[Quiz] Writer’s Block Is…

Typewriter and gun

Monday, 8:34pm
Reno, NV
The horror… the horror…” (Brando, “Apocalypse Now”)


Let’s do another quiz, what d’ya say?

With TWO prizes.

This one is very simple.  Or not, depending on how much you’ve been paying attention.

Let’s start with the good stuff. 

Here’s what the winners will get: A twin package of Extreme Special Reports that have only been available as bonuses before…

Extreme Report #1. The super-potent (and much sought-after) “Power Words” collection…

Extreme Report #2. And the mind-altering “11 Quick Marketing Fixes” checklist.

These are easily among the most valuable reports a marketer could ever get your hands on.

Though they come as bonuses with our larger packages (there is no other way to get them)… these little treasures are often cited as “major game changers” when past customers tell me which piece of advice or tactic fundamentally impacted their life.

The first report is a thick compendium crammed with specific words and phrases I’ve plucked from successful ads I’ve penned over the years.

These words and phrases are the building blocks of explosive hooks and “drive ’em to tears” emotionally-compelling writing…

… the stuff that can turn a lame-ass, boring ad…

… into a shockingly-persuasive Blitzkrieg winner.

Words matter.  Often, a single word change in a headline can affect results so dramatically, it defies belief.  (And really, results are what it’s all about in this biz.)

The second report consists of the actual checklist I used throughout my 25-year career when consulting with new clients…

… especially when they were mired in doubt, or rushing off a cliff with brutally-bad marketing plans.

These 11 “fixes” are simple… easily applied… and yet hidden to most marketers.

This kind of basic insight is what separates the gun-slingers from the clueless canon-fodder in direct response advertising.

So, yeah… if you don’t have these twin-dynamo reports yet…

… you want them in your tool kit.  (Many of the best online wizards you know about keep their dog-eared copies of these reports close by whenever they create new marketing.)

Now… who wins these reports?

Here’s who: The first person to post the correct answer in the comments section below…

… and the eleventh person to post the correct answer.

Two glory-drenched winners, separated by a small mob of “Nice Try But No Cigar” almost-winners.

I’m doing this because — last time — the Usual Suspect Smart-Asses descended on Quiz #7 like sharp-talking stalkers waiting in a dark alley…

… and nailed the answer early.

Okay, they weren’t smart-asses.  They just happened to be up late when I posted, or on the other side of the globe (all bright-eyed and sipping coffee, while the rest of the blog readers were slumbering peacefully).

So, we’re gonna make this Quiz a fair fight, dammit.

I counted up all the smart-asses… and there are approximately ten of you out there.  (You’re actually among my favorite folks to banter with, and I deeply appreciate your faithful readership of the blog… but you keep gobbling up these Quiz prizes too easily.)

Thus… there is now an opportunity for someone outside the Rant’s inner circle to grab at least the second prize…

… as Correct Answer #11.



Here’s the question:

Fill in the rest of this statement:  “Writer’s block is…”

And… go.  The Quiz has started.

What do you think writer’s block is?

Please bear in mind that there were over 600 attempts to win the last Quiz…

… so get busy.

There are no “wrong” answers… as in, you can’t lose when you engage your brain in critical thinking like this.

But there’s only ONE right answer.

And here’s a hint: It probably isn’t what you think it is.

“Writer’s block” gets a lot of discussion in the culture.  Everybody’s got an opinion or theory.

Books have been written about it.  Famous fiction writers have reportedly suffered from it.  Almost everyone who’s ever stared at a blank page believes they know what it is.

And I’ll tell you this:  They’re all dead wrong.

And that’s all I’m gonna say right now.

The Quiz is on.

I’ll check in over the next few days…

… and announce the winner…

… on Friday.

Go get ’em, tiger.

Stay frosty,


P.S. One more rule… which is necessary only because the Usual Suspect Smart-Asses are already considering ways to get around being “fair”:

You can post as often as you like… but you cannot post the same answer more than once.


See, I know some of you were already gonna post what you thought was the correct answer eleven times in a row, copying and pasting real fast… in a bid to win BOTH prizes in an outrageous sweep of cleverness and evil manipulation of everything that is sacred about good sportsmanship.

Hey — it’s what I would have done.

How do you think I stay ahead of you guys?

So — we have a Fairness Doctrine here.

Please respect it.

Now… go crush the competition.  Bragging rights are important in this biz…

P.P.S Friday Note: Hey… I know I’m late with the “answer post” here…

… just got delayed a bit by something unexpected.

I’ll get the new post up tomorrow…

And yes, there are winners…

Just enter your name and primary email address below and we'll send you the new report right away.

"11 Really Stupid Blunders You're Making With Your Biz & Career Right Now."

  • Writer’s block is… not having your detective work done. If you’ve done the research you already know what you need to say.

    … Saw the tweet and had to give it a shot.

  • Clifton says:

    Writer’s block is nonexsistent. A good writer will sit down and browse his swipe file or content notes and overcome the mis-named writers block.

    Writer’s Block is a LIE/Excuse/Crutch/Cop Out

  • James Shaw says:

    ..telling you that you should be writing about something else entirely..

  • Adam K says:

    It depends what the meaning of “is” is – ie. a lack of clarity.

    • John Carlton says:

      Oh, great. Bring back the 90s and memories of Clinton’s word-parsing. (Kinda makes you nostalgic for the simpler times a decade ago, doesn’t it? When we thought petty shit was sooo important…)

      Actually, the parsing of meanings is something we really should discuss in a future blog — most people don’t understand how words can (and are) manipulated to affect received meaning, and this is how communication gets all botched up.

      Nice try for the quiz, but no.

  • Twitter says:

    Writer’s block is … your inability to break through the paralysis of the blank page.

    The idea that you have to say something that’s meaningful.

    People out there are seeking something that’s unique to them. Relevant. Their bored, worried and clueless. As a copywriter, you have a unique opportunity to reach out, touch your reader and give their negativity a wedgie.

    Yes and it’s all about working with your reader. That person that’s scared, sick, wounded, terrified … just like you, and shake their reality up so they can say: “Yeah! I’m alive! Thanks.”


    P.S. And the beat goes on…

  • Yew Heng says:

    Writer block is when you stare at a piece of paper with a pen in your hand or on the computer screen with your hands on the keyboard for more than half an hour and nothing CAN possible come out of it… nothing to show for… not even a single word, NOTHING! You mind is blank and finally you give out and go for a movie instead.

    A little guy from Singapore
    Yew Heng

  • Simon Ashari says:

    writers block is…. annoying.

  • …a myth (if you use your whole brain) and common for lefties (left brain only, logical, users).

    Get lots done
    Karl c]:-)

    PS: Yeah they thaught that in school and fixed you on using your left brain mostly, thereby creating the basis for: “You use only 10 % (nowadays 5%) of your brain.”

    PPS: Everybodys rest of the brain is still working, just learn to give it attention.

    • Paul says:

      Thaught is spelled thought and since each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body left handed people are the only ones in their right mind!
      You righties are more “analytical” and we lefties are more “creative”. I find that to be a bit of a crock myself.
      Each time you use your brain you are actually re-wiring the neurons, establishing new connections and building the relationships between the disparate parts of the brain, so the key is to keep learning and encouraging all parts of your brain to maximize your potential.

      • John Carlton says:

        Hi Paul.

        I’ve been forcing myself to become as ambidextrous as possible over the years, trying to prove if I can shift my dominant brain sphere by brushing my teeth left-handed, or using the mouse with the other hand.

        After decades of this… I discover (through talking with shrinks and taking endless pop psych tests) that I’ve probably always been able to access both sides. Not sure if this is rare, or even if it matters.

        But you’re right — “creativity” is in the doing, not the “possibility” of doing. Artists create (they don’t talk about it), and writers write (oops, is that another hint?), and true entrepreneurs move after success like a terrier after a squirrel.

        I’ve known people for years before, never noticing they were left-handed, and haven’t seen any extra powers.

        Interesting topic, though…

      • Sorry 1. lefty = left-handed person, whereas I meant left brain users, left brainies
        Sorry 2. typo:
        to teach, taught, taught

        Next time seppuku, I got it 😉
        PS: Great ressource Win Wenger quick tools to boost creativity, after that look for image streaming. This really rocks.

    • Mark Dresner says:

      Writer’s block is what you get …

      when you’d rather be playing 18 holes of golf … or floating on tube in the pool with a Marguerita … or doing just about anything else other than writing!

  • … a sign that your offer isn’t strong enough yet. If it was, you’d know exactly what to say.

  • Teresa Blaes says:

    Writers block is the reminder that you forgot to proform the ever crucial brain dump.

  • Any writer that get’s the traditional writer’s block (that is, can’t go on writing) is a blockhead.

    Steven C. Scheer

  • Brian McLeod says:

    Writer’s block is a MYTH.

    There’s only one way to write… by WRITING.

    Everything else is excuse making.

  • Lane says:

    Writers block is not knowing your target audience. if you know them you know what to write.

    • Jay Cee says:

      Yup – we’re right.

      The cure to writers block is RESEARCH. People who believe in that B.S. are plain stupid.

      By the way, just for the record, I quoted Gary Halbert, so I cannot be wrong.


      • John Carlton says:

        Hi Jay Cee. Not sure what quote you used from the Big Ugly Guy — where did you find it?

        For the record: People aren’t “stupid” for believing certain things (rightly or wrongly). Mostly, they simply either are still trapped in Zombie Mode (as most of the population is), or just haven’t been alerted to the inside track yet.

        And… you’re close, but you haven’t got the right answer here.

        Hope this drives you nuts. 😉

        Seriously, where did you find that Halbert quote, and what was it exactly? (I just spent the day with Bond, Gary’s youngest, and we were discussing “lost” stuff of Halbert’s…)

        • Jay Cee says:

          Whatever. I have both your reports – I think 🙂 – And I’m only 13 – Go easy on me there.

          “How To Write A Sales Letter That Will Make You Rich”? – The one where Joe Polish, Ross Jeferies and Jeff Paul attended to.


          “Root Canal Seminar” – he mentions something about David Olgiviy saying that research is the most crucial ingredient to a marketing campaign. He also mentioned that he ‘cured’ someone’s writers block by having them right ‘blah’ – when they couldn’t think of anything.

          Also, Gary Bencivenga’s interview
          with Ken McCarthy – Gary also mentions that he thought he had writers block – And said the problem was – He didn’t know much of his target-market.

          I would have pre-supposed that you’ve seen Gary B’s and Gary H’s stuff. Track me down on facebook and I’ll tell you the exact details – Jack Causevic – you just added me – I think.

      • John Carlton says:

        You’re 13? Don’t you have a curfew?

        To answer your last question, down the thread here: Yeah, I worked intimately with Halbert for a decade, and co-produced most of the seminars he gave. I know most of his mini-lectures by heart, having heard them all dozens of times. I also worked with Bencivenga a bit.

        But I always want to get direct quotes from people find whenever I can… mostly because incorrect quotes can really screw up the larger conversation in the culture, especially when established authority figures inadvertently muddy things up. (Bencivenga, I can assure you, was joking about writer’s block with Ken — using the term as shorthand to make a larger point about creating ads.)

        As to Gary’s “just write blah” quote… I remember when he gave it out as advice. He, too, was making a larger point: That “action” is more effective than sitting around moping over something. Writing nonsense may, in some cases, act like a placebo… but it won’t work for most folks. In fact, I’ve never seen that tactic work, and know several instances where it didn’t work with Gary using it. (Not to trash Gary’s advice — but it’s important to know that he actually is referring to the concept that, for most pro writers, the first couple of pages of a manuscript for an ad tend to be ineffective… and the saying is “Trash your first two pages — your real ad starts on page 3″… which is, again, a metaphor. The truth is that, often, the reason an ad isn’t “working” is that it’s encumbered with mumbling at the beginning.

        Good writing — especially ad writing — is re-writing. The magic happens in the editing.

        Thanks for your excellent contribution to this thread, Jack.

        • Jay Cee says:

          Thanks for the advice brother. Always wondered how ‘copy’ was really written by guys like you.

          Editing and rewriting sound like tough work – I’m still up for it anyway. :]

  • Brandon Zundel says:

    Writer’s block is… a mental condition that the writer’s mind makes up as an excuse not to “get to work”.

    It’s an easy excuse, that a little bit of research can easily overcome…

    The sad thing is, “research” sounds too hard, so most writers never do any… instead they prefer to guess.

  • andrey says:

    “Writer’s block is… phantom”
    Prizes lures…

  • Nick Marcelo says:

    Writer’s block is… Blank.

  • Writer’s block is simply the mis-placed notion that the writer should always have something to say (write). When they don’t, but they want to (or some external force, such as a deadline is being applied) — it’s called “writer’s block.”

  • Kevin says:

    Writer’s block is an excuse.

  • Gloria says:

    Writer’s Block is fear getting in the way

  • Shawn says:

    I have multiple answers:

    1. Nonexistent because real writers know what to write and can start writing at any time

    2. Only existent in fictional writers because it only occurs when you need to make something up – so it is non-existent for true writers of direct response copy

    3. When you’ve misplaced your checklists & swipe files or you are silly (I’m being kind with that word) enough to not have put together a swipe file and checklists because if you had those then you would obviously know exactly what to write

    4. According to others, when you don’t know what to say, where to start or where to go from where you are at in your writing

    5. Fun to discuss on John Carlton’s blog.

    I have no idea if I’m right. Those are just the things that popped into my head.

    Shawn Horwood

  • Writer’s Block is non-writers fear.

  • Correction:

    Writer’s block comes from the mis-placed notion that the writer should always have something to say (write). When they don’t, but they want to (or some external force, such as a deadline is being applied) — it’s called “writer’s block.”
    (Writers only have something to say when the pump is primed; as others have pointed out, that they’ve done their research, their brain dump, created their compelling offer.)
    Or, put another way — writer’s block is simply an unexcited writer.

  • Joel Helfer says:

    Writers block does not exist. Take John’s Simple Writing system course and find out why?

  • andrey says:

    Second attempt –
    “Writer’s block doesn’t actually exist”

  • Chris says:

    Writer’s block is a sign that you need to reboot your brain.

  • Steve says:

    A lie.

  • Gloria says:

    Writer’s Block is nothing to say at that moment

  • This blog torments me at least 5 times! (No, say it isn’t so — ’tis not torment, but pleasure.)
    However, ’tis torment to realize that these times say…36 31 27 24 9 minutes ago — some have a definite advantage over others…
    (And true to my contrary nature, I’m not having a writer’s block tonight…)

  • Scott Harvey says:

    “A Myth” popped immediately to mind, but I’m late with that (and not 11th yet…).

    So, I’ll say “Bullsh*t” instead.

    I know I have to be quick, so that is the crux of it…but it comes from not going through the whole writing process correctly. Not doing the market research/understanding the market, etc.

    Told myself I wouldn’t respond to this quiz ’cause I can’t afford to be up for hours reading all the brilliant comments that will surely come…but I’m hooked. Curse you, Mr. Carlton!


    • John Carlton says:

      Muhahahaha… (evil laugh).

      Scott, do you really think a single asterisk in the word “bullsh*t” is cloaking your swearing?

      Just kidding. Quizes work, as you’ve discovered, because they are a great teaching tool. Just laying info out is boring, and there is little retention. However, you force people to actually think… and learning happens.

      It’s freakin’ amazing.

      Thanks for posting. And no, you didn’t win.

  • Chris says:

    … when action and vision are not in harmony.

  • Ivan says:

    Not having your research done.

  • a) FEAR!
    b) … the pad of paper that you write on… hehe

  • Richard Uren says:

    .. for people that don’t know the formula.

  • Todd Ariss says:

    Writer’s block is…

  • Writers block is a myth or a self lie and excuse we make when we dont know what to write because we haven’t done our proper product or market reseach.

  • Liane says:

    Writer’s block is…
    …a lack of direction or focus.

    This can be from too many things swimming around in the brain – or the opposite – a lack of fresh ideas.

    It can also be the result of disorganization – easily remedied by using a template of some sort.

    I wasn’t aware of this before, but the best way to overcome writer’s block, apparently, is to threaten your computer’s life. Back in the day this required heavy artillery (typewriters were made of metal), but today it can be as easy as holding a glass of water and tipping it over slightly just above the keyboard. Less chance of getting arrested that way too, which is good.

  • Writer’s block, according to John Carlton:

    * Doesn’t exist (http://www.john-carlton.com/2008/01/story-mop-up-duty-and-another-challenge/).

    * Is fiction (http://www.john-carlton.com/2006/09/a-question-for-yall/).

    * Is a joke (sorta) (http://www.john-carlton.com/2009/03/two-copywriters-walk-into-a-bar/).

    * Is a myth (http://www.john-carlton.com/2005/01/burning_and_emb/).

    OK, that technically breaks the rules because there’s more than one answer in one comment, but since the creator of the contest has more than one answer… 😛

  • Thomas says:

    Lack of research and knowledge of product

  • Dana says:

    Writers block is your subconcious telling you you’re not ready right now because you are thinking of something else, whether you know it or not.

  • John says:

    Writer’s block is temporary.

  • Jess says:

    Writers block is a period of self doubting lack of creativity and productivity. It can be caused by either real or imagined fears and illness.

  • Jay Cee says:

    Writers Block – Stupid people rekon’ it has something to do with the brain paralyzing itself so you can’t think of anything half decent to put on a piece of paper.


    Smart people (like me) – Believe it’s the lack of research about the ‘thing’ you’re writing about.

    There it is, your answer, poured down with milk and cookies.

  • Sandy B. says:

    Writer’s blog is a myth.
    You shouldn’t be afraid to write something you are going to throw out later.

  • manuel says:

    Writer´s block is lazyness

  • PaulT says:

    Writers block is … ummm, I wish I knew but I can’t think of anything to write!

  • Kyle says:

    A myth.

    Non existent.

  • Colin H says:

    Writer’s block is a state of mind

  • William Konupek says:


  • William Konupek says:

    or your secret weapon.

  • Mike Singer says:

    It’s a myth, as many have already said. My belief is that this is tied to the idea that a writer is really only a writer when he or she is writing. So by definition, there can be no Writer’s Block because if you’re not in the act of writing you’re not a writer, and if you are in the act of writing, then you ain’t blocked. Writing is an act, not a role.

    (It’s also the part of a city where the writers live!)

  • Sebastian Sable says:

    …is your secret weapon.

  • PaulT says:

    Second attempt –
    Writers block is … not knowing your product or your market.

  • Peter Cutler says:

    Writer’s block is … all in your mind.

  • Clifton says:

    Writers Block is Your Secret Weapon

  • Writer’s block is a sign that you need to stop working and go and do something completely unrelated to writing, e.g. washing up, walk the dog, hoover the cat, and chill man… BECAUSE you’re just trying too hard.
    When you take yourself away from your desk and engage in some other activity you have a greater chance of getting into ‘flow’ state – to allow the creative mind to start working.

  • Josh says:

    Damn! I remember you talking about this at SANG last week and only remember you saying it doesn’t exist. I don’t remember anything else you said and my notes are at my office.
    So, writer’s block is non-existent.
    Actually, I think Clifton was at SANG and remembered what you said as I remember something about a swipe file, but I’ll stick with the above as my final answer.
    It was nice meeting your hairy face in person along with Stan’s (and Kevin’s) shiny dome:)

  • blian says:

    writer’s block is pure bullshit

  • Flyn says:

    Writers block is the phenomena of not being able to think of something to say, that something being a new creative thought.

    It is probably best likened to the concept of “not seeing the forest for the trees.” You get so involved with your existing ideas that you suddenly can’t get far enough away from them to put them together with other ideas in new ways which create new thoughts.

  • Andri says:

    Writer’s block… is a myth. There’s no such thing as writer’s block if you truly understand your subject (the market, the prospect, and the product.)

  • Kirk Schmidt says:

    Writer’s block is all in your mind because it doesn’t exist. Pun intended. Funny, I’m having writer’s block trying to give an answer to the question. Now what was that question again? I should go look at the swipe files again. Now if only I had Power Words and 11 Quick Marketing Fixes to help out!

  • Quite clearly John, writer’s block must be….
    lack of research!


  • jim says:

    …all in the mind.

  • Mark says:

    Writer’s block is an affliction of the amateur.

  • Jerry says:

    Writer’s block is that outer example of the inner need to know your audience better. The gnawing reality that you want to say something but it doesn’t fit in the particular environment you find yourself (or think you’ve found yourself) in. Like springing a risque joke while meeting your date’s parents before prom.

    It is the lame awareness that all the fodder swishing around on the inside will have little or no impact and your head tells you “Don’t even bother….your going the wrong way!”

    It is being “wound too tight” when you need to relax and get into the “zone” of not trying sooo hard to Place the Right word, or phrase, or story where it doesn’t belong.

    Whadda ya think, John? Am I close? I know you would have said with everyone hanging on each paragraph of text…but I think I am close.

  • Lakshay says:

    Writer’s block is what a lot of people including me had to experience just before we started posting here. It’s the lack of knowledge about two things…

    1. The issue that you are about to address
    2. How to convince people what you’re saying is the right thing.

    Here’s how I resolve it…

    I think deeply about the issue that I am about to write about, and analyse the problem carefully. More often than not- the answer is hidden somewhere within the problem itself.


  • Writers block is time, when nothing is matter exept that you are to happy to write something down.

  • Arno says:

    Writers block is missing a good process for writing

  • Adil says:

    Writers block is not having that conversation with your inner salesman or inner prospect.

  • Writer’s block is a state of mind.
    It’s where the “Gun to the head mentality was born. That and the fact “You only have one shot – make it count”

    Writer’s block is merely editing that hasn’t been done yet…only problem is you need to write, to edit.
    When the $hit has to get done, get it done


  • nesta says:

    Hi John.
    The writers block is…the lack of a deadline. Simple.

  • Al Kirke says:

    Writers block is the “effect”(end result) of “lack of preparation”(cause).
    Preparation Being,
    1 Mandatory research Tasks.
    2 Personal responsibility ,Being a writer v’s Doing Writing.

    “Just Sell the Dam Thing”
    …. Wasn’t that the advice you gave to Kern when he hit a brick wall with Stompernet.($20Mill)

    …Now Gimmie my Prizes

  • Bill F says:

    Writer’s block is a failure to move your hands, either on a keyboard or with a pen.

    Unless, of course, you write with your feet. Then it’s a failure to move your feet.

    Unless of you course you write with your……
    oh never mind, only twisted performance artists in Manhattan do that. And we all have problems problems moving our ass at times.

  • Writer’s block is the name associated with the experience of self-sabotage when the intellectual mind thinks it should be writing and the emotional mind doesn’t want to.

    The inner conflict is very real, so therefore writer’s block, as a label, is not a myth. Perhaps you’ve experienced it…

    Which is why I have created this special report:
    The 12 Winning Ways to Finally Abolish Writer’s Block Forever, And Get More Done!

    Well, I haven’t actually created it but I WILL if there’s enough interest. You’d be surprised to find out what I actually do, though.

  • Diane says:

    Writers block is an opportunity, like the artist facing a blank canvas, to create a masterpiece.

  • John says:

    Writer’s block is a time when you don’t have the right words or phrases to use.

  • Richard says:


  • Richard says:

    Trying to edit and create at the same time…

  • First off… anyone who says real writer’s don’t experience writer’s block isn’t a real writer. Writer’s blocks is a dull, drowning inspiration that lacks breath or wings to sustain the flight of what writing demands. Creativity cannot happen without strong emotion; be it depression, sadness, joy, happiness, love, hate or humor.

    So, to make it short— haha, which I hate…

    Writers block is a lack of inspiration…. a hand and a soul without a muse. Something must drive us to give our thoughts color.

    By the way, this is a pretty cool blog you have here John, I will have to read it more often.

    P.S.- I also think writing is about being able to see what really is, and express it in a way others feel but have not been able to articulate. Poetry is seeing slow motion, and comedy is seeing the reality under the fiction.

    • John Carlton says:

      Michael, thanks for posting…

      … and I believe the answer, when I release it on Friday, will actually help you better position yourself in your chosen career.

      You are laboring under at least two faulty assumptions, which from long experience I know are just as deadly to a career as a writer as the major stuff (like too much booze and loss of hope)…

      Thanks for the kind words, too.

  • Jonathon says:

    Writers block is… irrelevant.

    I’m not going to let an excuse like that get between me and my words on a page.

    If ever I’ve been stuck on what to write on the topic at hand, I’ll write anything, let the words flow, and let process takes care of itself.

    Preparation always helps to sharpen the tool of the mind.

  • Thomas says:

    Add to #36
    An unprepared mind. It does not exist in the prepared mind.

  • Brocton Rye says:

    The calm before the storm.

  • Writers blank is not knowing your target Market. Any blank however is a hypnotically Momentous Moment and very useful. The prize is mine! Please?

  • Writer’s block is an arbitrary, yet relevant keyword phrase that will be indexed by the major search engines and direct tons of new traffic to this blog.

    I love the strategy…

    Which is why I have created this special report:
    How To Recognize Creative Genius Upon Second Glance So You Too Can Implement The Secrets Of The Pros To Achieve Infinitely More!

    Again, as in post #71, I didn’t actually write this report. The difference is I won’t be writing it anytime soon. I’m still learning this stuff!

  • Writers block is….a bunch of bullshit?

  • Writers block is… Not writing.

  • Marlo says:

    Writers Block is… Not Real, ONLY in your head.

  • Kyle says:

    Writers block is self imposed

  • fw says:

    Knowing ‘what’ to write
    “buy this Turbo Super Duper Dishwasher”
    but not knowing ‘how’ to write it, and this is the important bit, knowing you don’t know.

  • Gary Foster says:

    ‘Writers block is … just too much thinking and not enought action’ – simple really!

  • Kyle says:

    Writers block is all in your head

  • Garry says:

    Not doing enough reasearch to reach the point where you say “hang on, what did you just say?”

  • james a. says:

    Writer’s block is a street where a lot of writers live. The only way in is to write – the only way out is not to do – they all write. It’s an imaginary block where people who claim not to be writers try to get in, but can’t. You have to write to get in. It isn’t by invitation that you get there. It isn’t who you know – although it does help to know who to read and how, but by reading you can’t get in. Look for Writer’s block near Thesaurus Blvd. at the junction by Mel Blanc and Look Around Inspiration.

  • “I used to think if I died in an evil place then my soul wouldn’t make it to heaven. Well, fuck. I don’t care where it goes as long it ain’t here. ” (Frederic Forrest, “Apocalypse Now”)

  • Peter says:

    Writers block is where the words of a headline are chopped up, re arranged, re hashed or re organised to create maximum compelling impact

  • Marjan says:

    …is wanting to find perfect words from a start, and because you don’t find it, you can’t start.

  • Rob says:

    People stare at a blank page suffering from this self-inflicted, crippling state-of-mind, demanding of themselves to write a masterpiece at the first attempt and fearing they will fall short…

    Just start writing NOW (edit later) and let the fear of failure drive you…

    if you’ve done your research/sales detective work…

    and you’re sat there with your inner salesman holding that big-ass gun to your head…

    then writers bock just doesn’t exist!

  • Marjan says:

    …is no preparation to write, when you don’t have the checklist of the right points you want to cover in copy.

  • Writer’s block is overanalysis.

    -David Raybould

  • Kym says:

    Writers block is … the battle of the internal editor over the master writer within.

  • Simon says:

    The inability to tell a good story – now come one! everyone can tell a good story if you just tell it!! and sell it!!

    Tell it and sell it!!

  • fidelis says:

    procrastination. An easy way out of the difficult task of productive cerebration

  • Gary says:

    Writer’s block is a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task in hand. At the other extreme, some “blocked” writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers.

  • Isobel says:

    Writer’s block is fear of failure.
    False Evidence Appearing Real
    Forgetting Everything’s All Right

  • David Cox says:

    writers block is a sure sign that you are trying to write the wrong thing at the wrong time and quite probably in the wrong place.
    e.g. Songwriting challenge – lyrics for the situation where you are long time good friends but wondering about losing that by trying to cross the boundary to a physical relationship. Pages of notes and hours – zilch – give up, look out the window, notice it needs cleaning. “The other side of the window the flowers have a scent, bird’s cries and humming flies paint the firmament …”

  • Hadley Finch says:

    Writers block is analysis that becomes paralysis.
    Hadley Finch http://tribeofblondes.com

  • Hadley Finch says:

    Writers block is your heart saying yes to an idea and your inner critic saying NO.
    Hadley Finch http://tribeofsingles.com

  • Juri Saragih says:

    Writers block is…
    …do not believe with hisself/herself when he/she start out to writer out.

    …lack off practice.

    and also lack off dig deeper in research so they do not what is gonna tell in sales letter.


    Juri Saragih

  • Susie Nelson says:

    My college professor explained writer’s block this way: Our brains go nuts and get overwhelmed by the blank page. And since it’s focusing on “blank” the brain goes “blank.”
    The more we stress about and focus on it, the worse it becomes. It is that continual, downward spiral that proves that what we focus on is what we create.
    The recommended cure – write something – anything – “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs” kind of anything – even if it will eventually end up on the cutting room floor – just to get the juices flowing and to stop focusing on the blank page.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Susie.

      I say this carefully: Your college prof was an idiot.

      Okay, that’s harsh. There are grains of truth in what he told you… but he was coming from the wrong direction.

      Thanks for posting. I think the answer on Friday may open some doors for you…

  • Gil-Ad Schwartz says:

    Writer’s Block, from a fiction-writer’s point of view, is the fear of writing ineloquently… translatable as the fear of writing rubbish copy.

    Perhaps I should have counted ten answers and then posted.


  • BELINDA says:

    Writer’s block is…. sometimes just typer’s block

  • Barb Banks says:

    Writer’s Block is unnecessary.

  • Brian says:

    Writers block is being critical from the outset. Just write and criticize your work later.

  • DocMercer says:

    Writer’s block is the lack of essential preparation.

    Enjoy a great week guys.


  • is optional. You get what you focus on.

  • Razvan says:

    Writer’s block is… when you just can’t express your thoughts, feelings or ideas in a way that will resonate with your prospect.
    This is mostly because you are tired, upset, stressed, annoyed or because Obama won the elections.
    It’s not related to an unprepared mind … not in my view. You can read a book (for research) 10 times again and again … and still not being able to get the opening paragraph of your copy done.
    On the other hand you can watch a TV show or a movie … and get the best copy ever in 2 hours.
    (as a matter of fact, it’s better to write 1 hour when you’re focused and aware of your thoughts and environment than it is to write four hours in a non-productive state).
    I think that in the end, copywriting is not a skill like doing equations or programming computer code. It has a lot to do with the subconscious mind and your current mood.
    If you want to take this a little further, Napoleon Hill described a lot about this phenomena in his book “Think and grow rich”.
    Well, that’s all. If someone shows an 100% method to get away from writers block especially when you are pissed off, I think the entire list will reward him 🙂

    Best regards,

  • Adam Shields says:

    A total lack of STORYLINE.
    With a story, one thought effortlessly flows into the next.

    Grab a STORY, and BAM! It just starts flowing….

    No Story, no flow Yo! :0)

  • Justin says:

    writers block is lack of direction

  • Andrew Brown says:

    Writer’s Block is, lack of preparation and fear.

  • Joe says:

    Writer’s Block? A constipation of words.
    No sign of it in this blog!

  • “Writer’s block is…” all in your mind…

  • Manju Thirani says:

    Writer’s block is FEAR fuelled by a distrust and disbelief in your own abilities at that moment.
    It is powerful coz it dwells in the realm of the subconscious mind.

  • Roger says:

    What Henry Bingaman said.

    /Hat off to Mr. Bingaman for nailing — with the first post — what would also be my answer.

  • Sean says:

    Writer’s block is…when you need to get out of the office, away from the computer and get back to nature. We came from nature, so it’s important to go back every now and then to get a clear mind, and get creatively inspired…

  • Manju Thirani says:

    Writer’s block is when you go friggin’ frigid and and fear fully surrounds you.

  • Matt says:

    Writer’s block…
    This may be a shock
    But a writer’s block
    is a mere knock
    at the door of your soul
    a lonely dark night haul
    scary noise
    a silent voice
    sending it’s warning

  • Dainis says:

    Writer’s block is a myth. It does not exist.

  • Ali says:

    Writer’s block is inability to focus..aka ADHD

  • Bruce McKirdy says:

    Writers block is… recognition of the fact that what you’ve written is crap followed by the inability to allow the world to know that you have created it, thus, lock up.

  • Cheri Ruskus says:

    When don’t let your words flow because you are thinking about it too much wanting the perfect words to flow onto the paper. They in fact will come when you just start letting them flow.

  • Mike M says:

    Hello John,
    Nice question.
    What is writers block?
    Writers block is what happens when you don’t turn off your internal critic.
    You stop writing and can’t get the flow going again.
    The answer is to turn off the internal critic and just start writing, even if it’s copying someone else’s words until the flow starts again.

    Thanks again for the copy training in San Francisco.

    Mike M

  • Gary says:

    Wait!! you are all wrong. Writer’s block is real….. it plagues every writer in every nation. It’s prevelant in speech writers, best selling authors, advertising firms, and the local journalist looking for the story.
    Prominent Professors at major universities teach methods to overcome this dreaded disease of “Brain blank”. Health experts say that failure to find your words may be the first sign of Alzheimer’s!
    All these experts cannot be wrong…. the nation that we live in today has been built because of these brave writers had the perseverance to forge ahead and beat this dreaded malady.
    It affected you when John asked the very question “Writers block is……” You either quickly slapped down an answer hoping to get top prize by saying it doesn’t exist or you sat and thought what is this guys angle? What is he asking us to give him? What does he want from us? then you tried going deep into the mind of John Carlton(don’t go there!) and tried to give him what you thought he wanted.
    Writer’s block is………__________,(damn right, it’s what ever your brain is telling you it is, it’s up to you to listen to yourself or not) Yea, you deal with it I’ve got writing to do.

  • Debra says:

    Writer’s block is…not having a story to tell. Go back and do your research to answer the following…here’s what I have here’s what it can do for you, here are the details, here’s why you should get it from me, and here’s how you get it.

  • Alex T. says:

    Writers block is pure B.S. It’s a myth.

    The best way to get past writers block is to prepare in advance with research and understanding of your subject matter then be determined to keep your pen moving.
    Let writing be writing and editing be editing. You can not get in flow if all you do is stop and go ….

    Enjoy The Journey

  • Walt V says:

    Writers block is not being clear what it is the readers (consumers) want.

  • James Jones says:

    Well, I was going to say, “a myth” or “does not exist” but both have been said before (and probably not 10 times) so I thought deeper on the subject and realized that a REAL writer would never get Writer’s Block because they would have prepared before they even began writing therefore Writers Block is an Oxymoron.

  • Lorenzo says:

    Fear of failure.

  • Barnabas Ng says:

    Writers block is information overload and clashing of ideas…

  • John, I love the friggin’ mind twisters! As I quickly scroll down the looong list of responders, I see the answer that’s in my head is already listed. That’s OK cuz I going to chime in just the same.

    Writer’s block is . . .
    just an excuse for not doing your homework or getting started. A pattern I noticed ALL top A list copywriters and sales people do is prepare: They first learn the market, the prospects, the products, BEFORE a single word of copy is written or a sales presentation uttered.

    Excellent contest and may the best man or woman win!

    Emette E. Massey

  • Mark M says:

    First step in the creative process. Most writers struggle with the what and how and call this a block. It is really, however, getting a handle on the WHY I’m writing. If the reason(s) is sufficiently compelling the words flow.

  • Janet A says:

    Writers Block is not starting with a question or asking an ineffective question(like “Why me?”). The mind responds to questions and will begin to respond with a variety of answers to be addressed.

  • marjorie says:

    Writer’s block is. . . .

    when the mind is still processing what you think you should be writing about at that moment. YOU have started the prcoess but the section where the information is stored and re-worked into an “organized thought” has not caught up with YOU.
    This causes other areas to jump in and over react, why because that section has been ideal and is free to control you waking thoughts and actions.

    So, Writer’s block is about realizing you are having a ‘zen” moment. You need to step back and aline your inner self to the task at hand.

  • Anderson says:

    Writer’s Block Is…

    When you get in your own way, and stop yourself from actually writing.

    It’s also a sign that says – you didn’t do your homework (gather information and research) about the audience, or plan out your story/salesletter, or generally have no idea what you’re doing.

  • W B says:

    Writers block is…
    Lack of a outline.

  • Eskay says:

    Writer’s block is a lazy ass way of saying I haven’t done any planning in regards to what I would like to write. In other words, neither my plan nor writer’s block exists.

  • Mindy says:

    An excuse of not being conscious. There is always something to write/say!

  • HAHA I’d like to join the tribe of smart asses. 😀

    Writer’s block is … doubt disguised as constipation of creativity.

    Thanks for the quiz.


  • Paul says:

    Writer’s block is. . . .

    a very thick sticky pad on my desk.

  • Dan says:

    There is no such thing as writer’s block. Specially if you have gone through the “Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel…”

  • Rebecca says:

    Writer’s block is just one of the building blocks in the process (along with thinking block, editing block, rewriting block).

  • Magda says:

    Writer’s block is … nonexistent

  • Rebecca says:

    Writer’s block is the what you climb on- the orange crate/soap box- to:
    1) diatribe on your opinion or
    2) jump off of (as in with a noose) when you can’t think of anything to write and when you finally do, no one wants to read it (or derides is so much you want to just kill yourself)

  • Sean says:

    …lack of research.

    “You don’t stand a tinker’s chances of producing successful advertising unless you start by doing your homework.” ~ David Ogilvy

  • Daryl says:

    Writer’s block is… inertia, a lazy writer’s excuse not to get started. Just start writing anything to get the juices flowing, or to get “warmed up.”

  • Lady J says:

    Writer’s block? What’s that?

  • Writer’s Block doesn’t exist in that it is an illusion, a perception, a judgment already made by the writer before words are even on paper or computer.

  • Don says:

    A lack of preparation.

  • Tammy says:

    does not exist!!!

  • Marvin says:

    Writers block is when you fail to sort out which information is critical to what you’re writing and which is plain guesswork. Things get mixed up, lines get blurred and before you know it, you’re stuck with an unhealthy mixture of pseudo-facts and bad salesmanship it would take nothing less than a full reboot to unscramble everything.

    Trick is, go over your information. Determine which ones are real facts and use only those. Send the rst to the competition. 🙂

  • Hans Klein says:

    Not doing your research. Not doing your research results in not knowing who you’re writing to, what you need to say to get the job done, what separates your offer from the rest, and you may be less likely to be excited about what you’re writing about.

    For instance, the Claude Hopkins story of him visiting the Schlitz Beer plant. I imagine when he saw all that they were doing, he saw the potential to use this to sell, and became passionate about the project. He knew EXACTLY where to start, everything he needed to say, his USP, etc…

  • Bill says:

    You can have a block when you believe you are the one doing the writing. When you forget to listen to your guide and let the words flow.

  • Kevin Barber says:

    Hey !!! Isn’t writers block is when they throw your own book at you…Well….Isn’t It..?!!

  • Chris says:

    For me…it’s boredom from a lack of being stimulated on a subject that leads to self procrastination, creating the illusion of writers block.

    – Bam!

  • Maris says:

    Writers block is a good story. The only problem is that a good story with no results do not equal results.

  • Writer’s Block is…..often a cause of information overload. The inability to think clearly.

    It’s the exact reason why you need to get yourself into a creative mindset – playing like a child is one of the best cure’s. It’s stops the mind from over thinking.

    There’s a difference between writers block and not wanting to work.. although sometimes there’s a fine line.

  • Writer’s block is your body’s way of telling you to stop and understand more about what you’re writing about or who you’re writing to.

  • jim says:

    Writer’s block is lack of research.

  • Kevin Barber says:

    Oh ! BY THE WAY…Love the picture at the top of the page…A grafic inturpretation of “Bullet Pionts”…At least he’s got six shots at it…..As the Sarge once said in Aliens II…Say Frosty..People…

  • Debbie Corr says:

    Writer’s block is B.S. It’s an excuse to avoid failure. Dig in, check references, research, etc. and start writing. Go back and edit, change, improve later, but get started. It’ll never happen if you don’t.

  • Writer’s block is also FEAR…

  • Writer’s block is the inability to put yourself in the mind of your target (because you’ve not done your research properly); you should be able to talk to him/her just like a friend across the bar-room table, knowing exactly what their problem is so that you can persuade them that you’ve the solution.

    • Joe C says:

      Writer’s block for a copywriter is about being a lazy-ass. Now for a novelist, they need to create from a different source. But for a copywriter, if they do what needs to be done as far as the proper preparation like creating an outline, researching everything to do with the prospect and product /service. If you do all that, there’s no need for exlax.

  • Dennis Frey says:

    Writer’s block is … ah, I think I got it …

  • Tyson says:

    Writer’s Block is simply the result of not having a clearly defined system.

  • shaun thresher says:

    is starting with a blank page. And not putting a cramp in your ideas with critical thinking.

  • Eric says:

    Writer’s Block is when you haven’t figure out what you want to say yet — usually because you haven’t done your due diligence on the topic at hand.

  • Charles Delta says:

    Writer’s block is…
    …not possible if you have done enough research about the product or service you are selling.

  • Fabio says:

    “… an indication you haven’t done enough research …it’s not time to write yet… do your detective work… movement kill’s writer’s block…”

  • Alper K. says:

    writers block is… ummm… oh… (lol..)

  • Writer’s block is a simple lack of confidence on the part of the author-it’s really nothing more than that.

    What do you think, John? I’ve never used that excuse, but some days I do feel like things aren’t “clicking” if you know what I mean.

    • John Carlton says:

      Hi Lawton.

      No, it’s more than that.

      I think everyone will benefit from the answer on Friday. It took me years to figure it out, and changed the way I write forever…

  • Paul says:

    I think it’s what this guy is sitting on – http://lu4.me/blk

  • Jim Cameron says:

    writer’s block is…
    a) a myth
    b) mental constipation
    c) all in your head
    d) self-indulgent B.S.
    e) a poor excuse for being lazy or inept
    f) indication of caffeine deficiency
    g) a cheap metahpor from a B-movie

  • Tom M says:

    I think an important thing is what writer’s block is.
    For solving question, it’s necessary.

  • Kathleen says:

    ….the FEAR of GETTING STARTED (or continuing…), for whatever reason. Just write something – anything – until the functions return. It has been a tip that has really helped me, even when it was “clearing my desk block”! You are great, John.

  • Alvin says:

    I agree with “128 Gary”. Writer’s block is NOT a myth. It’s real. But there are numerous ways to overcome it.

    If a pretty girl playfully hits a “macho man”, he will pretend that it doesn’t hurt, even if it does.

  • David Franklin says:

    Writer’s block is lack of movement.

  • Tony Ruffin says:

    Writer’s block is the result of perfectionism.

  • Peter says:

    Writer’s block is fear. I’m pretty sure I read that on one of JC’s sites somewhere.

    And the cure …. reckless abandon, kept in mild check only by the contemplation of possible lawsuits. Cheers.

  • David Franklin says:

    I know it is obvious, but just in case you are not paying attention… the cure for writers block, would be movement. Putting pen to paper. Sir Gary would have told you to just write blah blah blah if that’s what it takes to get moving.

  • Geoff Griffiths says:

    Writers block is . . . God’s way of telling you to consult John Carlton!

  • Writer’s block is … lack of oxygen to the brain — get up and move around …

  • Ayn Elise says:

    Writer’s block is a myth created by popular culture. It is also self-perpetuation of self-deception. When we don’t have a clue how to explain a ” thing”, humans tend to make something up to explain it. It is also a kind of philosphical logical- fallacy. ( Not that anyone meant to do that, it is merely the end result of not having done the homework/research and then feeling a state of perfromance-anxiety.) Denying reality and lying to ourselves. We tend to avoid the real work and stick to obsessing over the excuses. Again, I am kinda disorganized, still, so if the paraphrase is close enough to require quotation marks; I can’t find the orginal piece. Still ” burning reality ” into my brain and taking it from there forward.

  • patricia says:

    Hi John,
    You’ve done it again! Making us try to use our wits and brains! My take is that writer’s block isn’t a case of lack of research etc. It’s what happens when you start writing and second guessing the results so on the 80th rewrite your still not happy with the results. You can do all research have all the tools but, self-doubt is the killer. Hence no production! Therefore a blocked writer. I don’t think I’m the first and probably not the eleventh, but would love to know your answer when it’s posted.
    Thanks again John for a good exercise in thinking…on “paper”

  • Cynthia Martin says:

    Writer’s block is an emotion of fear in one’s mind that one’s present writing will not be PERFECT, and therefore, there is also a fear of rejection with that which seems to paralyze the writer.

    I approach writing as I did when I designed logos for customer’s new businesses. If I get stuck, I just use a Roget’s Thesaurus! I heard on the radio the other night that he may have actually had a form of mental illness. He may have managed it through his love of compiling lists!


  • Basilius says:

    Writer’s block is.. a sign that you should stop criticizing yourself (and/or your work) so scrutinously, and just let things flow..

  • Dave Sperry says:

    Writer’s Block…
    “Paralysis of the mind when your fingers should do the talking”

  • DaveC says:


  • Dawn says:

    Writer’s Block is absolute B.S.! ( belief system)

  • Lynn says:

    Writers Block is a function of the mind needing to balance itself. When you write your mind is very active. Your mind needs to determine the best content, how to arrange it to engage the reader, what are the most effective words to use, the story line, etc; It works hard to form your message in the best way possible. After all of this activity, your mind needs to rest. If you keep pushing it to think and it needs to rest, it shuts down. Every aspect of the world has the yin, rest and the yang, activity. Writers Block is simply your mind taking the rest it needs, when the operator, (you) is not smart enought to stop!

  • Joshua says:

    I see there’s already hundreds of comments, but I’ll take a stab anyway, without having read them all first. 😉

    Writer’s block is fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of revealing yourself, fear of looking like an idiot, fear of not comparing well to your favorite author …

    I have another thought about what it is as well, but due to the rules you gave, it’ll be in another comment.

  • Joshua says:

    My second guess is …

    Writer’s block is overwhelm. Looking at that blank page, there are so many ways it can go. How do you pick which path to go? Which POV to use? Overwhelm leads to standing still and doing nothing, which is what writer’s block looks like.

  • fedya says:

    Writer’s block is… a myth! It doesn’t exist!

  • Joshua says:

    Okay. While writing that last one, I had a third possibility jump into my head, which is …

    Writer’s block is opportunity.

    Writer’s block can be the result of many things; overwhelm, fear, writing yourself into a corner, having followed a specific path as far as you can … No matter what it is, when blocked, you now have the opportunity to go a different direction, to get new information, to start over, to take a step back and get a fresh look, to get creative, etc.

  • john says:

    That silent paralysis as doubt turns to fear.

  • ken c says:

    Writer’s block is nonexistent for people who work hard; it’s a bogus concept. never had it never will. what the heck is writer’s block? it means someone hasn’t done their research, or doesn’t have the skill or confidence to write. Writer’s block is an imaginary state of mind that untalented people use as an excuse for not working. the whole idea is foreign to me.

    If one does have a hesitancy to write, a good tip is to take a pad of paper to a coffee shop/restaurant and try writing phrases or bullets there, as a change of scenery often helps.


  • TheWordless says:

    Writer’s block is the result of unpreparedness.

    Lost count, I think it’s more than 11.

  • Nancy Boyd says:

    Writer’s block is a sign that you haven’t completed one of the previous steps in a 5-step creative process. Identify where you are in that process, and return to one of the previous steps. When you work your way through each step in order, you no longer feel stuck.

    Sometimes in a longer work (such as a novel, for instance,) you may have to repeat the 5 steps for each segment.

    But in general? If you’re feeling blocked, it’s just a sign that points to what you DO need to do, not the obstacle it appears to be.

    Others who have already posted similar thoughts are on track, IMHO — it’s an opportunity.

  • Thomas says:

    Not creating questions from your research to answer in your writing before you start writing causes brain constipation (writer’s block)

  • Szilvi says:

    Writers block is not having good enough swipe files at hand…

  • Szilvi says:

    Or… writers block comes when you haven’t done your homework: you have no idea what exactly you want to communicate and to whom you want to communicate it.

  • Thomas says:

    POBCAK…. heh,heh,heh.

    Problem Occurs Between Chair And Keyboard.
    I’m tired.

  • Alex says:

    Writers block is… … …

  • CL Webb says:

    Writer’s block is… not having your detective work done. If you’ve done the research you already know what you need to say.

  • Peter says:

    Writers block ………is procrastination
    That,s why I have waited so long to provide the answer. I have the fear of rejection, not being accepted and facing failure once again.

    Thanks John

  • Myra Mastos says:

    Writer’s block is mental constipation.

  • Greg says:

    Writer’s Block is … not knowing your client, her products and her needs as well as she does; usually due to a lack of *market research* and market immersion…
    And, sometimes due to the lack of wholehearted clarity of mind.

  • Manny Medina says:

    Writer,s block is your secret weapon.

  • Tony Policci says:

    Hey John, Tony Policci here. My judgment based on the answers/comments so far, is the majority of responders have only written ad/sales copy. I say this because of the oversimplified answers like “not doing you’re homework, or not hitting your swipe file.” Sure, if you’re simply trying to pump out some sizzling sales prose and find yourself stuck, than those surface “symptoms” seem sane as sound answers (like that alliteration?). Yet this does not explain away why some of greatest writers in history encountered what has been called “writer’s block.” I don’t know what causes it, or what it is – but I’m more inclined to believe it is emotional (shame, fear, depression) rather than simply a lack of due diligence… and John, I’ve always known you to be a no-nonsense kinda guy. I just disagree that it is always as simple as some of the answers above…can’t wait to see your answer. Last, in the spirit of levity, here are some “writer’s streets”, which may very well, form literal “writer’s block’s” 😉
    Writers Way, Morrisville, Wake, NC 27560
    Writers Ln, Pictou, Subd. C, NS, Canada
    Writers Ct, Dunbar, East Lothian EH42 1EZ, UK
    Writers Way, Colorado Springs, El Paso, CO 80903
    Writers Close, Hindhead, Surrey GU26 6UQ, UK

  • Manny Medina says:

    Writer’s block is Analysis Paralysis

  • Manny Medina says:

    Writer’s block is something I experience frequently.

  • Mark Dresner says:

    One more try …
    Writer’s block is an imped­i­ment between your brain and your hand.

    (another Habert-ism)


  • Mark says:

    writers block is what happens when you don’t do any warming up

  • Judith says:

    Writer’s Block:

    Realizing you have nothing interesting to say and believing it.

  • Holy crown jewels,
    got sucked in again by those brain squeezed comments.

    Writers block is a serious problem for those that suffer from it.

    IMHO it occurs mostly when your (for most people) better trained left side of the brain is overactive. Then you are lost in the details, in logic and numbers but lack the right brain activities, such as creativity, pictures, overview, the gestalt, the goal of what you want to achieve with the writing and so on.

    It can be easily overcome if you learn one or several techniques that make use of other brain parts.

    BTW, it seems like emotions are located in the lower (older) brain parts, like the amygdala. If triggered they make it harder or impossible to use the intelligent brain (cerebrum, cerebral cortex). Another form of writers block, triggered by fear (of rejection, mediocrity, criticism, success…).

    By definition writers block is a block that prevents one from writing. So whenever you face it just write something like: “I love a lazy sunny day at the lake, because…”. Google freenoting.

    Get lots done

    PS: Thanks, learned something from my own writing. Good sign? Bad sign?

  • billy t says:

    it’s like after a night of hardcore drinking… you wake up the next morning…. dull, dense, dim witted, dumb… brain cells burnt out… don’t know what to do next.

    it’s like starting a car at 5 in the morning in zero degree weather. your cold. Ned to warm up.

  • Dave McLeod says:

    Writer’s block is a failure to write because one is concerned about being clever or witty or impressive when one should really be concerned about being honest and to the point. It occurs because we think readers care about how we write, rather than what we write about. It is symptomatic of not answering the question “who cares” before taking pen in hand.

  • Abe says:

    writer’s block is…. NORMAL!

  • Clare says:

    Writers block happens when that nasty negative little voice inside your head hijacks your focus & discipline deserts you.

  • Katzanne says:

    Writer’s block is… You – not writing. If you’re driving down the road and something is blocking your path, what do you do? Drive around it. You get off course for a little while but you’re still driving. Eventually you get around the obstacle and your car is pointing in the right direction again. Likewise, if the words aren’t coming for a particular topic, write anyway – about anything. Let your fingers take a detour. As words (random if necessary) come out of your head onto the page, you’ll eventually work around the blockage and be back on track.

  • Writers block is writers anxiety.

  • Val says:

    Writer’s block is anxiety/insecurity about what to write and fear of failure – or to say it on the flip side- worrying about being perfect. Will it be good enough? Will I be “found out”? Will people like it/accept what I’m putting out there? This creates a state of stress which interferes with the writing process. I mean, writing puts you out there, warts and all. No hiding once you hit “submit”.

  • Eric Ruth says:

    Tremendous participation – a testament to your ability to captivate and engage. Thanks for all you do.

    My answer: Writer’s block is procrastination. It’s an excuse for not doing the work.

  • Eric says:

    Writers block is that exquisite moment in time when you are waiting for your brain to jump to the relevant section of your neo-cortex and access the words of genius that lie waiting there so you can begin the process of creating a blank piece of paper into a work of art. So enjoy the moment of creation!

  • Gary says:

    Writer’s block is your inability to lower yourself to smoke a “fatty” with the dude that runs the big company you’re going to write the sales letter for because you think you can write it without getting in where he is at. And all he asked you for is some papers.
    Are you that f-ing smart or better yet dumb?
    Rocket science is so easy compared to this……just ask the scientist….get it?

  • John Carlton says:

    Funny, Manny.

    Though, really, you should edit six-word posts before hitting “submit”…

  • Alfred Rodriguez says:

    Writer’s block is ” The lack of creativity in the brain to focus on the natural inclinations in regards to the script.”

  • Chad Wilgus says:

    Writer’s block is… no longer trusting your instincts.

  • HA!
    You said, “You’re too nice to be a smart ass, Ronda. Nice imagery, too, there…”
    Well…thanks for the imagery. But me – too nice to be a smartass? hmmm, ask some of my colleagues! LOL.


  • Narelle says:

    Writer’s block is lack of knowledge

  • Jim Richard says:

    Writer’s block is like a Dam on the flowing river of creative and intelligent thought. Tremendous pressure builds behind it until we finally open the gates and release the power it has been holding back. The very power that was created by the writer’s block.

  • tommyw says:

    Writer’s Block – also called I.D. (idea dysfunction)
    …for ideas lasting longer than 4 hours, please consult a physician……

  • Read extensively about the subject, take copious notes for referral and you will have so much information the Writer’s Block will become, … “Where do I start?”

  • tommyw says:

    Writer’s Block is just south of Artist’s Block. Once you are past Writer’s Block you will feel less pressure to be “creative” or “original”. You enter a park where free flowing words appear like birds in the sky…….and you begin writing them down without thinking…….soon there are so many you feel that you must return to your room and find th story within.

  • steve says:

    To much viagra, blood flowing to the wrong organ.

    But I would guess writers block would be the fundemental lack of preparation.

  • Joshua says:

    Time for a fourth guess, I see. Writer’s block is distraction and incubation. One of the stages of creativity is incubation, when you’re letting all the research you’ve done, all the preparation ferment and age into a fine wine. Then, once you’re nice and drunk on your own thoughts, you can start writing and be in the flow, where the words just come out on their own.

    During the incubation period, we tend to engage in distracting activities; if we don’t, we’re still thinking about the task consciously, which defeats the purpose of letting it incubate. Doing distracting things lets the task be worked on unconsciously, all the connections forming so that when we return to the task, we have the whole in front of us instead of just the various parts.

    While we’re writing, we need to be focused on the task, yet while experiencing writer’s block, our focus is anywhere but writing. When the incubation period is done, we’re able to focus with laser precision on the writing and ignore all those distractions that were “preventing” us from writing before.

  • Scott says:

    writers block is what a writer throws across the office when they get frustrated with their inability to “just put f—–g words on the f—–g page, god damn it!”


  • chi says:

    writers block is why you have done this

    Get well soon

  • Matt Bisogno says:

    …a small community of scribes, based in a quadrangle bordered on all sides by roads…

  • Carolyn says:

    Writer’s block is not knowing what step to take next, which, as you have just been telling us John, is the reason for the launch of your most recent Simple Writing System… to tell us step by step how to get a killer sales letter written and never have to worry about writer’s block again.

    • David Franklin says:

      Good one Carolyn. I have a good friend who is a contractor and a damn fine one. Roger would tell you that you cannot build a house from the roof down.

  • David Franklin says:

    Gary Halbert did say ” I never have writer’s block and I can teach all of you how to never have writer’s block. Never. I can do it in 30 seconds. Do you believe that? Here’s what you do. You write something that you know to write. I want to tell you about a new blender that… And you’re stuck right there.
    What you do is you write “blah.” “Blah, blah, blah.” And you never stop writing “blah” until it occurs to you that I — I want to tell you about a blender that, uh, blends not only vegetables and fruits but also walnuts and casserole and blah, blah, blah. And you keep writing — the thing is what stops writer’s block is movement. You just keep writing “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” and that writer’s block will go away every single time. The movement of your hand across that piece of paper or the typewriter keyboard will “blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
    It was an interview with Michel Fortin
    I agree , blah blah blah won’t get it done but I think Gary’s point may have been to start writing, to get into action. It’s like writing forty headlines, you end up using a whole bunch of them as bullet points. Or just start writing bullet points if your stuck and you may just stumble upon the perfect headline. however, “lack of movement” is not the answer so…
    how about insufficient preparation? Your brain telling you that there is still detective work to be done.

    • John Carlton says:

      Thanks, David!

      Michel interviewed both Gary and me, back to back, a couple of years ago. The interviews are still up on Michel’s blog, last I checked. Free. I think Peter Stone (a good writer) set it up.

      Somewhere in this thread, I tell a story on Gary about the “blah blah blah” advice. Maybe I’ll expand on it in the answer on Friday.

      For now… despite Gary’s raging genius… I must urge people not to believe this advice of his will magically change anything. And yet, he’s still “right”, in a very deep psychological way. I’ll explain later…

      God, I miss that lunatic…

  • Rod M says:

    I think writer’s block occurs when you are not clear in your thinking about who your target market is. I suppose more specifically who the buyers in your market are.

  • Thomas says:

    Writer’s block hits when you do not crawl into the skin of the prospect and see things through their eyes.

  • Kent says:

    Writer’s block is when your brain “locks up” and you just can’t get anything down in writing.
    Nothing flows, frustration replaces creativity, and you’re just not in the “zone.”

  • Chris says:

    Interesting answers, better comments…
    Writers block is a lack of passion.
    Passion for yourself and your beloved, for the work, for life, for the product and the research for it, for nature.
    If you have that passion, you trust yourself and nothing is holding you back.
    (Hope my English is understandable since my mother tongue is Swiss-german)
    Thanks for your inspiration!

  • Writer’s block is ……. fiction.

    Top writers never wait for “inspiration” to arrive, and they never fear “writer’s block”. Both terms are fiction for professionals… excuses that non-writers use to explain their failure. When you set aside a certain time to write, your brain will get the message soon enough… and you will sit down and start writing.

    I wish I could say that the above paragraph was my own wording, but I pinched it from one of your earlier blog posts 😉


  • trease says:

    Writer’s block is… two words. It is also when your brain freezes, like when you ate too much ice cream too quickly. It is also a state of mind.

    Writer’s block is when the conscious mind gets in the way of the subconscious, refusing access to the kingdom, if you will. It is also when the writer gives up writing, at least until we get past the writer’s block.

    Writer’s block is the gatekeeper who bars the way to the word flow.

    That’s all I can think up… oh wait, one more. Writer’s block is procrastination. It’s also frustrating as all get out.

    Writer’s block is also different things to different people.

    Okay, my brain just froze…

  • Earnst says:

    I need a vacation or a cyanide tablet.
    I was born with terminal brain block.
    Maybe Jiffy Lube can use a pit man.
    I don’t have the mind for this stuff.

  • Paul Campbell says:

    Ok John,

    Here goes:

    “Writer’s block is…an illusion, there is no such thing, it doesn’t exist!



  • Kevin Ervin II says:

    Writer’s block is an insecurity. It’s fear manifested from the belief (momentary) that the writer cannot connect with the reader.

    Writer’s block is avoided when you know exactly who the reader is.

    If you can accurately describe the reader. You should be able to ascertain what “hot buttons” to push to get your result.

    It’s easy to motivate someone, once you already know what motivates them (fears, passions, etc)

    Writer’s block doesn’t exist for those who know what to say.


  • Kris Obertas says:

    is…an excuse for not taking action.

    If I’m repeating somebody, I didn’t read all the comments (hundreds).

  • Karen Miller says:

    Writers Block is…lack of knowledge

    Grab your paper…Grab your pen…BEGIN!
    Sputtering within, wait a minute…
    where do I begin; how do I begin.

    Not a block, I’m thinking perhaps
    lack of knowledge on topic or…
    how to begin.

    Lean on your layout, notes n outlines
    follow the bullets and begin
    not aware of when the block ends.

  • Deb Gallardo says:

    Unlike the many writers with blocks of ice where their hearts should be, I KNOW writer’s block exists.

    That said, I also know that writer’s block is … preventable.

    One method of prevention, attested to by writers who work against frequent deadlines and thus cannot afford writer’s block, is to consistently “apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair,” as recommended by Ernest Hemingway. Just showing up, however, isn’t enough. Whether it’s doing your research for getting inside the reader’s mind, in the case of non-fiction writing, or having at the very least a bare-bones idea of where a work of fiction is ultimately headed, every writer has to do some preparation.

    Sidebar: Those of you who arrogantly referred to yourselves as “professional” writers or “real” writers, please note my punctuation for this term. An apostrophe is a little thing, but its application makes a difference.

    “Writer’s block” and “Writers’ block” have similar, but subtly different, meanings. They indicate a condition that belongs to, in the case of the former, a single writer, and in the case of the latter, to multiple writers. It is also the correct punctuation for referring to an area in a town or city where writers live. So we need that little apostrophe.

    “Writers block,” by contrast, which most people used on this page with no apostrophe, is a complete sentence. “Writers” is the subject and “block” is the verb, as in ‘Many writers block out bad memories when they create, instead of drawing upon them.’

    End of English lesson. The class may now awaken from its slumbers to read on…

  • Frans says:

    Writers Block is… bad writers luck. Have a holyday!

  • Kris Obertas says:

    OK, got sucked in for 20 or so comments. Reading all that is like programming yourself to GET writer’s block! But it hasn’t been an issue for me for a while. I just sit down and start. Maybe it’s crap at first. Not always now. But eventually the good stuff flows and all the practice and studying good writing (thanks John) pays off. And there’s always multiple editing passes to slash, trim, and put the shine on.

    Here’s another thought…WB is Fear. Fear of not being good enough a writer to even step on the mat. When you beat yourself and concede defeat without even taking the first action to get started.

  • Gerardine says:

    Writer’ block is…a brain fart caused by fear, illness, and depression, unable to stand up to grandiose illusions. Depression can swing both ways, so can the next two. Anytime I want to step outside my safety zone some ‘nay-sayer’ will be telling me I can’t! …!

    Alright I just ran myself in a circle. I may need to be punished…by not being able to write:-)

  • Leon says:

    You’ve got to let me have some sleep!!
    “Writer’s block is… eliminated by bullet points”

  • trease says:

    Writer’s block is a mindset. It can also be a filter… often an unwanted one.

    It’s also a disconnect from the mind with the pen in hand. It quenches the pen that was on fire and time stands still… writing-wise.

    It’s annoying too. Lastly, writer’s blocks stinks while it’s going on, but useful ideas and other stuff can result from it.

    It’s a lot of different things to a lot of people. Man this is hard.

  • Gregory Knopp says:

    Writers block is procrastination

  • Twitter says:

    Writer’s block is … Analysis Paralysis.
    Here’s 4 Tips to Beat It: bit.ly/1EHyVf

  • Akihiro says:

    Barries which existed mostly in Writer’s own mind

  • Mike Singer says:

    I just came across a great quote from the novelist Lawrence Block: “I haven’t had the classic case of writer’s block where you have a long period of time where you just can’t write anything at all. There are times, certainly, when I just don’t write. I’m never quite certain whether it’s appropriate to call that ‘writer’s block’ or not. It has been pointed out that when a plumber doesn’t feel like working, he doesn’t get to call it ‘plumber’s block,’ after all.”

    Very true. Labeling things gives them power. Simply calling a vague feeling of stuckness “Writer’s Block” hypnotizes you into believing that something is happening “to” you that you have no control over. It’s like waking hyposis: if you really believe the thought “my hands are stuck together like glue” you cannot separate them. Same thing with Writer’s Block. Not the answer to the quiz, I know, but I do think this self-hypnosis by labeling a feeling makes matters much worse.

    • Joshua says:

      You make a good point, Mike. When experiencing “Writer’s Block,” we are focusing on the act of not writing and start expecting to not write. Which makes us … not write.

      Which is a form of (negative) self-hypnosis. 😉

    • John Carlton says:

      I have read a lot of Lawrence Block’s stuff. He’s a prolific writer. I’m sure he’s a good guy, too.

      And, he has his head up his ass on this one.

      Fiction writers are different in substantial ways than advertising writers. But not as much as outsiders might think.

      I’ve straddled the two worlds. Most fiction writers operate under amazingly restrictive superstitions and belief systems. It’s like a virus among them.

      Again — this will all become clearer on Friday when I post the answer.

  • Cristy says:

    Writer’s block is the opportunity to learn something new.

  • Nathan says:

    Writers block is being unprepared.

  • Thomas says:

    Writer’s block is…. a lack of self discipline

  • Chris says:

    Writers block is bad timing – you’re sitting down at the wrong time

  • Chris says:

    writers block is a bad habit: you don’t trust your intuition (which is based on knowledge and passion about the product and the writing and experience), you only trust your criticism which can be destructive.

  • Chris says:

    writers block is preferring to be a victim instead of being a proud enterpreneur

  • Twitter says:

    Writer’s block is … the fear of writing something, anything that isn’t perfect the first time.

    Good research, preparation and just writing everyday prevents it from occuring. Getting into a rhythm of writing daily. And keeping a good swipe file to access. When you write something that is winner, you can use it again and again.

    When doing your research employ Rudyard Kipling’s simple ‘Six Honest Servants’ … What and Why and When and How and Where and Who and you’ll be on your way with prevention for the ‘Ole Writer’s Block.

    ~ Twitter

  • Alecs says:

    The publicity block of author is started in the test mode.

  • Peter B says:

    I’ve heard you say that writers block is a myth, because there’s always something to be said. I guess you’re right and it’d be useful to be believe that it’s just a myth – coz a myth doesn’t exist, right?

    But it’s only a myth once you’ve allowed yourself to believe that fact.

    It’s probably more accurate to say that it’s simply a state of mind.

    Research and knowledge of the subject are of course important. Armed with the two you can be more confident of putting pen to paper. But getting your brain in gear, being in the right mental space are much more important than sheer knowledge.

    Personally, writer’s block occurs to me when I over think the reaction of the reader. I sometimes allow myself to get wound up and debilitated by what ‘might’ be said about what I write.

    The solution I have is to say to myself, “Sod it! This is how I reckon it’s best to communicate this message and I’m going ahead with it.”

    The lack of inner confidence that comes with the right state of mind – that’s my writer’s block.

  • Rob says:

    A total lack of comfort with the subject matter resulting in an inability to apply simple storytelling secrets.

  • Akihiro says:

    Writers block is “BURN-OUT”

  • Barnabas Ng says:

    Writers block is not knowing your target audience well enough…

  • Carroll says:

    Writer’s block is a head bashing, throat chokin, drag-em-out, keyboard brawl between the writer and editor within.

    (Thanks for the contest and the fun repartee John.)

  • Brandon Zundel says:

    Another thought…

    Writer’s block is a lack of a clear-cut SYSTEM to follow. Kinda like a direct response task list.

    Writing any direct response piece is a process consisting of many things… and if you don’t know where to START, then it becomes difficult to begin.

  • Peter says:

    Writers block is being in the wrong place

  • Jack says:

    Writers block is determining which sensory experience experience to deploy.

  • Abe says:

    writers block is when you puff 10 pounds of the magic dragon.

    know what i mean?

  • fee-bee says:

    writers block is blocks of words,sentences, sub headlines, etc.

  • Dave says:

    Writers block is a lack of focus, a lack of direction in writing…which is why your 17 steps work, because they create focus and direction of thought which can then be easily translated onto paper.
    Whenever I’ve had problems writing in the past it was not because I didn’t have ideas, it was because I was confused about how to express those ideas on paper, on where to start, what to include, etc, etc.
    Of course I’ve only watched disc one so far of your system (just got it a few days ago)…but I’ve been studying my thoughts in regards to writing, and why I can come up with brilliant ads in my mind but then when I go to write them down, I’m stuck for what to write…just a simple lack of focus. The reason they work so well in my mind is because I’m blocking everything else out and just focusing straight ahead on the idea itself, like what great copywriters do, they simply write down what’s coming to mind and when there is a dead spot they simply write gobbly gook and keep going, then edit out the gook later.

    Survey Says…lack of focus.


  • Rog says:

    when you’ve lost your swipe file.

  • Melissa says:

    Writers block is when you have lost the plot

  • Luc Brown says:

    Writer’s block is…
    …the street John Carlton lives on.

  • Befuddled says:

    Friday is here…where’s the answer?

  • Writer’s Block is …

    A writer who has no system to follow.

    Systematic writers never have blocks – only the next piece to fill in.

  • Jack says:

    Writers block is not knowing what is important to your reader

  • Melissa says:

    Writers block is not knowing the truth

  • Kyle says:

    John – I’m coming in with another guess late in the game.

    Writers block is a myth… but… not in your eyes. In your eyes, it’s something. It’s something that would help you sell your Simple Writing System. So, with that preface, here’s my answer:

    Writers block is not knowing what to do next.

    It’s being a “raw rookie” without a system/checklist, unsure of what comes next, what the next step is, what to do after XYZ.

  • Venus Brown says:

    Writer’s block is not having anything to say.

  • Pepere says:

    writers block is when you come up with a scam product that doesn’t work in your quest to scam people.

    But, because its a scam, its nearly impossible to write because everything you say is bull.

    No facts to go on?

    Hey Vinnie P – are you reading this?

  • Lenny says:

    The big whoosh! you hear…is people leaving…

    …never to return.

    Is this a scam???

  • Thomas says:

    Don’t you gripers ever read the PPS?

    You are supposed to have fun here. John owes you squat. Rather say thanks for all the info you get here for free……. You might get busy making some money instead of pi**ing into the wind.

    (Can I say pi**ing here?)

  • David Cox says:

    To me knowing the who you are talking to and what message you are trying to convey are just the foundations. You cannot be blocked if you know those basic facts.

    Where you can, and do get blocked, is in the inspiration. 10,000, or more, “writers” could sit down with a sheet of paper and not come up with two words “They laughed …”. Millions could resist giving any indication the clock was noisy, but only a rare genius come up with “at 60 m.p.h the loudest ….”. Most often you do not even know you were blocked until you meet someone who is not and see them slice through the same wordpile.

  • Thomas says:

    Congrats to Henry and Stephan.
    Well done guys.

    See gripers……? The real reward is in the learning more and honing that which you do know.
    If you just hang around long enough you may learn something and maybe some finer points as well…….
    Now go and have your diaper changed and pick your toys up.

  • Thomas says:

    BTW.. thanks, John. This quiz shook the cobwebs out. Back to basics is always good.

  • Karen says:

    Writer’s Block: Usually associated, with one who’s writing for a living and cannot think of new work, to write…
    Or not…lol that’s my answer, though

  • Alan says:

    Writer’s Block is a birthed from a failure to adequately feed the mind and allow it time to incubate prior to putting pen to paper.

  • Lars Wenås says:

    It doesn’t exist it is a fiction, it`s a joke and in the end it is a myth!

  • Dom says:

    Writers block: a cube shaped wooden block with holes where in a writer places his pencils

  • Fazila Patel says:

    Lack of initiative, inspiration & focus

  • Johnjohn says:

    Writer’s Block happens when that big blob of your subconscious mind starts pushing out all those feelings and worries we all have about our INADEQUACIES, SHORTCOMINGS, AND FAILURES.

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