What I See with Peter Fiorenza: It’s comforting to know even famous authors struggle with writer’s block

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Harper Lee in her younger days.
Camera IconHarper Lee in her younger days. Credit: William Yeoman/Publisher website

What is writer’s block?

According to Wikipedia, it happens when an author is either unable to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown.

Well, I reckon this happened to me. I just could not think of a subject to write about and sadly missed my recent deadline.

Up until now, I have always been able to put pen to paper or, fingers to keyboard, but inspiration had left me, and the creek had certainly dried up.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


According to Matt O’Neill of whatnerd.com, despite my frustration, I’m in pretty good company.

O’Neill cites such luminaries as Herman Melville, Truman Capote and Harper Lee among others, as suffering from this, so-called, writer’s block.

“Writer’s block has affected more writers than can be counted, and in some cases, it has come at the expense of their talent,” O’Neill states.

O’Neill also goes onto say there have been cases where the writing experience is so bad and so traumatic that the author can even stop writing midstream, unable to pick up where they left off.

Melville wrote the classic Moby Dick in 1851 at the age of 32, but did not reach such literary heights again during his life and died in poverty.

Capote, famous for penning Breakfast at Tiffany’s, also fell to the trials of writer’s block, following the completion of the critically acclaimed, In Cold Blood.

This was a true-crime story published in 1965, after several years, but it is believed researching the book had a mental effect on Capote and he was never the same person.

And despite To Kill a Mockingbird being required reading on school syllabuses since it was first published in 1960, Lee was never able to emulate such critically acclaimed work again.

According to O’Neill, Lee only ever completed another book, Go Set a Watchman in 2015, shortly before her death.

Now, I am not for one minute suggesting that my ramblings are in the same league as either Melville, Capote or Lee, only to suffice that writer’s block is a real occurrence.

O’Neill mentions at the top of his article: “The unwritten ‘rule’ of creativity and artistry is that one must suffer in order to produce works that last forever.”

I’m quite sure my writing efforts will not last forever, but I do promise my editor that I will try to ensure my cupboard doesn’t run bare again in the near future.

Peter Fiorenza is host of Fiorenza on Sunday between 10am and noon on Radio MAMA

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails