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What Causes Writer's Block?

Writer’s block is not the same for everyone. People experience writer’s block at varying degrees of intensity and for different reasons.

Research has found that there are several underlying factors that influence writer’s block in students (Huston, 1998; Boice, 1993; The University of Melbourne, n.d.).

The factors are:


  • Personal health
  • Physical surroundings


  • Competing with others
  • Fearing criticism from others
  • Feelings of disconnect from the academic community


  • Anxiety
  • Low confidence
  • Low motivation
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination

Skill development

  • Inexperience with the writing process
  • Issues with time management
  • Limited knowledge of the academic discipline

(The University of Melbourne, n.d.)

Additionally, writing expert, Mike Rose wrote a book entitled, Writer’s Block: The Cognitive Dimension (2006), where he discusses his classifications for the causes of writer’s block. Rose differentiated writer’s block into two types: one related to motivation and distraction and one caused by writing anxiety.

For writer’s block caused by a lack of motivation, limited inspiration or internal or external distractions, you may have difficulties in sharing your ideas, lacking direction in your arguments, or doubting your work. Anxiety around writing is the second form, where these anxieties may include feeling as if your work is not good enough, believing the work does not sound technical, thinking your work lacks originality or fearing failure (University of Illinois Springfield, n.d., citing Rose, 2006).