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10 cases of extreme writer’s block



Unlike the plumber or podiatrist, for whom a further batch of toilets or feet is brought in for repair every day, the author cannot always guarantee that he or she will wake up with something to say. Terrifyingly, even for the most accomplished and productive writers in the world, the words can stop coming for decades (or alternatively come in confused, unpublished streams). Here are some of the most extreme cases of the poorly understood suffering known as writer’s block.

1. Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Coleridge produced his best-known work in his mid-twenties and spent the rest of his life taking opium and lamenting the loss of his gift. As he wrote in his notebook in 1

804 at the age of 32, “it has been such a whole year, with hardly the fruits of a month. O sadness and shame … I have done nothing!”

2. Joseph Mitchell

With its long form New Yorker Joseph Mitchell, a piece from the 40s and 50s, established itself as one of the best non-fiction authors of the 20th century. He was the sensitive, personable chronicler of New York’s strange balls and outcasts, and he found his ultimate theme in the person of Joe Gould. Gould was a gossipy, self-glorifying pillar of the old bohemian scene in West Village that had claimed to compose for decades Oral history of our time. How Mitchell would reveal with some sadness in his masterpiece Joe Gould’s secretthere was no such book. Gould’s famous notebooks contained nothing but records of his baths, meals, and other secular personal details that were compulsorily written and rewritten. The same fate seemed to be happening to Mitchell: he kept going to the office for more than three decades after being published Joe Gould’s secretand was seen regularly to work on something, but he never published anything again. As he said The Washington Post In 1992 “he spoke to Joe Gould over the years and in a way became me.”

3. Truman Capote

In the last years of his life, Truman Capote often spoke of his masterpiece in progress, which was supposed to be a cutting, expansive breakdown of high society. But as Martin Amis put it in his review of the later work – published posthumously in 1986 as Answered prayers– “Capote spent the last 10 years of his life pretending to write a novel that was never there.” Far from the complex Proustian work that Capote had imagined Answered prayers It turned out that it wasn’t much more than four pieces that were previously published in esquire. These pieces, which mocked the folly of Capote’s ultra-rich employees, caused a scandal when released and led to Capote’s banishment from high society. It is generally believed that he subsequently suffered a nervous breakdown, which may account for his inability to write more of his alleged masterpiece.

4. Harold Brodkey

In 1991 time The magazine published an article entitled “The 30-Year Writer’s Block”. The topic was Harold Brodkey, the splitter New Yorker Short story writer, whose first novel was announced in the early 1960s and only published, and then only partially. He had spent the three decades in between finishing his book, building a reputation as someone who, according to critic Jay Parini, had made a whole career out of “the sound of a clapping hand”. The book’s gestation period was so famous and painfully lengthy that some critics felt bad when they criticized it. how Newsweek wrote, “The out of control soul is absolutely the last book you want to say about it, but it could have been rewritten. “

5. Harper Lee

Harper Lee – a close friend of Capote since childhood – published her second novel, Put a guardThe book is a kind of continuation of the 1960s Kill a mockingbird, but it was written before that; There are no plans to publish a fiction that she wrote after 1960, provided she wrote some. For at least a while, we know that she was working on a follow-up. One of the most important theories as to why no follow-up appeared is, of course, writer’s block; when she complained to a friend a few years later Kill a mockingbird‘s publication: “I found that I can not write … I have about 300 personal friends who stop by for a cup of coffee. I tried to get up at six, but then at six o’clock risers gather. “

6. Henry Roth

Henry Roths Let’s call it sleep is now a canonized classic of 20th century immigration literature, but at the time of its publication in 1934 it had little influence. It was only when it was republished in 1964 that the whole world became aware of it. In recent years, Roth hadn’t published anything that was crippled by one of the most famous writer’s block in literature. Writing in The New Yorker In 2005, critic Jonathan Rosen wrote that “the reasons for Roth’s monumental block – which includes communism, Jewish self-loathing, incest, and depression – are ultimately as mysterious as the reasons for his art and in some ways inseparable from it.” The end is one of the happier: he finally managed to write again, and his epic Grace of a rude stream was published in four volumes in the 1990s to gain widespread recognition.

7. Ralph Ellison

Ellison’s was a productive form of writer’s block; According to one critic, it was more like “chronic postponement”. Of course, both forms of book delays look the same to the average reader who only knows that the next novel has not come about. From the publication of Invisible manIn 1952, until his death in 1994, Ellison collected about 2,000 pages of notes on his second novel. In 1958 he wrote to Saul Bellow that he had a “pad the size of the Ritz”. 1994, 42 years later Invisible manWhen it was published, he still claimed that the book was “almost done”. In recent years, two attempts have been published to posthumously compress his notes and bring them into a new form. the most recent, Three days before the shoot …, came out in 2010.

8. David Foster Wallace

Wallace, like Ellison, was not blocked per se. On the contrary, he wrote to Jonathan Franzen that he “wrote many, many pages” which he then “either threw away or put in a sealed box”. Finishing is as important to the writing process as starting, however, and in his last few years Wallace didn’t seem to be able to keep his mountains of material and research together. The sections that he was able to complete were put together posthumously in 2011 The pale king from its former editor Michael Pietsch, though we will never know what the book could have looked like if Wallace had lived to finish it.

9. Stephen King

Given Stephen King’s usual production rate, you’d think “writer’s block” would be a sluggish early morning on his laptop – about 5000 words instead of the usual 20,000. And yet, apparently, not even King is immune to the occasional drought. As he wrote The Washington Post in 2006:

“It can take weeks or months that it doesn’t happen at all. This is known as a writer’s block. Some writers who are writer’s block think that their muses have died, but I don’t think this happens often. Me I think what happens is that the authors themselves sow the edges of their clearing with poisonous baits to keep their muses away, often without knowing that they are doing it. “

In his book While writing, he described one of the few times in his life that he had a writer’s block. He was in college and decided not to present his new novel Sword in the dark to the class. This resulted in a four month period of no writing, no beer drinking and no soap operas being seen.

10. George RR Martin

Ask George RR Martin why Winter winds, the sixth installment from him A song of ice and fire Series, has yet to hit the shelves and he’ll say it has nothing to do with writer’s block. At the Santa Fe International Film Festival 2014, he said that the writer’s block “is not to blame here, but distraction”:

“In the past few years, all of my work has caused problems because it causes distraction. Because the books and the show are so popular that I have to do interviews all the time. I always have travel plans. It’s like suddenly being invited.” Travel to South Africa or Dubai, and who is missing a free trip to Dubai? “

It is possible that he actively uses these distractions to avoid blocking his writer. It is also possible that he would complete the book in a week if he only refused the occasional trip to Dubai. We can all speculate until the publication of his next book.




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