What Is Writer's Block?
Let’s begin with the word “block.” A block is an obstacle in your way. The block can be a physical obstacle. It can be an emotional obstacle. It can be an intellectual obstacle. If you’re feeling blocked, something is in your way.
What causes writer’s block? The short answer is that potential causes of writer’s block are so wide-ranging that no single definition is adequate to describe the "what" and the "why" of writer’s block.
Sarah Ban Breathnach claims that:
If a writer has a block, it’s usually because she doesn’t believe in what she’s writing.
This is a valuable insight into a frequent cause of writer's block. At the same time, it strikes me as too broad in its claim. Substituting "often" for "usually" makes room for a broader perspective on why so many writers experience writer's block:
If a writer has a block, it’s "often" because she doesn’t believe in what she’s writing.
Writing can take many forms. If you’re writing a check, or writing out a grocery list, or copying a quotation that caught your attention, you’re not likely to be blocked by what you’re writing. In these situations, you're not creating anything original. You're just writing down words.
In contrast, writer’s block often occurs because of creative problems that occur when you’re attempting to write something original.
It could be the plot of a story. It could be a solution to a problem. It could be an attempt discover your own unique perspective on some issue.