September 08, 2006 Features & Images » Feature Story

Clearing the blockage 

Writers offer antidotes and anecdotes on overcoming the blank screen

Page 5 of 7

Apparently the term “writer’s block” was coined by Edmund Bergler, a Viennese émigré and later Freudian. He attributed it to “oral masochism, entrapment in rage over the milk-denying pre-Oedipal mother. Starved before, the writer chose to become starved again — that is, blocked.”

Coleridge (1804) was one of the first cited cases. Bergler claimed to have cured over 40 writers with 100 per cent success rate. The things you can find on the Internet. I just thought I was having a bit of a blank day.


“Set a timer for two minutes and list possible next steps that could move the piece forward.  Then I choose the best one and make that my next action. Completing this action gets me moving again.”

Chad Nantais


Reading over articles on writer’s block, and famous authors on writer’s block, and the history of writer’s block makes me wish I didn’t believe in it either. Granted, most of the cases I found on websites are about dead authors who just stopped writing altogether. That was it. Reasons offered were that some had dried up, or been intimidated by success, or disillusioned, mentally ill or fiercely substance dependent. These tales are too large, much too epic to compare to just the simple issue of not getting past a blank screen in my lovely apartment, with the view, the fish, the healthy house plants and the nicely vacuumed-floors.


“I've been trying to answer this one. Honestly, I have. But do you think I can come up with a single thing? Hell no… There's the Charlie Kaufman technique: reward myself with food. Then I think about food. Oh, I do better than think about it… I get on my bike and go for lunch. And coffee. Coffee shops and bars are surely the havens or purgatories for writers with cramps.”

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