When it strikes it is mind numbing. My heart pounds with anxiety, I become fidgety and I prowl my space looking for something to distract me from my gloomy guilt. Suddenly things I loathe doing the most such as filing papers, bathroom cleaning or scrubbing the broiler pan become top priority. Graphophobia wields a power that requires an iron will to overcome … for me, anyway. If you are a writer and you have never experienced this dreadful affliction then I wish I were you, sometimes.

I know there are writers, best-selling authors, who swear they do not believe in writer’s block. That is wonderful and I envy them and maybe that is the key to the secret. A concept can’t exist for you if you don’t believe it exists. “What the heck?” you say. And how about prolific writers who say, “Phooey” or the more common, “Just write for crying out loud”?

Well, it happens to me and darned if it doesn’t feel as real as a California earth quake. I sit, I stare, and my mind wanders off to somewhere or something that has nothing to do with the subject at hand. My usually fanciful way of thinking, the very one I use to get through everyday life, the same one I use to pretend it doesn’t matter if I don’t do the grocery shopping or pay the bills, that imagination hangs an out-of-order sign. Sorry. Come back later. Often times that is exactly what I have to do. I have come to know that it is what I do in the meantime that makes the difference. It is not scrubbing the broiler pan. Nope. It is one of two things.

Reading the prose of an author I admire is always an inspiration to me. While I read a quality of writing that gets the juices flowing I often find myself needing to grab a pencil and jot down words or short bursts of thought that sneak into my mind: Words and pictures that have nothing to do with the story at hand, but ones that very often develop into a new place to go with my own writing.

The second most inspiring act for me is, to get outdoors. Nature has inspired my life since I can remember. Nature rules my spirit and has since childhood. I have fond decades-old memories of lying in the green grass on a hillside and staring up into the sky to watch the clouds scuttle by and just wonder. I still do it during the green of spring-times. I do a more adult version of digging in the dirt, looking for rocks and artifacts. I examine leaves and bugs and birds. I gulp the aroma of leaf mulch beneath the oak trees and I taste the muddy smell of the creek bottom on my tongue. I feel the warm and cool wafts of air touch my face when I walk in the evenings. I have seen thousands of deer and rabbits and my heart still kicks in a double beat at the sight of them.  I can say to you, right here, right now, that simply telling about this inspires me to keep writing.

Graphophobia = the fear of writing.

I happen to believe that fear is the cause of the slumps and stumbles and stalls of my writing. “Writer’s block,” be it real or not, seems like such a worn out phrase. I – personally – and I won’t speak for anyone else here, greatly fear failure. I always have and, by this time in life, conclude I most likely always will.  The negative voice, the one my positive side wants to smother with a pillow, still niggles away at me and my imagination.

Who do I think I am? Me, write a book? Don’t be silly.

Me, a poet? Me? Don’t be ridiculous.

Another book? And another? No way.

The problem isn’t about writing. The issue is about fear of failure. I could go into a long story about some things I lacked in my childhood (boosting confidence and esteem) and bore you until your eyes rolled back in your head.  Don’t worry, I won’t, but could you hand me that pillow.


  1. Janice, you just grab me with your words. I can’t stop reading. So looking forward to your first edition, brand new spanking book…..You just amaze me, I had no idea of the talent for words, and what was swimming around in your pretty blonde head…I am so proud, so looking forward to mseeing your book in a book store display with BY, JANICE GILBERTSON…., makes me tear up….love you honey…<3

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