Writer's Block? Phooey!
I laugh in the face of Writer’s Block.
I’m pleased to say I’ve never experienced the dark cloud that seems to dog so many of my peers, and I’m confident that I never will. I know what you’re thinking…good for you, you smug p*%^k! But here’s the thing, there are reasons why I’m writer’s-block-proof, and I’d love to share them with you in the hope that you can also develop this screenwriting super-power.
Inevitably life throws obstacles in the way of our screenwriting; physical illness, depression, relationship issues, financial pressures, a sense of failure (I’m not where I should be in my career!) or doubt (Why did I ever think I could do this?)
Even the success of securing a writing gig which eases financial pressures and helps with the feelings of failure or imposter complex comes with other impediments. The pressure to write to deadlines in itself can inhibit ones ability to write. Despite this rollercoaster that we call life, I’ve always been able to write through. And no before you ask I haven’t lived a charmed life, I’ve experienced massive career set-backs that all but put me out of the game, and yet here I am.
So here are my 6 tips.
1. Don’t force it.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent your life hearing; work harder, or put more effort in. In my experience creativity can’t be forced (you can get better at creativity-on-demand, but that’s a subject for a future blog). In fact the harder you push the more stressed you become, and the more stressed you become, the more the limbic system -primal part of the brain- takes control, and the creative part -the cerebral cortex- is inhibited and consequently your ability to write is hamstrung. So if you can’t force it what should you do?
2. Build a positive relationship with the act of writing.
Good days or bad days I love to write, and like all relationships, I’ve had to work at it. Make it something that you love and that you want to do, rather than thinking of it as a strict taskmaster that's forcing you. Create or find a working environment that suits you, do you need inspirational pictures? Music? A particular view? I love to write in municipal spaces, if I’m writing a screenplay I’m invariably on the top-floor of the Jubilee Library in Brighton, for me it’s the right mix of work ethic (there are always academics and students hard at work) and distraction (invariably something weird and/or fascinating happens whenever I’m there), and I’ve been going there for long enough that it gives me a warm feeling of familiarity.
3. Find your routine.
Revelations comes to those who attempt to climb the mountain of inspiration regularly. Build a workable writing routine that’s right for you. Infrequent marathon sessions will rarely be as useful as regular shorter sessions. Small and often keeps the subconscious engaged for more of the time, whereas long infrequent sessions are likely to cultivate emotional and physical resistance to the physical process of writing.
4. Be kind to yourself.
A screenplay is made up of many elements and layers, inspiration is likely to come in small pieces rather than all at once. So celebrate the little breakthroughs rather than beating yourself up for not seeing the whole picture yet.
5. Give yourself freedom not constraints.
I have a mantra of my own making. Experiment. Explore. Play. This above anything characterises my approach to screenwriting and it’s stood me in good stead in keeping that horrible inhibitor, stress at bay.
If you only take one point away from this blog make it the following one.
6. Write regardless.
That’s regardless of your ego that is telling you that you should be better than this. Regardless of that little voice in your head that tells you you don’t know enough about the craft and that you should really stop and read Robert McKee, John Truby et al before continuing. Regardless of the fact that what you’re writing at that very moment is absolute rubbish and you know it, because here’s the thing, writing rubbish is part of what it takes to learn the craft, and writing rubbish is always preferable to not writing at all. And here’s another thing, often by writing rubbish you get closer to where you’re headed because you can engage with that rubbish and figure out how and why it’s not working, and that folks will definitely get you closer to where you’re trying to get to and keeps the dreaded writer’s block in check.
If you like this blog, please take a look at my others: https://www.scriptologybrighton.co.uk/blog
Thanks for reading,
Your friendly neighbourhood scriptologist.