How to Cure Writer’s Block with Modafinil
If I could get paid for staring at a computer screen, I’d be a rich by now man.
This is never likely to happen, so it means writer’s block is always going to be a bad thing in my world.
If your livelihood depends on you getting ideas down on paper, or you are trying to become the next Stephen King, you probably feel the same way about this kind of mental rebellion.
There are a number of things you can do to overcome writer’s block and one of them is a smart drug known as Modafinil.
Does Writer’s Block Even Exist?
The claim of having ‘writer’s block’ is so overused that cynics may say it doesn’t exist at all – it’s just something that writers say when they don’t feel like working.
In fact, “writer’s block” didn’t even exist until the 1940s, when the term was coined by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler.
The fact is, what most people think of as ‘writer’s block’ is nothing more than a label for the mild discomfort and resistance that accompanies most creative processes. After all, you never hear doctors claiming to have ‘doctor’s block’ or engineers saying they have ‘engineer’s block’.
It’s unfortunate that some people use it as an excuse – those writers who go around boasting about their winning idea for a novel, yet never manage to write anything, are more likely to be lazy than suffering from writer’s block.
The Full Story
However, there is a real condition known as writer’s block. In his book Writer’s Block: The Cognitive Dimension, Mike Rose defined it as:
…an inability to begin or continue writing for reasons other than lack of basic skill or commitment.
In the past, it was assumed that writer’s block was ‘all in the mind’, but it is now believed to at least sometimes involve physical processes in the body. If you are very stressed because of something that is happening in your life, it triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response.
This means that control in the brain moves away from the cerebral cortex to the limbic system – this is problematic for writers because creativity is associated with the cerebral cortex.
Causes of Writer’s Block
Writer’s block can be due to internal or external causes – it is often a combination of things. You may be highly motivated to get the work done (e.g. a rapidly approaching deadline), but as soon as you sit down in front of the computer, your mind goes blank – this happens to me a lot.
The simplest causes would be that you have just run out of inspiration. For example, if you have been writing a blog on the same subject for a long time, it is understandable that your ‘well of ideas’ has dried up – in this case, the solution would be to do some research or get more experience to generate some new ideas.
You can also develop writer’s block due to your current mental state. If you are dealing with a great deal of stress or you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is going to impact your ability to write.
One of the difficulties with chronic stress is that it is so easy to miss the symptoms (I need to be almost chewing the carpet before I’ll admit to feeling stressed). When the cause of writer’s block is due to this type of inner turmoil, it is likely that it will continue until the stress or depression is brought under control.
A lot of the time, writer’s block occurs simply because the brain just isn’t in the mood to focus. This may be because you feel tired, distracted, or just a bit antsy.
If your thoughts are jumping all over the place, it can be incredibly difficult to maintain concentration long enough to create written content. I propose a simple solution to dealing with this common type of writer’s block: take nootropics – specifically, take modafinil.
What is Modafinil?
Modafinil (brand name: Provigil) is nootropic drug commonly used to treat narcolepsy, aka excessive sleepiness, and also to help people stay awake while working night shifts.
This substance can also be effective in the treatment of ADHD, sleep apnea, and cocaine addiction. It is a type of eugeroic, meaning that it promotes wakefulness and alertness.
There is still some uncertainty as to exactly how Modafinil works in the body. It does not appear to operate in the same way as amphetamines like Adderall or Ritalin for a couple reasons.
Unlike amphetamines, Modafinil increases wakefulness by elevating histamine levels in the hypothalamus. This is very important, because histamine signaling is less susceptible to addiction-forming than dopamine signaling pathways.
The synergistic actions of Modafinil on both catecholaminergic and histaminergic pathways lower abuse potential as compared to traditional stimulant drugs while maintaining the effectiveness of the drug as a wakefulness promoting agent.
Studies have suggested that Modafinil “has limited potential for large-scale abuse” and “does not possess an addictive potential in naive individuals.”
Modafinil also appears to reduce the uptake of dopamine in the brain, and this can also increases alertness and wakefulness.
More recently, Modafinil has gained recognition as a smart drug because of its ability to act as a cognitive enhancer. It can be a useful substance for students who need to study late into the night or anyone who has to be able to function well despite lack of sleep. The fact that it is nowhere near as harmful as the amphetamine-type substances makes it an appealing option.
Modafinil for Writer’s Block
Modafinil can be effective with certain types of writer’s block where it involves lack of focus. It seems to work best with writing where there is a clear purpose such as copywriting, college assignments, work reports, and sales letters.
Some people do report that using the drug interferes with their creative thinking process, so it might not work so well for fiction writing – although this is just speculation at this stage.
Key Benefit: Fighting Impulse Control
One interesting study from the University of Amsterdam found that Modafinil can improve impulse control.
This could be extremely useful if the reason for your writer’s block is that every time you sit down, you develop a desperate need to tidy your home or organize your music library (I do this a lot). Having improved impulse control means that you are less likely to sabotage your commitment to writing by sudden impulses to do something different.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to be found online from people who have used Modafinil to help them deal with writer’s block.
It is important that you always view such reports, from people you don’t know, with a bit of skepticism – especially when the claims sound a bit too good to be true.
It is also important to keep in mind that no nootropic drug is likely to be effective if your writer’s block is due to chronic stress or depression.
Are There Any Dangers Associated with Using Modafinil?
Every smart drug has to potential to cause undesirable effects – including the most popular ones like caffeine and chocolate. The negative effects associated with taking Modafinil appear to be mild, but there is not enough research into the drug to reach any firm conclusions.
One potential problem is that it can lead to tunnel vision. This means that you can become so focused on what you are doing that you lose track of everything else – this can actually be a bonus if you need to get a large project completed.
The drawback with this is that you can forget to eat or to take regular breaks which is not so good. Some users also report that the drug can make them become a bit distracted (e.g. becoming focused on something that is irrelevant). Other potential risks would include irritability and teeth grinding.
On a personal note, I find that Modafinil makes me extremely goal-oriented. This is great if I want to get work done, but it’s not pleasant for others who just want to hang out and enjoy the present moment.
How to Get Unblocked with the Help of Modafinil
Modafinil is available without prescription in most countries around the world, but this is not the case in the US where it is considered a class IV controlled substance.
Adrafinil is not controlled in the US, and can be purchased without issue on most major supplement ecommerce stores, including Amazon.
Where to Buy Modafinil Tablets Online
There is an excellent and comprehensive list of Modafinil suppliers in this table on Gwern.net, a site which has an incredible amount of useful information about nootropics. (Seriously, go check it out!)
I highly recommend checking out some of Gwern’s articles. Thank you, Gwern, for for putting together that massive list.