A Curious Case of Writer’s Block

Irvin D. Yalom in the New York Times:

Writers-blockDr. Yalom, I would like a consultation. I’ve read your novel “When Nietzsche Wept,” and wonder if you’d be willing to see a fellow writer with a writing block.

No doubt Paul sought to pique my interest with his email. And he succeeded: I’d never turn away a fellow writer. As for the writing block, I felt blessed by not having been visited by one of those creatures and I was keen to help him tackle it.

Ten days later Paul arrived for his appointment. I was startled by his appearance. For some reason I had expected a frisky, tormented, middle-aged writer, yet entering my office was a wizened old man, so stooped over that he appeared to be scrutinizing the floor. Almost able to hear his joints creaking, I took his heavy battered briefcase, held his arm and guided him to his chair.

“All I know about you comes from your short email,” I said. “You wrote that you were a fellow writer, you’ve read my Nietzsche novel, and you have a writing block.”

“Yes,” he said. “And I’m requesting a single consultation. That’s all. I’m on a fixed income and can’t afford more.”

“I’ll do what I can,” I said. “Tell me what I should know about the block.”

“I have to go back to my grad school days,” he began. “I was in philosophy at Princeton writing my doctorate on the incompatibility between Nietzsche’s ideas on determinism and his espousal of self-transformation. But I couldn’t finish. I kept getting distracted by such things as Nietzsche’s extraordinary correspondence, especially by his letters to his friends and fellow writers like Strindberg.”

More here. [Thanks to Laura Claridge.]