SACRAMENTO—Numerous authors have crushed writer’s block by banging their heads against desks, and many of these writers have risen to fame.
Touted by the Observer as a “gargantuan-selling writer,” James Patterson advised students in his online MasterClass to bang their heads against their desks for at least ten times a day. “Authors ranging from Agatha Christie to William Shakespeare banged their heads against their desks at one point in their lives, sometimes more than twenty times a day, and they have sold 2 to 4 billion books each. There’s no reason you can’t do it,” said Patterson. “You simply have to persevere. I know I did. I don’t know where I would’ve gotten had I not banged my head against my coffee table every morning.”
But banging one’s head to break writer’s block may not be that simple. Writers who wish to employ the strategy have to take into account the material of the desktop, the mass and acceleration of the head, the angle of the head to the desk, and a multiplicity of variables. “Everyone is different,” said John Grisham. “And every book is different. I didn’t have to do that to myself when I wrote A Time to Kill, but, man, did I have to break my skull to finish The Brethren. It’s sort of a trial-and-error sort of thing.”
Some detractors point to a positive correlation between banging heads and major depression, claiming that repeated blows to the head may have a negative impact on mental health. Experts, however, assure writers that the practice is safe. “One must not confuse correlation with causation,” said prolific author and world-renowned thinker Dan Dennett. “We have reason to believe that writers who bang their heads tend to be depressed, but that doesn’t mean their depression is caused by these sub-concussive blows. In fact, it is probably the other way around: Depression causes people to hit their ugly melons.”