Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday Talkback - Writers block

Writer's block.

We're all going to get it one day. There will come a time where no matter how hard you try, you're not going to be able to come up with something to write about, something to talk about. You could be mid-script and find yourself unable to pound out the dialogue for your next scene. Maybe you have to come up with a new story idea and find yourself stuck.

Or... and I'm just tossing this out here... maybe you've got a new blog post due and can't think of anything useful to impart.

So how should you deal with writer's block? I'm a fan of not forcing it. If you can't write, just give your brain a break and do something else. For me, that usually means either catching Law & Order reruns, or diving into my Green Lantern back issues.

So how do you deal with writer's block?


  1. My problem I persuading myself to pick up the project again and go for it.

    It's the opening of the document - and the planning notes, character notes, timeline, beat sheet etc. etc.

    Catching yourself back up to speed with a work is the hardest part. I need to write every single day if I have a hope of avoiding these stuck moments.

  2. A long walk with my ipod usually helps. The trouble I find is accepting that I'm having problems and realising that I need to take a break. Usually I'll stick it out for a good three or four hours during which I will achieve nothing and then wish I'd used the time for something else instead!

  3. It's like you said, you can't force it. If I find myself in that position, I just put everything down and step back. Forcing yourself to write (IMO)only brings bad stories with crappy writing.

  4. I have more of an issue with writer's procrastination. I know WHAT I want to write, I just find ways to put it off...

    Whenever I'm stuck, though, listening to music while driving normally sparks something. I completely agree with "not forcing it." There have been many times that I've been trying to work out a problem with a script, spending a couple hours agonizing over it, only to figure out a solution within five minutes of "not thinking about it."

  5. I clean my keyboard and then get back to work.

    I punch writer's block right in the face.

  6. 1) Work on another project.

    2) Have another cup of coffee.

    3) Plow ahead. Damn those torpedoes of doubt!

    4) Dare myself to write something good.

    5) Use reverse psychology... You couldn't possibly write something good. (similar to #4)

    6) Move on to another scene/another character.

    7) Type nonsense. Just hit random keys for five or ten minutes. Just the act of writing seems to free something up. I even written the word "shit" over and over again for a few graphs before I got back on track. Sounds stupid, I know, but if it works...

  7. I've got a kind of dumb trick but it works for me. I call it "the bigfoot invasion". If I'm stuck on a scene, I have a bigfoot show up and start attacking the characters, and the characters have to do something. It's really easy to get a scene moving with an angry bigfoot. Eventually the characters figure out what they really want to do, i.e. "I'm trying to tell you I love you but this bigfoot is making that difficult" "It's not the bigfoot, dummy, it's your fear of commitment." Then I just rewrite the scene without the bigfoot. Like I said, it's a dumb trick but it works for me.

    Also, I can't resist plugging my iPhone app, The Brainstormer, which is a great tool for writer's block:

  8. I read a novel. To read something where lengthy description is not only encouraged, but necessary, is a huge help to me.

    Then I can get back to my fragmented sentences and obsession with white space.

  9. Screenwriter, Ruth Gordon (with husband, Garson Kanin, co-wrote PAT AND MIKE, and ADAM’S RIB) once asked author W. Somerset Maugham:
    “What if you sit down one morning at your desk and you can’t think of anything to write?” He replied, “Well, my dear, in that case, I sit down and write, ‘W. Somerset Maugham, W. Somerset Maugham, W. Somerset Maugham, W. Somerset Maugham, W. Somerset Maugham’... until something occurs to me, and it always does.” – Garson Kanin, interviewed by Pat McGilligan, Backstory 2, p. 104.

    So you can try that. But if you do, remember, Maugham is spelled with a g-h.

  10. haha joel... I love that idea.. "big foot invasion". hilarious. I may have to use that.

    For my writers block... Other stories, whether it's through books, movies, music, video games. They are my muse... so i used them constantly, probably too much.

  11. anyone else now want to write a bigfoot invasion movie...?

  12. That Bigfoot invasion idea might be the best thing I've read all week.

    Writers in the collaborative writing project, take note!

  13. I use a technique I invented myself called "Critical Mass" Writing.

    For the low, low price of $29.99 plus shipping...

    Oh, can't be bothered setting up PayPal, I'll just tell you.

    I plug in my computer, link up to the internet, and surf. Boy, do I surf.

    I go to this site, Carson's (maybe take a few hours to read the script he's reviewing - that's work, right?), post a few comments, head over to some tech sites and get very upset when some idiot says something bad about Apple, fire off some angry posts peppered with bons mots I've labored over for thirty, forty minutes, and then...

    Whoa. Time for lunch. Followed by coffee (I use one of those real Italian espresso pots). Ahh, now I'm all hopped up and.... crap, been at least thirty minutes since I checked my e-mail. Nothing there. But wait... I haven't updated my software in two days. Nothing from Apple. Sh*t. Oh, wait, got Windows XP on my BootCamp partition; there's always new updates from Microsoft, plus various virus patches. Yay. Here we go.

    Holy God! It's almost 4:30. I've been hanging around the house since I tumbled out of bed at 11:30 this morning and I've done NOTHING.

    Now this is where my critical mass technique really pays off, in two particular ways. First, I am now filled with such self-loathing about the fact that I will soon be dead (in forty or fifty years) that I actually sit back down at my computer and OPEN MY FINAL DRAFT DOCUMENT.

    Second, throughout all those hours of, um, preparation, I've been thinking about a scene. My character was running down a corridor chased by a cop. My character's wrongly accused of murder (original, huh?). And I had my character burst out the emergency exit and make a getaway.

    Terrible. Seen it a million times. Dull. But now I'm thinking, what if the cop stops running, calls to my character to stop, tells him they've found the actual killer. So my character stops. And now he's faced with a choice. Does he believe the cop (who's giving him more details) or is it all just a ploy? What will he do?

    And now I'm at critical mass. My combination of self-loathing and unconscious problem solving spill over into action. I disconnect the internet (okay, not really -- still gotta complete those crucial downloads) and actually start typing in Final Draft.

    It's rough, there's too much dialogue, it's too on-the-nose, but it's there for when I come back after dinner and a TV show/movie with my gf. And now I'm thinking consciously about EXACTLY what the cop says and what my protagonist says. They're talking to each other in my mind. So I scribble notes for that late night writing session.

    And that's it. Critical Mass. I've just described most of my days. But it works.

  14. I heard Woody Allen took hot showers, while Robert Altman sometimes waited for his dreams to help him make progress in his story.