On the Interminable Suffering of Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a bit like lying awake at three o’clock in the morning.

The drip-drip-drip from brain to word processor is irritating enough, like a leaky faucet, but to me the real torture is the helpless immobility. When I wake up in the middle of the night, my tried and true response is to do: absolutely nothing. I will lie there for hours, waiting to fall asleep, unwilling to turn on the light and read, because if I do, that will wake me up.

Writer’s block and insomnia have their own logic like that.

There’s a lot of good stuff in the pipeline, gentle reader. A disquisition on Afghanistan, a Game of Thrones-related rumination on historical theory, and a look at the post-Facebook world of online dating. It’s all there, in “draft” status on my WordPress dashboard. Some of you may have even heard that I am working on a PhD thesis. It’s true!  But you wouldn’t know it from the current output. All of these beautiful ideas, backed up somewhere around the I-66/495 junction of my mind.

Do I regret moving from Edinburgh? I do not. But unlike Sherlock Holmes, I cannot create a “mind palace” at will. There was something to be said for having my desk and my books just so, despite the drafty apartment and crappy weather. Now I sit at the table in my new dining room, while my mind looks over my shoulder waiting to see what the next words on the screen will be.

Should I turn on the light?

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About Daniel Clinkman

I recently completed my PhD in History at the University of Edinburgh. My academic interest is in the transition from feudalism to liberalism in early modern Britain and its empire. My non-academic interests include public policy, political thought, international politics, social institutions, and travel. I grew up near Boston before attending the American University in Washington, DC. I now live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Follow me @dclinkman on Twitter.
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