Writer's block, writing, Writing practise

Writer’s Block, Brain Fade & Other Ailments

Many ailments effect writers – writer’s block, brain fade, and procrastination, to name a few. But what exactly are these conditions that conspire against us in our creative endeavours?

Writer’s Block

The arch nemesis of writers the World over, writer’s block is defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as:

“The condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.”*

When struck down with writer’s block, I find that the worst thing I can do is sit at my desk, staring at a blinking cursor. I switch off my computer, go walking with the dog, potter in my garden, or whip up a batch of biscuits. Of course, I always take a notebook and pen with me.

This cure does not always work, but it does beat sitting in front of a blank screen, vegetating.

Brain Fade

This describes the sudden forgetfulness that strikes during the writing process. Unlike writer’s block, brain fade waits until you have the idea for your piece, and are underway. In my experience, this can happen anywhere from two sentences to two chapters into writing.

As the name implies, brain fade wipes all traces of what you are writing from your mind. Again, from a personal perspective, this lasts anywhere from a few hours to a few months. I do usually have something else I can work on in the meantime… unless of course, writer’s block sets in.


“I will sit down and write that submission/synopsis/character study… tomorrow.” Sound familiar?

My grandmother used to say that my gravestone should read “why do today what can be put off until tomorrow?” It still may.

In short, when there is work to be done, sit down, and do it.

Other Distractions & Obstacles


While life is the greatest resource for a writer, it can also be the greatest distraction. More of us than not have the responsibilities of “real” jobs, family commitments, study, and so on.


Unexpected visits from family and friends can be an unwanted distraction. In my case, not even living on a property twenty kilometres from the nearest town stopped people from dropping in.

Once they arrived, it was rather hard – and rude – to send them home. I found that letting people know when I am working on a story/article/blog on helps reduce unexpected guests.


Every book on writing that I have read sets the same rule. Give yourself a relaxing environment in which to work. They say not to set up shop in your bedroom, living room, or room with a television.

Personally, I could not see the logic behind this doctrine – until I started writing seriously. At the time, I lived in a bedsit (single room) flat. The temptation to turn the football on – just to check the score – became too great. I would end up watching the entire game and not working.

These days, my spare room serves as my television free writing retreat.

Mobile Phones

Telephones can also be distractions. There is nothing worse than a telemarketer calling, just as you reach the point of your article or story. Caller ID is brilliant. When the phone rings while I am working, I glance at the number. More often than not, it is nobody that I need to speak to right then, so I let the call go to voicemail.

The Internet & Social Media

Finally, I find that the biggest distraction is the internet. Yes, I am aware of the irony.

The internet is undoubtedly the greatest research resource for the writer. I use it regularly for just that reason.

You have to ensure that once you find the required information you get to work. If not,  before you know it, you are watching some guy in LA blowing up balloons with his own bodily gases.

I use it regularly for just that reason.

I wish you all the best in your creative endeavours. May you avoid writer’s block, brain fade, and other ailments.



*Paperback Oxford English Dictionary Ed. Catherine Soanes (2001, 2002, Oxford University Press)

Copyright © Bronwyn Joy Hansen 2017. All Rights Reserved.