Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist – Part 5: Death of Ideas


“Your head’s like mine, like all our heads; big enough to contain every god and devil there ever was. Big enough to hold the weight of oceans and the turning stars. Whole universes fit in there! But what do we choose to keep in this miraculous cabinet? Little broken things, sad trinkets that we play with over and over. The world turns our key and we play the same little tune again and again and we think that tune’s all we are.”

— Grant Morrison


All right, David, brings us up to speed:

By now you may have the activity-part of writing down, but maybe you feel you are still missing a kind of you-ness; a  recognizable voice with enough originality to stand on its own. You look, and you look, and there seems to be nothing ‘you’ – no truth to speak, no solid ground to kick off from – only mush and mist.

Have you not found your artistic voice yet? Are you uncertain you ever will? You are not alone in having these thoughts.

Today, Casper has two urgent questions for you:

  1. Is it important for you that you find your voice?
  2. Why or why not?


Imagine a dimly lit room. There’s a desk on which sits a laptop. In front of the desk, there’s a chair on which sits a writer. The writer leans back in the seat, squinting eyes, and sighs. The heart and the soul crave expression, but for the longest time not a single idea surfaces in the mind. Hours go by, and the writer stares at the empty file flickering on the screen. The file stares back.

Ironically, that describes more or less how I was sitting at my computer before I actually started writing these lines (although it certainly wasn’t as dramatic as the above description might imply). It’s like the universe set me a little challenge: “So you want to write about the fear of running out of ideas? Well, suck on this, dude!”

And it’s true. Before I started writing, all I had was a vague notion. I had no concrete arguments, no outline, no plan whatsoever. In fact, I wasn’t sure how to broach the topic at all. And yet, sooner rather than later, my fingertips found the keys, and have since been composing these lines. The staring contest between the screen and myself has ceased. In this moment I don’t even see the screen anymore. Instead, I see my own thoughts in my open mind’s eye; they appear to me as patterns and strings, and they are connecting. As I pen this very sentence—right here, right now—the essay has started to write itself.


The fear of running out of ideas can be a serious problem that potentially leads writers to believe they’re suffering from a writer’s block. But, seeing as the world around us is a constant source of inspiration[1], and therefore keeps on feeding us with new topics to talk about, I’ve always wondered to what extent it is realistic that anyone ever runs out of ideas. To me, it’s mostly a matter of recognizing ideas when they come to you, as well as coming to understand yourself a little better. The more in tune you are with yourself, the easier it becomes to figure out what to focus on in your work.

Think of it like this: the world is constantly changing. There’s always something in the news; there are always artists producing inspiring works; there are always new experiences ahead of us, every step of the way: that is life. As we get older and continue to experience things, we constantly learn and adapt and grow.

Some say people don’t change, but in my opinion that isn’t entirely true. While I do think the deepest foundation of our psyches remains constant, that doesn’t entirely rule out any possibility of change. Moreover, the changes we undergo may not always be salient, and therefore it may seem as though no change occurs at all. Yet on a micro-level we might change our opinions on certain topics. Maybe we learn to love new food, or music, or start hanging out with different people. There are those who slip into a depression, or overcome a depression, or finally attain a state of happiness. It’s even possible to move from atheism to some form of spirituality, or the other way around, or anything in between. And I think these changes hinge on energetic shifts occurring within us.

What I have observed within myself is that my mood certainly influences the way that I act toward others and myself, and it can determine the choices that I make throughout that day. All choices have consequences, and every choice we make contributes to shaping us into the person that we will become, just as all past choices we’ve made contributed to becoming who we are now.

I believe that who we are consists of all of these aforementioned aspects. Where a computer consists of hardware components and software programs—it isn’t just a single solid object—so too do I think we aren’t just “who we are,” as if that’s a single entity. It seems to me that our personalities are merely components of our total being. Our opinions, our emotions—all of that—they are components too. And if one of these components breaks down, or changes its properties, or is exchanged for a different component, then that means that we aren’t completely the same anymore. We have changed, if only on a micro-level. Perhaps we are more confident than we were before. Maybe we have learned to be more caring to others. It could be that we shifted from introvert to extrovert over time. Or we’ve managed to overcome a certain fear by not letting it hold us back anymore.

Having said that, I’d like to reiterate that these changes can be so small that others might not perceive them—hell, even we, ourselves, might not always perceive them—but they’re there, and they can be seen first and foremost by ourselves, and maybe by others. Furthermore, all these small changes can lead to a major one, a so-called paradigm shift: a radical change in the way we think. Such a change can influence who we are as well, not in the least because it determines up to a point how we identify ourselves, and also the belief systems that we adopt. That’s the process of life in a nutshell if you ask me: learn, adapt, grow—change.

This leads us back to the notion of energy. In Part 3 of this series, Talent and Practice, I wrote about this very notion as well as that of energetic writers. For the full explanation, you are advised to read that essay. For now, it will suffice to say that, to me, everything is energy. Our thoughts, our emotions—our entire state of being is influenced by the energetic currents that run beneath our psyches and also physically through our bodies. Therefore, the ideas that we have depend on what type of energy we embody in a given moment. For example, if I feel happy, I’ll be more inclined to focus on positive things around me, which to a certain extent determines what kind of ideas will come to me. In such a case it can be easier for me to write comedy, or incorporate good vibes in a narrative, or set up a positive (perhaps hopeful) resolution at the end of a story. This doesn’t mean that I can’t write a sad piece in that moment if I have to, though; it just means that my time is perhaps wiser spent on writing something that matches my state of mind.

In short, embodying your current flow of energy helps to craft different types of art. That is to say, directing the energy that you feel within you onto the page. Learning to recognize the way you feel, and then harnessing that energy, can establish a solid creative foundation. Next, this foundation can be built on with ideas, thus shaping stories.


This leads us to the question:

Where do you get your ideas?

And this is an odd question. Many writers will simply shake their heads and say that they don’t know. Alan Moore writes in Alan Moore’s Writing For Comics: “If forced by threat of torture to give a concise answer, I’d probably say that ideas seem to germinate at a point of cross-fertilization between one’s artistic influences and one’s own experience” (7).

Anyway, if we were to zoom in on this question and really scrutinize its very core, I agree that it’s, ultimately, impossible to find an answer. But in that case we wouldn’t be focused on ideas for art, but rather asking where our thoughts originate from in the first place. Not only does this mean that we’d be over-analyzing, it’s also just not the point. Besides, it seems crystal clear to me, on a practical level, where I get my ideas from.

In a sense, this is something that I’ve already discussed in Part 2: Inspired by Spirit. In that essay, I wrote an account of how every single thing in the world inspires me. Of course inspiration is not the same as generating ideas, because we don’t need to be inspired to get new ideas, and we don’t need new ideas to feel inspired. But they can and often do go hand in hand. If you know what inspires you, it’s easier to draw ideas from that inspiration. You could for instance see something as mundane as someone sitting on a bench in a park, and that’s your idea right there. You could write about a character taking a moment to engage in philosophy. Or you could simply write about someone enjoying sunny weather. These are both valid ideas. In fact, any idea is a valid idea. There is no such thing as a bad idea when it comes to making art. There is such a thing as bad execution of ideas[2], but the positive side to this is that we can always improve our skills and make our art better; it simply depends on where you as a creator draw the line. It’s like Alan Moore says:

The nature of the idea isn’t really important, what is important is simply that there is an idea in there somewhere. It can be silly and frivolous, perhaps just a single gag idea, or it can be complex and profound. The only thing the idea should definitely be is interesting on some level or another—whether as a brief entertainment designed to hold the attention for five minutes or a lengthier and more thoughtful work (7).

Now, to my mind, it is impossible to run out of ideas precisely because ideas are everywhere. They’re literally up for grabs. Like inspiration, all it takes is that we open our eyes and look at them, consider them, and then make them our own by manifesting them into a work of art. But in saying this, I full well realize that this answer, while true for me, isn’t good enough. It’s a cop-out, because this answer in and of itself probably isn’t going to get rid of your fear. Instead, we have to work on an actual solution to this problem. Of course, to find that solution you’ll have to do most of the work yourself. Regardless, I’ll try my best to help you along. Remember, though, that change can only come from within: you have to make the choice to search for a solution, and your solution could differ from mine as we’re all unique individuals.


Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the “running out of ideas” part is almost irrelevant to the actual problem that lies just beneath the surface. Let’s say that the actual problem stems from the “fear” part of the sentence. And that’s where it gets paradoxical.

“The fear of running out of ideas” is an idea on its own. More specifically, if you tell yourself you’ll be out of ideas at some point, that whole notion is in fact spawned by an earlier idea. Namely, the idea that you’re starting to become clueless about what to do next. However, while that is rather negative, it isn’t entirely pointless.

If you really don’t know what to write about anymore, you could always tell the story of a writer that’s convinced that they’re suffering from a writer’s block (which could honestly make for a compelling story if done right). I actually pulled a similar trick when writing energy[3] was flowing through me and I felt driven to write lyrics for my band, but I just didn’t know what to put down exactly. I ended up writing about not knowing what to write about, and thus the song “Cluelessness” was born. But, in my opinion, this is a one-time trick. Once it’s pulled, it’s out there, and next time something new has to be dreamed up. Now, if you’re someone who wants to write about the same stuff all the time—which is fine!—this may not apply to you. Your chosen topic must be fascinating enough to keep you coming back.[4]

So, let’s shift our focus to the fear mechanism, and have us a discussion. Before we begin, one more time, this is not an easy fix for people to overcome their fear. I am not a psychologist; I am a writer. I’ll add that I’m speaking from personal experience as well: the ideas proposed below work for me, so the best I can do is share them. What follows is intended to invite discussion, if only with yourself. The “fear of running out of ideas” needs to be challenged.


First of all, of course I’ve feared things. And every time it seemed to me that the only way out was to face those fears[5]. By facing fears, I was able to identify them. Once I identified them, and understood why they existed, I could find a way to deal with them, mainly by consciously deciding to act despite being afraid. You see, in order to challenge “the fear of running out of ideas,” we need to be honest with ourselves. We need to look in the metaphorical mirror and ask ourselves a question:

Why am I afraid that I’ll run out of ideas?

I see two possible ways to go about answering the question. The first is to rationalize your fear. This involves uncovering the reason behind your fear, and then, once this reason is discovered, solving the problem. For example, it could be that your fear can be traced back to a larger issue: being scared to move outside of your comfort zone. Perhaps you’ve grown so accustomed to one specific way of writing that, somehow, you feel like you’re starting to repeat yourself. This can lead to thinking that you’re running out, but what it really means is that you have to look for new ways to express yourself.

The second is trickier. What if you can’t rationalize your fear? What if it’s something that exists on an energetic level only? What if, despite rationalizing your fear, it persists? In that case it’s important to realize that the “fear of running out of ideas” should never be seen as a blockage. On the contrary, being faced with fear can be seen as an opportunity to choose which path you want to take next. Either you can choose to succumb to the fear and perhaps even give up writing, or you can choose to keep at it despite being afraid, even if your fear doesn’t diminish; there’s no reason to quit just because you’re afraid. The choice is yours. It always was.


Let’s take this a step further. If you’re unsure why you’re afraid that you’re running out of ideas, then the logical follow-up question is:

Why are you unsure?

Is it because you can only feel it, but not quite know it? If that’s the case, then it seems like it’s indeed based in the emotion of fear, because fear, in this case, equals the unknown. The emotion can be useful in survival situations, but it can also be a projection of your ego and misinform you. Thereby it could lead you to think that one day you’ll be down to your last ideas. Next, we get chicken-or-the-egg bullshit as this thought conjures up the fear emotion, which creates a negative feedback loop. First the thought stirs up the emotion; then the emotion reinforces the thought.

While it can be hard to break from this loop, it’s by no means impossible. In fact, the main reason that it seems hard probably has to do with you convincing yourself that it’s hard—which is yet another negative feedback loop. However, such ping-ponging between thoughts and emotions is not a confirmation that you’re right about being out of ideas. On the contrary, it’s entirely possible that you only think so because you haven’t actively challenged the notion yet.

One way to challenge the notion is by stating to yourself that it’s all false. That you’re wrong. That you’re not out of ideas, and won’t ever run out of ideas. Next, prove this to yourself by actually writing. This doesn’t mean, though, that you have to go from scratch and somehow just force yourself to write an entire story. If you know you’re struggling with precisely this kind of stuff, it would be unwise to jump right into a new file, because you might find yourself in yet another staring contest with your computer screen. So let this be our mantra for now:

Keep it simple.

First of all, the piece doesn’t have to be long. It can be a page. It can be a paragraph. It can be a few sentences. Instead of looking at your output and chastising yourself because you didn’t manage to write a lot, congratulate yourself that you manage to write something! This is a good thing. This is progress. It’s not about quantity, it’s not even about quality—it’s about getting the creative juices flowing; it’s about writing at all. Remember that perfection is unattainable because of art’s highly subjective nature. Don’t force something to be perfect right out of the gate; instead, take your time with your piece and nourish it, love it, take care of it like it’s your baby. Delicacy over forceful perfectionism.

To put this more succinctly, in order to get into a creative mood, there are various things that I do. It mostly depends on the time of day, my environment, my company, my energy levels, even the weather. Sometimes—and this probably sounds like a bit of a cliché, but whatever, it works—I head out and go for a walk. I never have a specific route in mind, I just step outside and start roaming. And as I roam, I let my mind wander as well. I look at my surroundings, at people, at events occurring around me, and soon an idea will come to me. I find that fresh air, some movement and a constantly changing environment can really help me to come up with new things to write about.

Other times I just grab my guitar and I jam awhile. I play cover songs and/or songs I wrote myself, and sometimes I just improvise. During this process creative energy awakens within me, and once I feel like it, I put away my guitar and start writing. Then it’s but a matter of channeling that creative energy into the writing. This is, I suppose, akin to the technique of free-writing. Personally I don’t often free-write as a warm-up specifically (I usually just start writing the piece itself), but it definitely works for a lot of people. In free-writing it doesn’t matter what you put down, even if it’s gibberish. Its main purpose is to just get you in motion, to give you a feel for writing so you can seamlessly flow into the actual project.

For those who practice meditation: when I don’t really have an idea but still want to write, I close my eyes and tell myself that all the information is already in me. I use breathing exercises to clear my mind, and sooner or later I see an image in my imagination. This image can be of a character, a location, an object, or anything, really. I don’t influence what the image looks like; I just accept it for what it is as it hovers before my mind’s eye. Then I use this image as a sort of visual prompt, and start writing about it. Soon I find myself establishing a location, and characters, and a story comes to life. Never underestimate the power of day-dreaming.

Yet there’s magic in night-time dreams, too. I keep a dream journal. It takes some dedication to maintain it, but I do get a lot of ideas from dreams. Even if you don’t have enough time to keep such a journal, you could also just write down a simple bullet point of one specific image that you remember. After all, the piece of writing doesn’t have to relate to your dream. You can simply take the image from your dream and place it in a new context. As long as it works for you it’s fine.

But perhaps the easiest way is to grab a book, or a movie, or a video game, or a comic, and pay attention to what you see. This once more goes back to Part 2 of this series, Inspired by Spirit. Of course, that doesn’t mean stealing someone else’s shit, but watching a movie or reading a book can help put you in the right creative mindset. For example, my favorite fantasy series of all time is Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Being fascinated by the way it blends magic and cowboys, I soon discovered that this is an actual literary genre. They call it weird west. As a big fantasy and western fan myself, I quickly began to feel inspired to work in that genre, and thus the Known World of Ara’Delva, my own universe, has come into existence. Now it feels like I’ll be writing about that world for the rest of my life.

A final point on this topic—which is something that Rachel, my fellow Writer’s Blocker, suggested to me, and which I think sums it all up—is that it helps to become an observer in life. If you can unplug yourself from day-to-day routine and see the world through the eyes of a child, everything seems to become more beautiful. Children have colorful ways of speaking about their experiences. Kids see ideas everywhere, whereas adults are supposed to have gone through this weird process of “growing up,” which usually means putting away your fantasy and act like you know what’s real and what’s not. But if you can channel such an enthusiastic, childlike imagination and combine that with skill, you’re basically unstoppable.

So, these are things that I do, and my suggestion is to devise your own warming-up technique. You don’t have to use any of the examples I mentioned above, and you don’t even have to have multiple techniques like I do. If you have even one that works well, you’re good to go. And of course, if any of my examples work for you, use as you like.


Furthermore, we have the internet at our disposal. There’s millions of writing prompts available on countless of websites dedicated to writing. All it takes is selecting a random prompt and using it as the premise of a story, an essay, a poem, or whatever you wanna write. The prompt can be about a character, it can establish a setting, or perhaps it’s a sentence to include in your piece. Don’t worry about being unoriginal, because this is not about that. This is about getting you back into writing. Once you start working with these prompts regularly, you may find that it gets easier to add your own ideas onto them, and before you know it you’ll have written a brand new piece.

So here’s a couple prompts I made up that you’re free to use, no strings attached. I’ll briefly discuss each prompt to illustrate how new ideas can be added to turn them into more unique stories.

Prompt 1: Write a story from the perspective of a bird.

Though bird metaphors have been done to death, this can in fact be a simple story about a bird flying over a city or landscape. Imagine what a location looks like from a bird’s eye view. You could also treat it as a fable and turn the bird into a character, with a personality and opinions. You could have the bird comment on what it sees as it flies around. You could even add a plot: perhaps the bird is going to a specific place? Or perhaps it’s leaving a specific place? Perhaps it’s looking for its family? Just to get you started. It really doesn’t matter what you come up with. You can even tweak the prompt as you see fit. The point is to fill in the blanks, whether they’re good ideas or not, and just start toying with them in writing. You don’t even have to complete the piece; as long as it gets you to write, the mission’s accomplished.

Prompt 2: A character is running away from a horde of animals.

When I see this prompt, my mind immediately wants to fill in the blanks. Who is the character that’s running away? Where does the character come from? What’s the character’s name? How old is the character? Boy or girl? What’s their job? How did the character end up in that situation? What kinds of animals are these? Bulls? Dogs? Dinosaurs? Maybe even dragons? These questions and their answers can range from mundane to fantastical. For instance: the character is a girl named Sue, she’s 10 years old, and she’s out with her dogs, running through the park, having fun. Or another, somewhat out-of-the-box example: the character is a dude called Tony, and he’s a space tourist on the planet of Xir An Fey, and by accident he fell out of a hover-jeep into a blue savanna, and got chased by cheetah/giraffe hybrids.

Prompt 3: Include the sentence: “When they first saw each other, the earth stood still.”

On first sight, this might seem like kind of a generic sentence, but that’s fine. If it inspires you to write a love story, by all means, go for it. Just fill in the blanks (who are “they?”; where do “they” see each other?; what happens around “them?”; etc). But of course you don’t have to write a love story. Perhaps the metaphorical earth stood still because, from the get-go, there’s mutual hate between the characters. While this sounds like a dark idea, it does open a door to social commentary, which is a rich subject of its own. That said, you could also go the ridiculous route, and literally have the earth stand still, and write about the implications. Even an idea like that can be kept simple if you stick to, for example, a household or a school—you don’t have to write about an entire city. It doesn’t even have to make sense. Again, it’s all about getting into writing mode.

All things considered, what’s most important with regards to these prompts is to not only use them to start writing, but also use them to start thinking. Ask the questions and come up with the answers. It doesn’t have to become an award winning poem or short story. It’s just to get started. The more you do this, the faster it will turn into a habit. Essentially, you’ll be practicing coming up with new ideas. After some time, you’ll reach a point where coming up with something new is a lot easier. Lastly, tweaking the prompts, asking and answering the questions, filling in the gaps—it can be a lot of fun. It’s important to focus on that fun, because then none of this will feel like work. I’ve quoted the wise Sadhguru before, but it seems fitting to do it again: “Don’t work hard, work joyfully.”


I remember reading a newspaper article quite some time ago. It was about a writer, who had, around that time, published a new novel. I can’t remember for the life of me the name of that writer, nor the title of his book, but what I do remember is that he struggled with the fear of running out of ideas. As he explained in the interview, it came to a point where he was on the verge of submitting to a writer’s block. But then his editor suggested to him to step out of his comfort zone. Instead of writing the kind of stuff that he always used to write, he tried something new, and ended up writing an entire novel.

I think this is a really good example of someone who proved to himself that we’re never without ideas. Sometimes the ideas are hard to grasp, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have them. Sometimes, rather than desperately clinging to the same old subject matter, it’s good to let go of it, and move onward to new territory.

How this works for me personally is that I don’t identify myself as a short story writer, or novelist, or poet, or non-fiction writer. To me, identifying myself as either one of these is quite limiting. Certainly, identifying myself as, say, a short story writer doesn’t mean that I can never just write a poem, but it does mean that I establish short story-writing as my comfort zone. And the thing with comfort zones is that it just feels so damn nice to stay in them, like a warm bed on a Monday morning in winter. In fact, I don’t even identify as a writer. I’m just someone who writes[6]. And what I write depends on what I feel like writing.

I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone as well. Moving into new territory opens up a whole new playground, where you can work on ideas which might not fit in your comfort zone. Writing in a different genre forces you to think differently about your writing, forces you to go where you haven’t gone before. So, if you’re “out of ideas”—just try something new.

Having said that, if you insist on staying in your zone, then even within the zone you can try new things. For example, if your thing is poetry, you can think about your style. If you’ve always worked with specific rhyme schemes, or pentameters, or sonnets, then why not try some free-form for a change? Why not remove rhyme altogether? Or try composing a dirty poem with lots of swearing, but in such a way that it’s still poetic. Within the bounds of your chosen genre, you are still absolutely free to do whatever you want; there’s nobody telling you what to do. At first all this freedom can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to try to push the boundaries of the genre. Just start thinking about new ways to express yourself, and once you figure out a new form, you can combine this with the prompt exercises to create new material. And remember: push your personal boundaries before you push those of an entire genre—just keep it simple.

And that’s it, really. This is how I’m always ready to write, and how I currently have so many ideas—for Ara’Delva as well as lots of other things—that I don’t know if I can ever write them all down in one lifetime, and I’m serious about that. The sky isn’t my limit, not even the universe. The only limit is my own mind, and the more I expand my horizon, the more I see.


Why do you write?

What inspires you?

What makes writing fun for you?

Who do you write for?

Where do you get your ideas?

These are the five questions that I asked you throughout the series. I answered each of these questions in my own way and you aren’t expected to give me the same kind of answers. To be honest, I don’t even expect you to agree with everything that I said. In fact, I almost want you to disagree with me—as vehemently as possible—because this forces you to come up with your own opinions on the matter.

My only goal with this series has been to get you to think, and hopefully to push you to challenge the fake belief system that we call “writer’s block.” There’s nothing that anyone can say to make me believe in it, but what can be said to stop people from believing?

I think that it’s hard to prove to someone else that the writer’s block is a lie. I think it’s best if you prove it to yourself. Hence my five questions. If you can answer each of these, and then continue to think and challenge and write, there’s a conclusion awaiting you at the end of the road.

My conclusion is that it doesn’t exist.

What’s yours?


Works cited

Moore, Alan. Writing For Comics Vol. 1. Avatar Press, 2007.


[1]    See Part 2: Inspired by Spirit.

[2]    Especially if this involves inflicting harm to yourself or others. While it’s possible to craft meaningful art through this, I can’t say that I always endorse this. There’s a difference between martial arts and, say, burning yourself with a candle. Please take care of yourself.

[3]    See Part 3: Talent and Practice.

[4]    I can relate. I keep returning to Ara’Delva, a fantasy universe that I created.

[5]    In Part 4: Choir of Voices I speak about some of my fears.

[6]    See Part 3: Talent and Practice for the distinction between an egoic writer and an energetic writer/someone who writes.

casper website


Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist – Part 2: Inspired by Spirit


“[S]topping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

— Stephen King


Let’s recap last essay with my esteemed colleague, David Kleinsteuber:

If we describe the phenomenon of writer’s block as “something that blocks an artist off from creating art”, then where could we locate the source of the blockage? And, perhaps more urgently, what can the artist do about it?

In this brand new Writer’s Block series, we join our editor Casper as he tackles a different facet of the phenomenon of writer’s block each article, while in the meantime he makes the argument that writer’s block does not in fact exist. Casper stresses that this statement is not an imposition, but rather a provocation for artists to pose questions about their creative process.

The first question being: why do you write?


Long ago, halfway through my first year at IDEE (International Degree in English and Education), at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam, I’m sitting in class and we’re talking about academic essays. The lecturer tells us to stop waiting for inspiration. “You show up,” he says, “and do the work.” These words still echo in my mind, especially now that I’m walking the life-path of the writer.

I show up and do the work.

Even when the genius, the omnipresent spirit of stories, neglects to pay me a visit.


The genius has taken many forms and meanings throughout history. In Roman days the genius was worshipped as a protective supernatural entity. If we regard the Empire as a behemoth with Rome as its heart, then you could say the genius was its spirit.

However, with time the beast’s heart gave out and the spirit departed. One era’s dying breath was the change-wind blowing new life into the next, altering meanings of words and the way the world was perceived.

This brings us to the Renaissance. As Rev. Rushdoony explains: “The Genius, the man with divine powers of insight and guidance, came to be the artist. […] With the Renaissance, the artist was not only regarded as a man of genius, but also called by extravagant names, ‘the divine Aretino’, ‘the divine Michelangelo’, and so on.”

The difference between the Roman genius and its Renaissance counterpart is this: in Roman times the genius, as external supernatural entity, bestowed inspiration upon the artist, much like a muse. In Renaissance times inspiration came from within the artist, if only because they saw themselves as the genius. Along with this notion came a sense of confidence in their own abilities, which, arguably, is one of the most powerful mindsets an artist could have. From macrocosm to microcosm, basically.[1]

But no matter what those long-dead folks thought, what’s important is what you think now. Ask yourself, how does your genius function? Are you, like the Romans, waiting for inspiration to flow from the cosmos, through you, and onto the page? Or do you, like the Renaissance masters, believe that it’s already in you? Perhaps a combination of both? Take a moment to consider this.

In the meantime, I’ll sing you a little song.


Believe me, there is dormant magic inside you. Even if it’s but a single coal, smoldering in the furnace, waiting to start a fire. Or maybe there’s already a luminous thread running through you. You just have to find it, then feel it with your fingertips, and follow it through your soul. Let it make ripples across the pool of your mind.

Watch your dreams. See what the stars foretell as you look up during a night-time stroll. Decide what motivates you every morning to get in the saddle, and ride with a fist held to the sky and a name on your lips. The power is yours.

But wait, don’t rush in. I know you have questions, but you won’t find answers if you let yourself be distracted. First, put away your phone. Switch off the television, the radio. Put aside the newspaper or your book. Have a seat. Make yourself comfortable. Breathe.

Don’t worry about anything. This is a moment of recollecting, reconnecting, recovering. There’s time for this. I promise.

Don’t over-think. Those thoughts coming in? They’re just passing by like people in the streets. Ignore them, or simply observe them. You wouldn’t talk to every random person outside, either, would you?

Now, make the place your own, as you see fit. What music do you like? Pick any record, anything you’re into. Tap into the sound-waves, let them lock you onto the frequency of creativity. Savor the feeling—doesn’t it feel good?

Right now Reality is a loyal dog that’s been told to stay put. It’s okay to fantasize awhile. Close your eyes and drift into a dream. That’s where untold stories await you.


I believe that each of us has a voice. Just gotta let it ring, you know?

Of course inspiration helps a great deal with that; it amplifies your urge to create. Therefore it’s good to know what inspires you as an artist. In fact, things I wrote that I consider good were all created in a wave of inspiration. For example, a story I wrote for a contest hosted by Writer’s Block Magazine, the year before I joined as editor. It’s called The Elf in the Machine.

Initially, I had a different opening that I cut because it felt like a false start. I was writing this story specifically for that contest and told myself that if I was going to submit something, it had better be a potential winner. I was pushing myself to write to my best ability yet felt like I hadn’t even given half to the original opening. I knew I had to stop and let the story cook in my brainpan a while longer.

Meanwhile, as The Elf sizzled on the metaphorical stove, I happened to read a Miracleman comic. It was a story about ordinary people like us, trying to adjust to a world divinely ruled by Miracleman. The reading experience I can only describe as a transcendental trip, transporting me to a place where world peace is reality. In that moment, all sense of self dissolved. My entire existence consisted of only Neil Gaiman’s poetry and Mark Buckingham’s artwork. By the time I’d finished reading, my creative energy was rejuvenated, and I may have wept as I slowly pieced myself back together. That night I slept soundly, and when I woke I dashed at my computer and started writing. My literary dish was ready to be served.

The story I wrote isn’t remotely similar to Miracleman, but the comic overwhelmed me with love for art, which I then wanted to put into my own work. It’s when I learned what inspiration is to me: falling in love with art and wanting to do my part to uphold it. Not out of a sense of obligation, but simply because I enjoy it.

Yes, inspiration is a gift. But what if you feel like you’re—dare I say it?—blocked off from inspiration?


Be honest:

Can you live without caffeine?

Of course you can, you druggo. Are you seriously telling me your existence hinges on caffeine? It’s merely a drug that kick-starts your sleepy brain, even though your brain can take care that of by itself.

Inspiration both is and isn’t like caffeine.

It is in the sense that no, you don’t need to be high on inspiration to make art—you can take care of that by yourself. Inspiration makes the process faster but it’s no guarantee that your work turns out better than when you create sober. To make good art, inspired or not, you need to practice your skills and look for learning opportunities. Really, it’s okay to not be inspired in the moment—just cook yourself a simple meal instead of a full-course dinner. It doesn’t always have to be extravagant or perfect, and you don’t have to wait for inspiration to come to you, either. You have a skill-set. Use it. And if you think you don’t have one, take a moment to list the things you can do—showing; telling; dialogue; grammar; everything else—and you’ll likely find that you know more than you think. Even if you truly lack a skill-set there’s nothing stopping you from acquiring one. Just start. Practice. Ultimately, quality comes from precision, not passion.

Inspiration is also not like caffeine at all. Despite everything I just said, I do believe that we have an inherent connection to inspiration, whereas we’re not inherently connected to…well…caffeine. I think creativity always starts with an emotion. See, to make art a special kind of motivation is required: a reason to speak your truth and devote yourself to the work. The reason is that emotion: love sparking a poem; rage fueling a rant; excitement manifesting a novel. Emotions are inescapable and, above all, inspiring.

Additionally, here are two practical rules of thumb to bear in mind.

First, good ideas tend to stick. I’ve forgotten countless ideas for stories over the years and that’s okay. There’s no need to develop every single idea that comes to you. Sometimes ideas just aren’t worth it. Sometimes ideas end up merging together. Sometimes old ideas resurface, when you’re able to look at them from another angle. Sometimes ideas need to be adapted before they can be made into an artwork. Think of it like this: your creative mind has a filter, preserving only good ideas. This filtering may take a while. Let it run its course and trust yourself. Remember that patience is a virtue.

Second, don’t fixate on the outcome. Focus on the process and on technique; it’s way more essential. If you have a strong will to push out your story with everything you’ve got, ask yourself why it needs to happen now. Also consider why it needs to be forced out. The Elf had a rough start because it was forced: I built resistance toward achieving the desired result and misfired.

Imagine you need to get from point A (home) to B (workplace), and there are various travel options to choose from, you just have to sort out an itinerary. The creative process is a journey, too. Point A isn’t your house, nor is point B your workplace, but it’s a journey all the same—from empty page to manuscript. Yet, rather than taking your time to work with precision, you decide to will an artwork into the world. It’s like grabbing your smartphone and punching in a cheat-code, expecting a fucking tank to fall from the sky for you to ride in. Why bother looking up an itinerary if you can bust through anything in your path? Yeah, no. Writing ain’t no video game. It’s a craft.

To hammer all this home I invoke Stephen King:

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think this is fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what I get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life (King 144-145).

Look, don’t be afraid about never being inspired. Just start by picking up something you love—films, books, music, even video games—and enjoy. Or meet someone you like and spend time together. No matter what or who it is that gets you going, all you gotta do is find them and pay attention to what you’re feeling.


I found my answer to the question.

What inspires me?

Artists and artworks. Alan Moore, fearlessly taking risks. Stephen King, pushing boundaries with nightmarish imagery. Grant Morrison, owning his purple prose, not giving a fuck. Charles Bukowski, relentlessly confronting me with the truth. Christian Ward’s gorgeous art gracing comic book pages. Thrice, reinventing themselves with each new album. Lacey Sturm, singing from her soul. Kimbra, mesmerizing me with otherworldly melodies. R.E.M., staying true to their path, never faltering.

My friends:

Luc, my literary soul-mate and partner-in-crime; Elise, whose unique fictional non-fiction inspires sections of this very essay; our fellow Writer’s Blockers: David, Roos, Rachel, Paulina, Cat, Sona; all of us working together to provide a platform for beginning and experienced writers alike.

Tom, composing eloquent essays resonating with musicality.

Dorus, bravely determined to push literature into a new direction.

Rajesh, master of slam poetry, who taught me that language is the greatest gift.

Ana, whose paintings are rich with psychedelic watercolors.

Morgan, conquering hearts with her vibrant voice.

Niels, writing pages of computer code that appear hieroglyphic to me.

Frank, molding digital systems like a technomancer.

The bros, Joel & Remi, and our family; we have one another’s back, no matter what.

My band-mates: Hessel, Thomas, Mathijs; each rocking so hard they cause soundquakes that topple buildings.

Thierry, who shone on stage during his time with the band, a true showman.

Trevorius Maximus, audifying any space as he grooves along on guitar and bass.

Sharon & Maureen, taking us on photographic journeys through the domain of live music.

Mom and dad, their eternal support inspiring me to be honest, kind and driven.

My sister, Seline, a rising star in the realm of social entrepreneurship; I foresee a bright future for her.

And it’s not only these amazing people (there are many more!), but in fact the world. I can stroll into a park, breathe in prana to nourish my creative spirit. There’s beauty in the fractal nature of trees, their self-repeating patterns, their branches, their leaves. When I look up, the clouds take on shapes of faces, and enormous eyes returning my gaze, and visions of fantastical realms harboring untold stories.

I could walk through Amsterdam, arrive at an intersection, watching cars driving by, strangers crossing the road. I wonder where they come from, who they are, and my imagination fills in the blanks. Could they be lovers meeting in the street? Could that man be on the run? Could that woman be on her way to meet her destiny? How will the story unfold?

And conversations in bars that could be written out and analyzed.

Or wars raging round the globe, sickening but a source for art.

Or lively parties in houses; concerts in venues; raves lasting into the night, music energizing the dancing.

Even lucid dreams and deep meditations: every inward voyage a new discovery.

And love, with all my heart, love!

There’s always something happening somewhere. Good and bad things, mundane and poetic things—inspiring things. It’s swirling around us, everywhere on Earth and across the galaxy. You can write about anything.

There’s always an artist out there who emboldens you to create. There’s always someone who takes your work seriously, encouraging you to go on, if only you’ll let them see it.

To inspire someone else is magical: a sign that you’re finding your own voice, that you’re on the right track and progressing.

To be inspired by someone mustn’t be taken for granted, but cherished and praised.

Everything inspires me: the spirit in me and in all the world, the cosmic muse, the genius.

Even when inspiration doesn’t grant me spell-power, I still come to the page with a mission on my mind and a tale to spin. I show up and do the work, knowing that I’m writing the stories that I would want to read, that I’m the only one who could put these on the page.

Please don’t let a lack of inspiration block you off from creating art. Don’t think of inspiration as the all-powerful wand required to weave magic. Just write, and keep writing. A lack of inspiration isn’t what’s stopping you because we’re never truly without it. Instead, closed eyes are preventing you from finding what you seek, let alone seeing where you left your pen. Truly, I beseech you, open your eyes and look!

When you do, you’ll learn to perceive. Once you perceive, you can answer my question.

What inspires you?


Besides inspiration, I’ve heard numerous people say they’re not talented enough to be creative, and this worries me. That’s why we’ll talk about talent as well as practice and discipline next month. Till then, I hope you’ll take time to discover what inspires you. Besides, you could compare your findings to my other question—why do you write?—and see what’s there to see.

Works cited

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2010. Print.

Rushdoony, Rev. R.J.. “The Idea of Genius” Chalcedon, https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/the-idea-of-genius. Accessed 15 October 2017.

[1]             We still see a version of the genius in today’s society. Think about fans comparing their favorite artist to God. For example, fans of DC Comics movies likening director Zack Snyder to Jesus Christ.

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Writer’s Block Doesn’t Exist – Part 1: Why I Write


“First there is no idea. Then there is the flickering of an idea. Then there is a fully realized idea. And then finally we have a physical artifact which we can hold in our hands. We have a book. We have a painting. This, to me, is a magical act. Any act of creation is a magical act.”

— Alan Moore


No, silly, I’m not talking about the magazine. I’m talking about the phenomenon, the illusory construct, the belief system that keeps some from writing. I’ll say it here and now: I simply don’t believe in a writer’s block, I’ve never suffered from one, and I never will. Where a typical coke-nose may say: “I can quit whenever I want,” I’ll put it in reverse: “I can write whenever I wish.”

Now, right off the bat, here’s the paradox. Despite claiming not to believe in a writer’s block, I’ll have to define it somehow, or at least explain in some detail (as those italicized words above won’t do). However, this is inherently problematic because it’s not like defining simple objects, like a chair or a table. Instead, we’re dealing with something intangible, a concept, an idea. And it’s precisely those intangible concepts that tend to mean different things to different people. Nevertheless, here’s a broad definition that I’m sure most can agree on:

“Something that blocks an artist off from creating art.”

Taking this into consideration, it becomes clear, at least to me, that it’s not really the definition that we should be focusing on, but rather a set of questions that we can ask about this definition. Bear in mind that the answers to these various questions will also differ from person to person. (Of course more questions could be raised, so consider yourself invited to add to this list.)

  1. What is this something that blocks the artist off from creating art, and why?
  2. Where does it come from?
  3. How can the artist deal with this problem?
  4. Does the writer’s block even exist, or is there something else going on that artists might mistakenly label as “writer’s block”?
  5. Should the artist submit to it?

“But Casper,” I can hear you think, “if you’re going into this, in this much detail, trying to help people on their way, aren’t you acknowledging its existence?”

Well, no. Not exactly.

Firstly, I’ll only go so far as to acknowledge that some people out there believe in its existence. Although it is a fact that those people believe in it, this doesn’t mean that have to believe in it. It also doesn’t mean that—because they believe in it—it actually exists. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from scouring my mind in meditations, studying literature, and even observing interactions between people, it’s that we sometimes tell ourselves (and each other) lies. Trick ourselves (and maybe others) into identifying with a false believe system, and putting it onto our egos, like we might put on a t-shirt or a pair of trousers. Usually it’s not intentional, sometimes we’re not even aware. But ideas have a certain power to them. The moment you let something into your head, you allow it to take root somewhere, to take on a form, to develop into a belief. This doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, but let’s stick to the context. Trust me when I say you don’t want the false belief system of a writer’s block to occupy your mind. Never. It’s just so utterly useless and only holds you back.

Secondly, don’t call it a “writer’s block”, as if that’s a universal label, or even an external force keeping you from writing. Always try to figure out what exactly is going on, and don’t be afraid to call it by its name. (Distraction? No inspiration? No energy? Something else?) Calling it a “writer’s block” means you’re identifying the inability to write with a specific term, whereas it doesn’t always have to be the same thing you’re struggling with. And different problems require different solutions. Once you figure out what exactly is keeping you from writing, you can do something about it. This, by extension, means that whatever’s going on is only temporary. However, always giving it the same label can cause some people to believe it’s a lasting problem, or even one and the same thing, while that’s simply not true.

Thirdly, never use the term as an excuse to procrastinate. If you don’t want to be an artist, do something else. (Though this sounds rather blunt, don’t let this statement demoralize you. It’s okay to take some time to figure out for yourself what it means to be an artist. You have all the time in the world.)

So what is blocking you off from creating art? Why do we use the term “writer’s block?” Well, the truth is that all these questions (and especially the 5 that I’ve written above) warrant some discussion. To provide a brief answer in a single sentence (“It’s just a belief system!”) means that we’re oversimplifying the whole thing. Despite the writer’s block itself—as a universal entity—not existing, the problem of people believing in it is very real. In order to solve this problem, it has to be understood. To understand, we’ll have to take a hard look in the mirror, and a plunge into the depths of our minds. This can be confrontational. But if there’s one thing I do believe in—it’s you.

Let’s just not get ahead of ourselves, and take this journey one step at a time.


Before anyone out there gets the wrong idea, I want to drop this disclaimer. Firstly, I suppose that—although I’ll mainly be talking about writing—this really applies to any art-form, whether it’s visual or written or musical or otherwise (because aren’t they all ways of telling stories?). Secondly, by no means do I intend to tell people what to do, or offer an easy fix, or even explain how to overcome a writer’s block. You see, I’m saying I don’t believe in it in the first place. If I were to explain how to overcome a writer’s block, I’d have to assume that it does exist, and I have to allow myself to experience one, and then overcome it. That’s, simply put, a line that I shall not cross.

All I intend to do with these essays is explain my personal take on writing itself as well as the writer’s block phenomenon. Explain why I write, how I write, and why writing is like magic. Explain why the writer’s block never got me, and never will. When all is said and done, all I can hope for is that this outlook will inspire someone—you—to start questioning the idea of the writer’s block phenomenon. To start scrutinizing the notion in more depth, and challenge it, and find out why you’re suffering from it. Hopefully this will lead you to finding your own answers, drawing your own conclusions, because I can’t do this for you. This is something that we all have to face on our own, in our own time, in our own minds, like any other mental battle. I’m just trying to point you into a direction. From there on out, it’s all you. It has always been.


I’d like to pose two questions. The first question is directed first and foremost at myself. We’ll get to the second one later.

Why do I write?

In order to answer this, I’ll have to go back to the beginning, so please bear with me.
As a kid all I really wanted was to lose myself to stories. The ones my dad told me for bed, making them up on the spot. The cartoons I watched on television. The tales from the storybooks. Batman: The Animated Series episodes, pretty much on repeat. Thunder Birds. Star Wars. Hell, even Harry fucking Potter when that first book dropped way back when. I never just sat quietly, simply listening or watching or reading. My imagination was expansive and wild enough to put me there, with the characters, and live the story. Afterward, I’d find myself sitting in my room on the floor, playing with action figures and LEGOs and whatnot. It didn’t matter what it was, all these completely different things could mix and match. And I wasn’t simply banging them against each other, either. In my juvenile mind, anything was possible. Batman went toe to toe with Darth Maul; LEGO characters protected their block fortresses from the giant Action Man; the Power Rangers went on epic missions to save the universe from Decepticons and Bionicles. Any and all combinations were possible, there was no such thing as rules. It was just me, my toys, and my vivid imagination.

Soon, I began to draw my own characters, and made up stories around them. I’d even cut them out and turn them into custom-made, two-dimensional, paper-thin action figures. Additionally, I created my own comics. Meanwhile, the books I was reading were becoming more difficult, more profound. I went from the one fantasy novel to the other, and when I was 12 my parents gave me a book of short stories by Stephen King. The title of this book was Skeleton Crew. Feeding my imagination with these twisted little tales, and with the Lord of the Rings movie adaptations fresh on my mind, the urge to once again come up with my own stories became irresistible. This time around, though, I knew I’d have to record them somehow. So I sat behind my computer, and began writing my first fanfic, long before fanfic even was a thing. It was called Omikron, for some reason, and while it featured original characters in lands of my own design, it was pretty much a blatant Lord of the Rings rip-off with Hobbits and Orcs. But I didn’t give a shit. I was 12, I had Microsoft Word, a keyboard at my fingertips, a blank page, and an idea. It was the best toy I’ve ever had.

Fast forward to age 16, where I subscribed to a forum simply called The Star Wars RP. I didn’t care too much about the theme, I was just looking for a place to share my hobby with other people. And to be honest, it was on this forum where I learned writing techniques, wrote stories with others, and received and provided feedback on the writing. This collaborative environment gave my hobby another boost. For the first time people told me I was on to something. That my writing was more than just a forum post describing the actions of my characters. I started to experiment with different styles and voices. A simple game developed into a true love for the craft, and before long I began to dream of my own original work.

When I was 17, I devised the Known World of Ara’Delva, my own fantastical universe, inhabited by desperadoes fighting magicians against a Spaghetti Western backdrop. (To this day I gladly keep returning to it, adding to it, expanding it.) And as I continued to grow up, the passion for storytelling blossomed into a lifelong romance, a marriage. Something that wakes me in the middle of the night, and makes me reach for my notebook to scribble down thoughts, fueling my dreams as I go back to sleep. Something that gets me up the next day to work on my manuscripts, and get new publications out. Something that drove me to apply for final editor at this magazine, and now drives me to write these essays.

So, why do I write? Because I want to express myself. Because I enjoy sharing ideas. Because I’ve been telling stories all my life. Because I want to show the world who I am, and what I can do. Because I’m in love with it. Because it’s my mission, my calling, my life’s purpose. Because I’m a writer, and it’s what writers do.

Now it’s your turn. Ask yourself this. However hard it may be.

Why do you write?


As I said in the introduction, we will be taking this journey one step at a time because the whole issue of a writer’s block is too complex to put into a single sentence, or even a paragraph. I have planned several essays that each deal with a different aspect of the craft of writing itself, and of the writer’s block phenomenon. Now that I’ve told my personal story to introduce myself and this series, we’ll get a little more practical next month (but not any less personal). One of the most common complaints that I hear, related to the writer’s block phenomenon, is that of lacking the inspiration to write. Therefore, next month’s essay will be about inspiration. In addition, I’ll talk about what the writing process is like for me, and what I do when the words don’t come out due to a lack of inspiration.

Hopefully, in the meantime, you’ll consider the question I asked you at the end of Section 3. Take as long as you need. It’ll help. Trust me.

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