One-Minute Book Reviews

December 20, 2007

What Is Writer’s Block? Quote of the Day (Tom Wolfe)

Filed under: Quotes of the Day — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:25 pm
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Many writers have tried to define “writer’s block.” One of the best explanations came from Tom Wolfe, who has said he became “totally blocked” while working on his first magazine piece, an article about car customizers for Esquire that became The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. He said:

“I now know what writer’s block is. It’s the fear you cannot do what you’ve announced to someone else you can do, or else the fear that it isn’t worth doing. That’s the rarer form.”

Tom Wolfe in an interview with George Plimpton in Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews: Ninth Series (Viking 1992). Edited by George Plimpton. Introduction by William Styron. Reprinted from the Spring 1991 issue of the Paris Review. You can read more from this and other interviews in this acclaimed series at

Comment by Janice Harayda:

This may be the best definition I’ve read of the causes of writer’s block. It’s also true that, as my late mentor Don Murray used to say, “Electricians don’t get electrician’s block.” Don believed that most people could avoid writer’s block by writing every day. He wrote his motto, “Nulla dies sine linea” (“Never a day without a line”), on letters, on the blackboard and on bumper-sticker-like signs he sent to students. Don was a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire, where the journalism lab bears his name. He died a year ago this month and still inspires many of our work habits

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.



  1. Writers’ block is similar to stage fright. Sometimes when an actor is about to step on stage, he experiences an overpowering fear that he won’t be able to perform. In the case of a writer, it’s the same sort of dynamic. He may not believe he can cut the mustard. To a professional writer, however, the option of “wimping out” doesn’t exist. He writes or he doesn’t eat.

    Comment by rick1946 — February 4, 2008 @ 10:10 pm | Reply

  2. That’s a helpful analogy. Thanks.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — February 4, 2008 @ 10:54 pm | Reply

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