Writer’s Block – When Your Imaginary Friends
Won’t Talk To You

Do I get writer’s block?

You’ve probably seen some form of this title floating around Facebook and Twitter—author, anonymous. I sometimes wonder—to myself more than to anyone else because writers generally only have themselves to talk to—do I get writer’s block? My answer is no, by the definition above that is, at least not when it comes to my craft of fiction writing. My imaginary friends are always talking to me.

You might think I shouldn’t be admitting that I have imaginary friends. I thought about that for a time and then sat down and shared my concern with my imaginary friends over a glass, or two, of wine. The next thing I knew they’d drank my wine and plopped me in front of my computer. “Go for it!”

Without imaginary friends, I’d get nothing done

If my wife hands me a birthday card for one of the kids or grand-kids and says, “write something,” then yes, I get writer’s block. When my boss says, “I need a couple thousand words on the Dung Beetle to handout at the meeting next week. Give me a draft before you go home today. Write something and knock my socks off.” That’s when I get serious writer’s block. My imaginary friends are suddenly absent, busy doing their hair or plucking their eyebrows.

Being stymied is not the same as writer’s block

When it comes to the craft of fiction writing, however, whether short story or novel-length, I have no problem. That’s not to say I don’t get stymied now and then with whatever I’m working on. When I open to my novel-in-progress, I always make progress. Granted, it might not be in adding word count. If I’m stymied on where the story is going or the characters are taking on a mind of their own and ignoring my vision, or I’ve written my protagonist into a corner and can’t figure out how she’s going to get herself out, I might drop back a chapter or two and spend some time reading and editing. This could go on for a couple of hours, a couple of days or even a couple of weeks. I still consider it progress; I’m advancing toward the completion of my story.

Even writing this blog is progress in my craft

Anything I do in my craft I consider forward progress, including writing this blog. Like the majority of novelists, I am not a professional. That is I don’t make a living at it. I barely make cappuccino money. As a result there is no more pressure than what I place on myself, as long as my day job can keep me in cappuccinos. I sometimes consider what would happen if I were to wind up with a deadline from say one of those illusive publishers. Would that raise the wall, shut down the computer, snap the pencils, squash the creativity, send the muse and my imaginary friends away? If I should become the success all novelists wish for, should I be worried about the resulting pressure to produce? Should I be worried about the writer’s block? Should I tell the publisher I had a lot of help from my imaginary friends so that proper credit can be assigned?

Should I be weary of what I wish for?

All that worry is for another time. Meanwhile I need to get onto the Dung Beetle. I’ll drag my imaginary friend out of the bathroom, only half of her eyebrows plucked, and together we’ll make something up. My boss didn’t say it couldn’t have a protagonist and villain, a battle between the roller dung beetle and the dweller dung beetle in a mysterious pile of elephant dung on a hot, dusty day in southern Arizona, a deadly poison, a broken fly swatter, and a dark place beneath a rock.

I love my imaginary friends.

I sure hope they continue to love me.


James Paddock’s imaginary friends have assisted him through 13 novels, including a Time-Travel Duo, and a Sabre-Toothed Cat Trilogy. They can all be found in ebook or paperback at desertbookshelf.com.


  1. I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes my imaginary friends stop time for me. I don’t know when or where they may arise, but they do. Deadlines bring them out in droves. Very enjoyable piece. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Glad that you enjoyed the post, Emily. You’re quite right. Progress is not always about the word count. It’s about the developing relationships of your characters and/or the progression of the plot and the conflicts. When beginning a new novel I’ll usually turn off the word count readout in my Word program. Once I get to the middle, I’ll start peeking. I won’t like what I see and then will chide myself for putting importance into it. “Just write the story,” my imaginary friend will say. “It’ll be what it’ll be.”

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