied for my math test, and did the repetitive task of cleaning. According to Dr. Jill Owen, a chartered psychologist of The British Psychological Society, “Repetitive behavior and rituals can be very effective in increasing focus.”

Sometimes, the best way to get inspired is to not to scour for it desperately but give in to the subconscious desires of the mind for a little while. A tired brain is an unmotivated one, and without motivation, there is little one can do to write. 



Regardless of how much it is despised, almost all things in the world are under a time limit. It would be nice to allow the creative process to take its sweet, sweet time, but sometimes, it needs to be sped up. 

My assignment (this assignment) was due, and I knew that I needed to think of at least one idea to produce quality writing from.

After a bit of cleaning, math, and sleep, my brain was ready to work again. But before I could expect ideas to pop into my head, I needed motivation — but how does one find the willingness to write?  

Let’s pretend you are the CEO of a company. You have made some partnerships and have been given a deadline to meet their requirements. So, you select a few employees to put in extra hours to meet the demand.

A meeting is called, where you list out the extra work your staff must commit to in order to reach the end goal, but they look at you with empty stares. Their boss is demanding extra hours with the same salary as before, to meet the company’s requirements. Surely, they are not the slightest bit motivated. However, you feel the pressure of the deadline and tell them to fix their attitude.

So they do. They feel like slaves, and get the job done, angry and frustrated the entire time. They do not appreciate having to do extra work, while the other employees get paid the same without doing anything.  As a result, the quality is much below what you had hoped. 

In the same way, by telling the brain to write about a topic that it has little knowledge about, one is essentially treating the creative process as an extended nine to five job. The absence of motivation due to the extra work of research causes a sense of frustration, which is reflected in one’s writing. It is unfair to expect quality when one is simply trying to “get the job done.”

As CEO, you analyze the results that your team has provided. You notice the imbalance in the work you are expecting compared to the amount you are paying them, so you raise their salary hoping to see a change. At this point, the happiness of your workers is more important than the profits being made. 

Now, your employees are exceeding your expectations. The attitude was not the issue, but the lack of motivation was.  When their work was appreciated with an extra wad of cash, they had no problem getting the work done. Think about it: why should they work extra for the same amount of money? Intuitively, it does not make sense.  

When an individual grows impatient with the research demanded from an unknown topic, creative thinking becomes frustrating and feels underappreciated. Forgetting to provide encouragement to oneself is the biggest mistake a writer can make. Writers constantly scold themselves, comparing their current performance to that of the past, but they forget creativity cannot just be called upon at whim, and without reward. It is not a loyal dog that comes at the shout of its name, but rather a house cat, requiring pampering before it could be asked to act. Even then, it does only the minimal amount of what is asked of it.

In my case, I knew very little about the circus. Maniacally, I watched documentaries about the history of jesters and clowns, even though I was not the slightest bit interested. By doing more work than necessary for the same product, my motivation fell steadily.  To regain it, I paused and reminded myself of the rewarding nature of crafting written work. I know that once I post on my blog, there is no other writing in the world that is the same. Moreover, my skill of taking the thousands of thoughts swarming in my head and forming it into meaningful words and phrases was a hard-earned one and that is still developing. By taking the time to reflect on the satisfying feeling of writing allowed me to prepare myself for the next step in the battle against writer’s block.


I knew by going on a massive hunt for inspiration as I had previously done would only result in returning to the same cycle of frustration that I had worked so hard to escape.  

I had learned of the unreliable nature of inspiration. Sometimes, ideas gently sit on my head, and I could write pages upon pages in a matter of hours. Other times, I am lost in my mind, unable to understand why I cannot think at all; the process for this piece falls in the latter category. Regardless of all the rest and stress-relieving I did, I was still stuck, which brings me to my last point — inspiration is found through experience. 

The reason I was unable to write about the circus was that I was five the last time I saw one.  Essentially, I have no memory of the sights, sounds, and smells of the setting; the experience was unknown to me, and if I chose to do extensive research on it, I would have lost motivation again. The creative brain does not appreciate extra and meaningless work.

I had fallen asleep again thinking about all of this, but awoke with a strange epiphany.

If the experience was the true source of inspiration, then could I not write about the frustration I felt at that moment? What about the pressure of a time limit that demanded quality writing? Or the lack of motivation which ate my mind as I spread myself too thin? 

Wasn’t the quest to find inspiration from experiences the very topic that I felt strongly about? My brain was so tired, stressed, and unmotivated, it was unable to identify this obvious idea.  

Then, I wrote. My fingers danced across the keyboard, barely able to keep up with the constant flow of thoughts and ideas. Writing about a topic that I felt at a personal level hit differently, and the quality of writing that came, as a result, was much better than it would have been otherwise.

So here I am.  I cured my writer’s block by writing about writer’s block. Never did I imagine a lack of inspiration would be the inspiration for any of my blog posts, but one would be surprised at how essential experience is to produce great writing.

I know that in the future I cannot rant about my frustration again, as an excuse to complete an assignment.  However, this experience has given me proven steps to overcome my writer’s block in the future, and it may help someone else in the world as well.



10 thoughts on “A Writer’s Dilemma

  1. Dear Nazeefa,

    I quite enjoyed your piece! It was very relatable and included some metaphors that I found humorous. I especially liked your line “It is not a loyal dog that comes at the shout of its name, but rather a house cat, requiring pampering before it could be asked to act.” Having a dog and a cat at the same time I knew exactly what you were talking about. The only tidbit I would recommend for this piece is to space out your metaphors a little bit more. Although all of them were very good it became a little bit too much to read one after another. I highly enjoyed your piece and will definitely come back here once I feel my writer’s block kicking in.

    Simran C.

    1. Dear Simran,
      Thank you for taking the time to read my work! I am glad that you find it humorous, as having this tone in my work is something that I am trying to include in my writing. I agree with you that my metaphors seemed a bit too close, now that I look at it. Maybe I should have stuck to one, and weaved it throughout to make it more cohesive. I appreciate that you pointed this out to me!

  2. I love how you turned writers block into a post about writing block. that is so clever and such a smart way to get out of it. This is pure genuis!

    1. Thank you so much! It took a while to think of it, but I hope it helps you if you ever get stuck. I appreciate that you took the time to read it as well. 🙂

  3. Dear Nazeefa,

    This was such a creative post: to be able to counter writer’s block by writing about writer’s block seems so simple yet you were able to nuance it in a way, which brought out its complexity. Sometimes I too get writer’s block, and it is definitely not a fun experience. This post made your blog feel even more like a blog in that you were giving advice on a topic – something that we don’t always think of.

    I really like how you structured your piece by dividing it into four different ideas, which naturally made it more clear and unified. The idea of time limits is unfortunate but true, and it was nice how you were able to make analogies for creative writing by comparing it to exercise – this helped make the idea of writer’s block seem more tangible. Next, you talked about the reality that many people often don’t get time to rest their brain and, thus, are unable to tap into their creative side, which is an interesting prospect. The last two ideas ‘motivate’ and inspire’ seemed closely related, and I especially liked the line ‘Forgetting to provide encouragement to oneself is the biggest mistake a writer can make’ – although it isn’t some cool metaphor, it is a simple and true statement.

    For recommendations, I honestly don’t really have anything other than combing through your post for any minor grammatical errors; I didn’t see any major errors but just a piece of advice.

    All in all, great post, and I can’t wait for your next one!

    1. Dear Abhay,
      Thank you so much! I am really glad that you liked it. That was probably one of the most frustrating situations I have been in for this class, and I was glad that my rant was accepted as a blog post by Ms. Hunniset.
      After submitting it, I found many grammatical errors in this piece for some reason. It was probably because I did not read it over as much. This is something that I need to work on, and I thank you for pointing it out to me.
      I look forward to your comments!

  4. Dear Nazeefa,
    I know this is my second time commenting on the same piece, but I’m trying to comment on everyone’s blog, so I’m back!
    I love this so much, it is such a clever idea and I commend you for writing something so well thought out and genius. Writing about writers block. Trying to explain why our brain can’t write, and writing about that. It’s just pure genius!
    I also love how you added pictures through the piece and how they have meaning to what you wrote.
    You left no room for improvement because it was very well written and thought out! I hope you keep this blog for next year because I’m going to want to continue reading your amazing work when I’m (hopefully) in university! Can’t wait to see what more of your great mind comes up with!
    Love, Sarah <3

    1. Dear Sarah,
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I am glad that you (and many others) were able to relate to my piece because that is what makes it so meaningful to me. The fact that others felt the same way that I did reinforces the similarity of our experiences.
      I, hopefully, will be taking summer school for social studies just so that I can take creative writing, so yes, this blog will continue. I am glad that you will still come back to read it because that is what is worth it to me.
      Look forward to your comments!

  5. Dear Nazeefa,
    Thank you for putting in words the earth shattering feeling of writer’s block. As a writer, it is one of the hardest things ever. I once had writers block for 3 months. It literally puts a strain on your overall life. You encapsulated the nightmare so beautifully. Well done. For feedback, I would consider maybe making it a bit shorter for people with shorter attention spans. Otherwise, it was lovely. Thank you for gracing us with your gift.
    With love,
    Tolu x

    1. Dear Tolu,
      I love how you said that “It literally puts a strain on your overall life”. I can’t think of a better way to say that. Once you get sucked into writing you’re in a love-hate relationship with it. I am happy that you enjoyed my work. I see what you mean by it being a bit long. I’ll try synthesizing my words a bit better next time.
      Thank you for commenting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *