Writer's Block

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"He had writer's block once. It was the worst ten minutes of his life."

Harlan Ellison referring to Isaac Asimov, a very prolific writer.

Someone struggles with putting pen to paper and can't get their thoughts out. Regardless of whether it's something as simple as a school report or as complex as a full-length novel, they just can't bring themselves to write what they want.

This tends to involve one of two things: either someone tackling a temporary writing assignment, or someone who writes for a living. Often, to get past it, the person in question has to overcome some kind of mental block in order to continue writing. A World of Cardboard Speech may happen as the character breaks their restraints and moves forward.

In these cases, it rarely crops up more than once in a work. In the former, this is because the task of writing is never mentioned again — it's a subplot or single episode plot only. In the latter, once overcome, said writer never runs into that obstacle again.

Occasionally, the whole thing will be lampshaded, sometimes with some sort of Visual Pun.

May result in a Last-Minute Project, and can lead to An Aesop. Writer's Block Montage is a subtrope. See Fictional Document and Most Writers Are Writers.

For a work written about the writer's own writer's block, see "How I Wrote This Article" Article.

This is very much Truth in Television (except for the part about a writer never running into the same obstacle again - recurring writer's block is a thing). Writing is not always easy; just ask any Real Life author.

Examples of Writer's Block include:

Anime and Manga

  • Happens to Nakuru in episode 13 of Mayo Chiki. After a boy confesses his love to her, she gets very confused by it as she feels she's not the type to attract boys, since she's a Meganekko and obsessed Doujinshi writer/artist of BL manga. She then asks Jiro out on a date to see if it's simply because of her boobs, and after he helps her by barely resisting her advances, she seems to snap out of her block. But then she also has a Love Epiphany when she looks at him afterwards as well, and hilariously runs away.
  • One example comes from Asu no Yoichi. When Chihaya is stuck on new ideas for her manga, she lets Yoichi read one of them, and he tells her that it's very interesting. She then gets excited, and in order to get some new ideas, decides to flirt with him a little bit. Although he lets her down gently, she laughs and says she was just joking about it, then her sister Ibuki walks in, and Chihaya jokingly lies and says that Yoichi was trying to strip her. Hilarity Ensues as Yoichi gets chased by Ibuki.
    • After seeing some of Chihaya's classmates mock her hard work and trash her illustrations, then talk about not wanting to do anything with their lives, Yoichi beats them up for their lack of motivation, as well as their attempts to put down others who are trying to do something with their lives. His actions inspire some more ideas for her manga as a result.

Comic Books

  • In Issue 5 of 'Mazing Man, Denton gets writer's block, and the main story is all his friends coming over and telling him stories to put in the comic. This issue came out without the Comics Code stamp of approval because one of the stories told to Denton concerns zombies, which was a no-no.
  • The Sandman volume "Dream Country" includes the story "Calliope", about a writer whose first book was a critical smash, but who has writer's block so badly that he can't even start on the follow-up book. He is given the Muse Calliope, and by keeping her captive and raping her repeatedly, he is inspired to great writing. Calliope is released after some time, and when the writer complains that he won't have any ideas without her presence, Morpheus grants him an unending stream of ideas—there are so many and they come so fast that he goes mad trying to even write them down.


  • The short film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life is about Franz Kafka suffering this while he is about to write The Metamorphosis.
  • In Her Alibi, Blackwood is suffering from a long dry spell in his writing. To resolve it, he goes to the local courthouse to watch the criminal trials and mine ideas, and it's there he meets the enigmatic Nina, who stands accused of murder, and decides to give her an alibi so he can use her presence to fuel the premise of his book.
  • This is the story behind the film Adaptation. The screenwriter got writer's block trying to adapt a book without a story into a film, and ended up writing a story about a screenwriter with writer's block who is trying to adapt a book without a story into a film.
  • Also the plot of Stranger Than Fiction, where Karen Eiffel has a case of it in trying to kill Harold Crick, the main character.
  • Mort Rainey in Secret Window suffers from this at the film's opening.


Live-Action TV

  • In series 1 of Spaced Daisy has aspirations of being a writer, but struggles with writers block / lack of motivation and comes up with distractions for herself. This is highlighted in the last episode of season 1, where during an argument, Tim references several of the plots of previous episodes (to the backdrop of Tekken 2):

Daisy: I am not avoiding work!
Tim: Oh right OK, oh well, ooh let's have a party, ooh let's do some theater, ooh let's get a dog, ooh let's spend hours in front of our bedroom mirror BOGLING TO ASWAD!
Daisy: That was research!

Newspaper Comics


  • Happens with Rodolfo in the first act of La Boheme just before Mimì first knocks on his door. Rodolfo and Marcello are both afflicted by this in the fourth act (which uses the same music).
  • Jeffrey Moss in Bells Are Ringing almost kills himself struggling to write a play on his own and not getting anywhere.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • An episode of the Beetlejuice cartoon featured Edgar Allan Poe having writer's block.
  • One episode of Muppet Babies has one of the kids trying to write a story, and has trouble writing, which shows up as a giant writers block in-story. The solution? Writers Termites.
  • An episode of Kappa Mikey had Guano getting writer's block, to the point where he can't even type his own name.