Not Your Average Writer’s Block

Absolute Blank

By Shelley Carpenter (harpspeed)

Attention Deficit Writing Dilemma, noun, a writer’s behavioral dilemma characterized by a high volume of creativity followed by an overwhelming lack of writing focus and stamina, disabling the writer from completing a single piece of fiction or non-fiction prose.

In case you didn’t know, this is not your average writer’s block. This is something different. Writers who suffer from this tragic dilemma have not fallen out with their muses. They do not have minds that are at an “absolute blank” or lack writerly ambitions or aspirations or scholarly ideas. They are frustrated, like writers suffering from the conventional writer’s block, but for the opposite reason. Their frustration is the result of an overactive muse (not an absent one), of creative energy in overdrive that leaves the writer feeling mentally breathless, exhausted or overwhelmed.

Often, these particular writers are very prolific. They may have dozens of great ideas and thoughts constantly flowing in their heads, vying for their attention and brain space in which to grow. It may sound like a writer’s heaven, but it isn’t. (Trust me. I know this from personal experience.) The end result is still the same: No copy.

Background Image: Saad Faruque/Flickr (CC-by-sa).

Background Image: Saad Faruque/Flickr (CC-by-sa).

Does this sound familiar?

The crux of this writerly dilemma lies not in the ideas or thoughts themselves, but in the ability to stay singularly focused on one, avoiding distraction from all the other great ideas that keep arising.

“Hey, Writer! I’ve got a new word for you to try on: fug.”

“Yo writer-dude, that new character has like no purpose. Get rid of him.”

“You said you were going to write an essay on BBQ customs.”

“Equity and The Importance of Cat Licenses in a Dog-eat-Dog Society.”

“Here’s the perfect ending for Chapter 7…”

“Psst… Why not write a book review for Toasted Cheese?”

People who suffer from Attention Deficit Writing Dilemma often have a difficult time finishing their writing projects. Because ideas are always present, these writers are great starters and are frequently working on several projects at once. Unfortunately, instead of finishing any one of them, these writers just move on, abandoning one writing project to jump to the next with promises to return later. And much like their characters they may be stuck in several climaxes that are too dizzying for them to sort out, contemplate, and complete.

In essence, these writers are like air traffic controllers who are solely responsible for the safety of a dozen or more planes in the air and on the ground. They are the ultimate jugglers. For the writer, each of these planes represents one of their written works in progress.

Can you juggle?

This is what it looks like: One or two stories are taxiing down a runway—Go writer! Two are in a circular hover pattern, waiting for the writer to finish that last chapter or piece of dialog. Wait. There’s more. Some new works have just arrived and have no writing space. Others have run out of fuel. One older piece of work is being diverted to another place—not over the rainbow or into cyberspace to a stream of agents or publishers, but sadly to the bottom drawer that is already half-filled with abandoned stories and crashed essays.

What’s in your bottom drawer?

With all the fiction and non-fiction in the air and on the ground the writer can be very stressed. What’s more, in most cases there is no OFF button for these folks. If there is, then it is frequently stuck. They can’t tell their muses to take off because often they have several muses who seem to work even harder than they do. Even if one were to go away, there still would be a crowd of them hovering around the writer, inspiring the writer to, of course, write something else.

Sound like anyone you may know?

Most writers are constantly writing even if they do not fully realize it. They are list-makers, leaving behind trails of Post-its on various topics that need to be addressed by them at some fuzzy later date. They are bloggers, chatters, journal-writers and diarists. They are the writers of letters—from the old-fashioned friendly note to business letters, editorials, queries, and more. And no surprise, they often write outside of a single genre: Horror and Essay, Chick Lit and Sci-Fi, Mystery and Memoir…

The same may apply to their reading. These writers perhaps read two or three books at once, also in various genres and platforms. They often annotate their personal books and are the ones who tear articles out of magazines in public waiting rooms when no one is looking—for later.

The trick is to find balance, dear writer.

Because there is always something to write about, these writers don’t know the meaning of boredom. In fact, many have interests outside of writing. Their bodies are constantly in motion almost mirroring their minds. It’s surprisingly therapeutic. Some writers find that physical exercise silences their muses. Others find meditation helpful. They practice yoga, calming their bodies with the breath, or they channel their energy through volunteer work. Another set like to use their hands to build and create things like backyard projects, gardening, knitting and cooking, sculpting, and painting

And these separate interests allow for some mental rest that these writers crave. Writers who live with friends or families have an added perk: Their significant others tend to be great interruptions and often provide distraction. The same may be true for pet owners. My dogs require frequent daily attention, especially the new puppy that is not fully trained. Having a job helps, too. A paycheck is non-negotiable for most. Although it may provide fodder for writing, a job is still one of the best mental kill switches for many writers mainly because it pays for paper, pens, and PCs and, of course, the other necessities of life.


There you have it. Attention Deficit Writing Dilemma. An invisible and disabling predicament that perhaps has been distressing you or someone you know at one time or another. If the family and friends, the various hobbies and the paycheck do not work, then you might also consider trying the A Pen in Each Handexercises that accompany this article. They may provide some relief and assist in navigating all your writing projects to their ultimate destinations, as well.


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