So let us present an unintuitive proposition: A writer is not a person who writes, but a person whose process of self-development depends on writing. The horrors incurred by not being able to write are then not just horrors of not completing a task at hand. It is not about one’s work, it is about self that without the necessary process – writing - cannot evolve with experience. Not writing then is not akin to failure at work, but failure at being oneself. This is why not being able to write can feel like slow death; why a suggestion of giving up writing altogether is chilling. It is as if someone suggests you jump through an ice-hole in a frozen lake, let yourself be trapped under the surface, looking out to the blue sky through a foot of ice, slowly numbed until there is nothing else. Perhaps.
The implied difference between writerly and other professions need not exist. For those whose continued, evolving selfhood genuinely depends on their work (be it teaching, gardening, or lawyering), the process of not doing it would incur as much suffering as writers seem to experience during their ‘blocks’. And to the skeptic’s voice, accusing me of freely granting hard-earned ‘writer’ status to thousands of suffering souls hovering over their computers not writing a single word, I can only respond: “What is it to you?”