Thought-blocked

Exploring the effects of writer’s block on Mount Allison’s creative writers

From poets to novelists to playwrights, writer’s block is no joke. how do students at Mt. A handle it? Emma Biberdorf/Argosy

With the rigid guidelines and rubrics of academic writing, it can be easy to lose passion and inspiration. Because of this, creative writing is the perfect escape for many Mount Allison students. But when a writer’s mind goes into mental overload with all the demands of being a student, their creativity can suffer drastically.

Mt. A’s English department has one creative writing course, which is offered in third year fall and winter semesters. Since there’s only one such course, English students who write creatively need to find ways to write in their free time throughout the duration of their degree. This is not an easy feat, as inspiration and creativity can often be difficult to access when the brain is overloaded by readings and papers. It can be extremely frustrating when one finally finds the time to write only for writer’s block to strike. How do Mt. A’s creative writers preserve their creativity when the fog of writer’s block takes over?

Alexa Mutch, a fourth-year double major in English and history, is balancing writing her novel with her busy semester. Mutch likes to incorporate her interest in history into her creative writing. “I usually leave the story and come back to it if I am having writer’s block,” said Mutch. “Then when I get a new idea, I write it down and add it later.”

The Argosy’s very own Maia Herriot holds the editor-in-chief position at 7 Mondays, a creative writing journal on campus. Herriot finds that the locations where she writes are important in establishing discipline. “I sit on my roof because the atmosphere strikes the perfect balance between distractingly loud and distractingly quiet,” she said.

Herriot also nailed a key reason why writer’s block may favour creative writers. “The creative writing I do rarely has a set deadline and I think that’s why I struggle with writer’s block there the most,” she said.

Rory Britt, a fourth-year English major, said he finds inspiration from “real life experiences.” Britt described how he tackles pesky writer’s block: “I set everything down and relax, or focus on something else entirely.… This allows me to have a clear head and fresh perspective when revisiting the piece that I am writing.”

Jena McLean, a recent Mt. A graduate, is busy applying her passion for creative writing to her studies at the National Theatre School of Canada, where she writes plays. When asked where she finds inspiration, McLean said, “Anywhere and everywhere.… A lot of my writing is cathartic and confused. I’m writing to make sense of the world and sometimes healing at the same time.

“The best solution to writer’s block is just to write and know that not everything will stick,” McLean said, adding, “I’ve also recently stopped walking with headphones in, so I hear a lot more of the world around me.”

It seems that many creative writers can agree that even though their writing time is precious, stepping away from their work for a moment may be what is needed to push away the fogginess of writer’s block. Writing is art, and having the ability to take the complex inner workings of one’s mind and turn them into words on a page is powerful. It is important for writers to be prepared for writer’s block, so that when you feel the fogginess invade your creative thoughts, you will be able to confront it head on.

Jane Rempel
Jane Rempel is a fourth-year English major and drama minor from the Vancouver, BC area. She has three friends and one cat.