Does ‘writer’s block’ have any scientific basis?

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You’re staring at the blank screen. Cursor blinking on and off at the start of the plain white page. For an hour, two hours, perhaps even three weeks or more … and the words just won’t flow out.

Writer’s block is a widely experienced¬†method of procrastination effect that plagues many who sit and stare at blank white documents for hours on end. Cursed by an utter lack of creativity or inspiration, writers find themselves unable to write. Naturally, many wish to find a scientific explanation for this phenomenon … largely to claim that their experience is real and not merely a waste of valuable writing time.

So is there actually a scientific explanation?


Some experts, such as psychologist Susan Reynolds, claim that it doesn’t actually exist, instead taking the view that writing is a difficult and mentally demanding task to being with and that is why writers may struggle with the writing process.


Others think that the condition does exist, but that it’s a creativity issue rather than a lingual issue. This was shown by taking MRI brain scans of people when asked to write. While there was some brain activity in the area of the frontal lobe responsible for words and language (Broca’s area), a significant amount of activity actually took place throughout the prefrontal cortex, including the areas responsible for making associations and connections between distinct ideas and concepts and the areas involved in planning and memory.

This was also studied by the psychologists Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios, who decided to study this phenomenon during the 1970s and 1980s. They interviewed and studied many writers who had been unable to make progress on their writing in at least 3 months. They performed multiple psychological tests and concluded that blocked writers tended to be unhappy and unmotivated, with very little ability to be imaginative in any way at all.

So how did they try to fix it?

Because the writers appeared to be creatively blocked, Singer and Barrios put them through creative exercises: following basic creative prompts and visualisation exercises, reading others’ work, recording dream diaries. This included doing any form of free writing, including journalling, responding to random prompts, or working on their major projects without trying to perfect their work as they were writing it.

Additional activities that are helpful to combating writer’s block include exercising, writing in a different environment, or taking a break before coming back to finish a writing piece. These work particularly well if you’re a writer who struggles to write because of fear, stress or anxiousness because exercise and different scenery can help counteract your body’s automatic response to fears.


What’s even better is that these activities to combat writer’s block can work whether it’s a legitimate phenomenon or plain procrastination. So have fun writing!





**Note: there is absolutely no conceivable reason why I happened to choose this particular topic. That would never happen.

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