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!