Monday, August 17, 2015

In Which PMS is Like Writer's Block

I feel like there is not a non-awkward way to start this post, so let’s get straight to the point: PMS is like writer’s block.

I have an argument behind that sentence, but first allow me to define both terms.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)—the typically crappy symptoms affecting your emotions and body before your period (source).

Writer’s block—the typically crappy symptoms that occur during a creative slowdown (source).

There are plenty of comparisons between the two. Nobody likes either one. You’re off your groove. Can’t concentrate. Headache. Can’t sleep. Your brain or your bottom gets constipated. There’s cramping. And, most of all, many people argue that PMS and writer’s block don’t exist.

I’d say they’re not totally wrong. In the PMS circle, at least 18 studies have found there is no link between negative emotions and the premenstrual phase; you basically can’t blame mood swings on your period anymore (source). I don’t think anyone has done super-scientific studies on writer’s block, but it’s discounted as an excuse, a form of anxiety, and “feelings” (source, source, source).

Still… There wouldn’t be a Mayo Clinic page if there wasn’t some substance to the PMS “myth.” Likewise, people wouldn’t discuss the writer’s block “myth” if it wasn’t a widespread experience.

Do they exist? Do they not? Can we tell?

Maybe. On the one hand, PMS and writer’s block are a mindset. We’re raised thinking women are weirdly emotional because of their periods, and men and women alike use PMS as a reason to reduce female emotions to something beyond our control or understanding (source). Likewise, we stereotype writers all the livelong day—we expect to have trouble writing, and trap ourselves with “uncurable” creative slowdowns.

PMS and writer’s block also have tangible consequences. PMS causes acne and cramps and sore boobs, physical symptoms, all the result of our biological autopilot. Writer’s block reveals itself through the fact that you aren’t writing. I won’t do anyone the disservice of suggesting writer’s block is innate and out of our control, but writers have bemoaned writer’s block for centuries. Sometimes, that’s life.

Much hard. So yuck. Wow. In the midst of arguing over the existence of these things, I wonder if the only thing we accomplish is demonizing them.

Gillian Einstein dislikes PMS because it associates female reproduction with negative emotions—and we can do better than that. Yes, your period has its downfalls, but read from Nayyirah Waheed in her poem “the lie.” (via Goodreads)

“i bleed every month. but do not die. how am i not magic.”

Dude. Magic. Did you hear that? Magic. We lie to ourselves and act like it’s the least magical thing in existence—when in reality that process is our magic.

There’s a menstruation process. There’s a writing process. Maybe the blood and words and pain and blank pages will drive you nuts at the time. But these aren’t diseases, tough times to “get through.” They’re part of the process.

And what do we do during this part of the process? Journal. Cry. Wander. Nap. Eat. Go outside. Talk it out with a friend. Buy chocolate. Free write. Adventure. Write down your dreams. Take a hot shower. Watch Star Trek. Use the dumbest, crudest words you know on paper. Exercise. Do a divergence test. Unplug. Boost your creativity and take care of yourself and be prepared. Eventually you’ll start again.

Like it or not, PMS and writer’s block are part of the magic-making process.

So, does PMS exist? Does writer’s block? I think so, taken within the greater context of the process. PMS and writer’s block aren’t ditches that trap you forever—they’re a stage in the cycle. Though it may take a long time, by nature they require that you move on and keep making magic.

Go. Make magic. And if things slow down, don’t worry. There’s magic in that, too.

(Besides, if PMS doesn’t exist, then I have no excuse for putting chocolate chips into a quesadilla two years ago. I don’t want to go there.)

How do you think writer’s block plays into the writing process? Do you have any writer’s block stories? (I guess you could share PMS stories if you wanted, but this is the Internet, so I leave that to your discretion.)

Other Sources I Used: source, source, source, source, source

All the GIFs are from Park Myung Soo's Un-Official Fan Page, and all of them were so perfect I just decided to let there be a GIF monopoly. You should click through, because the ones I didn't use are still hilarious.

By the way, I got this idea from a post Aimee wrote on getting over writer’s block—so I recommend you check it out!


  1. OMG. I saw a lot of really good things you said to quote, but the only thing I can think is "Chocolate chips in a quesadilla?!" Lol! It's okay, we've all been there, sister. ;) (Or have we?! If PMS doesn't exist, then we're right, we don't have any excuses!) Personally, I think PMS and Writer's Block DO exist... because yes, I do need an excuse for not writing... or eating too much chocolate. ;)

    1. XD I was having a bad day that day. I don't think it's really an excuse, though, but maybe just an event that is part of the process, but that you still have to get through. (Although, I will generously accept any opportunity to eat extra chocolate.) Thanks for reading, Emily!

  2. So I'm going to be honest here and say that this was one of the first posts that popped up in my Blogger feed when I checked this morning and I was wondering if maybe I was still dreaming because it's SUCH a weird comparison. works.
    And it's also hilarious and accurate.
    So points to you.

    1. XD Um, yeah, it was the first thing I thought of when I read your post, but I am a master of weird comparisons. Thanks for reading, Aimee!

  3. THE GIFS!!! SO FUNNY!!!

    Great comparison. You had me cracking up:)


      Thanks for reading, Sunny!

  4. The gifs..... But I loved this comparison. I definitely get writers block if not particularly noticeable PMS. So this was awesome, pretty much. I have a feeling not many boys are going to comment though...

    1. Haha, it was fun to write, and I thought it would be relatable, at least to girls. It's okay if boys don't comment, though. 99% of my commenters are girls, anyway!

  5. Well that was...deep. Seriously, though, it's a very apt comparison. (Also, chocolate chips in a quesadilla--yeah, you're totally allowed to use PMS as an excuse. How did that even taste?)

    I think with both PMS and Writer's Block, it's a fine line. Sometimes it's easier to blame my moodiness or my laziness on a convenient problem--it's easier to use a cop out so I can avoid taking responsibility. But there have been so many other times that I have experienced low points I just had to get through. I definitely believe they exist--I think people can just be too quick to label an issue (or avoid labeling an issue).

    Anyway, great post. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Haha, it was seriously the first thing I thought of! (I really hope so. It didn't even taste that good. It was like, two things I won't mix again.)

      You're also right there. We do like removing responsibility from ourselves and that isn't okay, but you also have to pay attention to the issues, or lack thereof, like you said. IT IS TOO HARD TO MAKE UNIVERSAL STATEMENTS ON THIS TOPIC.

  6. That was great, Heather. The gifs were just totally perfect.... I don't know much about writer's block, having never realyl experienced it myself, but I think PMS exists. I guess I don't get a lot, and I don't use it as an excuse, because it just seems too easy. BUT then I do get more emotional and grumpy. I like the description of magic (for both of them). This post was rather daring and quite brilliant.

    1. I'm glad you liked it. It's a fine line, like Liz said up above, but it's still a personal experience many of us struggle with and have to learn to reign in. I liked the magic description, too, because it wasn't my idea. Thanks so much for reading, Shar!

  7. Lol, great comparison! I was really wondering what was going to go into this post when I saw the title, hehe, but it was brilliant! :D

    I think, in a way, both of these do exist (even though I used to say Writer's Block didn't, so props to you for getting me to change my mind. :) ). We shouldn't use them as excuses, but they're also necessary parts of the process. :)

    And chocolate chips in a quesadilla? Wow. How'd that taste?


    1. I was really concerned about this post when it went up and whether or not I would look like a deranged person, but I'm glad it's gone over okay.

      But I'm glad I could help you look at things from a different perspective, and that we could think about different processes therein.

      And it didn't taste good. Just... two overpowering flavors that did not complement. That's all.

  8. HOW CAN YOU TAKE TOO COMPLETELY DISSIMILAR THINGS AND STICK THEM TOGETHER IN SUCH A COHERENT WAY, HEATHER? How does your brain work like that - it's incredible! Anyway, I have neither writer's block nor PMS at the moment, but I confirm that they are both things, and both horrible. And both of them encourage me to overeat. Thanks, unnecessary stress.
    Beth x

    1. I DON'T KNOW, IT WAS THE FIRST THING I THOUGHT OF! But, I'm glad it's gotten a positive response—and far more relatable than I anticipated! I'm sorry they're both a part of your life, but hey, overeating is... you know... what happens, ish.


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