Semantic Satiation, or What Might Lurk Behind the Proverbial Writer’s Block

Semantic Satiation happens when a word is repeated until it lost its sense, or seems plain weird. A same kind of word satiation can affect writers as well. I use to call it writer's block, but there's more behind the good old writer's block then what meets the eye.

lt all began with a writer.

In order to make the audience of tv show « Ted Lasso » laugh, that said writer taught it would be fun to explore the well-researched psychological phenomenon that is semantic satiation.

One thing led to another, and there I was on a very quiet Tuesday, listening to the host of a francophone late-morning radio show I almost enjoy, repeating the word « chapeau » for 15 seconds.

After a while, you don’t understand a word anymore. It’s just random, almost annoying sounds.

And apparently, the same phenomenon can be applied to writers.

Sometimes, we’re puzzled by how bad our writing appears to be. Or by how impossible it seems some days to write a decent 500 words in less than an hour.

The answer might just be this: Semantic Satiation.

Writer’s Block and Semantic Satiation: Same Battle?

Well, it’s not exactly the same thing.

Semantic satiation have to do with the repetition of one word leading to the feeling the word has become meaningless, or sound darn weird.

Although writers may suffer from a sort of word saturation, if, for example, they write continuously without a break for a prolonged period of time.

After a while, the act of writing in itself, no matter if it’s fiction or technical writing, if it’s writing business letters or legal contracts, may lose its sense for some writers.

Suddenly, no words are good anymore.

They are the same words as the day before. It’s always the same words. However, they sound weird, they seem stupid, meaningless.

I’ve always called it writer’s block. Now that I heard about semantic satiation and how a similar phenomenon can affect writers, it shed new light on the said writer block.

When every word I write is bad, it’s a signal I need to step away from the page and go do something else!

Dear fellow writers, I hope this helped… and made you smile a bit.

Until next time!

Sources:

APA PsycNet

Mental Floss

Auteur : M. A.

Writing stories, reading books. Joy! Écrire des histoires, lire des romans. Joie!

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