Monday, April 25, 2011

Writers' Block: Reality Or Myth?

Ian plonks himself down in front of his computer, fires it up, loads his latest screenplay. The cursor blinks accusingly at him, taunting him, making him acutely aware the rest of the page remains blank.

Ian stares at the screen, his fingers hover over the keyboard in anticipation. He pleads for the words to form on the page, but it remains as blank as Ian's mind. He can almost hear the cursor laughing at him.
We've all experienced it at one point or other, that horrible pause when things just aren't working and the desperate need to write something, anything becomes all consuming. But can this really be called writers' block, does such a thing really exist, or are there ways to beat it into submission and regain your creativity?

Some people argue if it isn't happening you should walk away and do something else, and come back to your work later. Make a cup of tea, take the dog for a walk, anything that will distract you from the fact your brain isn't in gear yet and it's going to take a little more time and maybe several mugs of coffee before it is. Some days it just doesn't happen, there's no point in pushing yourself and ending up hating the project you're working on. Right?

Wrong! I think it's just lazy, an excuse to procrastinate. You're a writer, so write. Get angry with that block. Show it who's boss.

There's always something you can write even if the scene you want to won't come out of your stubborn, locked brain. Thinking about the cursor and blank page just makes matters worse. Getting up and walking away will only make you feel guilty for not writing and angry with yourself and more importantly with the empty page. Thinking like that just escalates things. It doesn't have to be like that, really it doesn't.

If you get stuck on what to write it usually means you haven't done enough preparation on your script and your brain is telling you the only way it knows how, by shutting down and demanding you go and play Xbox for a hour. Don't listen to it and go back and work on those characters and plot, and the next time you sit down to write your masterpiece you won't have the same trouble.

Even if you're stuck at one particular point in your script it doesn't mean that you can't skip to the middle, or the end and write those instead. Even if you have a particular scene in mind, but it doesn't come until much later in the script it doesn't mean you can't write it now. Don't think for a moment you have to write your script in linear order, because that is just foolish and is why you're blocked in the first place. There are numerous other ways to get the creative juices flowing. Here are a few of my favorites.

Get drunk, write whatever comes into your head and rewrite it tomorrow. If it's rubbish, which it probably will be, it doesn't matter because you'll be rewriting it tomorrow anyway. At least you'll have words down on the page and crap words are better than none at all.

Put some background music on really loud (I listen to my Oasis albums on loop) to distract that naughty part of your brain that's holding the creative side of your mind captive. Any type of music will do just as long as it's something you can have on in the background that you won't pay much attention to.

Pick too characters, stick them in an imaginary elevator and start an argument. Write four sides of A4 like this. Not only is this great for working on your characters, but also jump starts your writing. Alternatively you can come up with your own ways to get your creative juices back on track so you don't have to steal mine.

So does writers' block really exist? Yes it does, but only if you let it. Now go and write.


Andy Conway said...

Good advice. I've never suffered writer's block, but I have had prolonged periods of avoidance and distraction.

The one trick I know, that I found out through experience, is to write through it. Every writing problem is solved by the act of writing. Ten minutes into a writing session, the answers always come, no matter how dismal it is to begin with.

My regime now is to write every day, at least four pages, no matter what.

Andy Conway
The Girl with the Bomb Inside (A Novelette)
on - and Smashwords

Dominic Carver said...

Indeed, if you're a writer then writing nothing is unacceptable.

SIDE NOTE: Andy's novelette is ace...I know coz I have read it!!!

Anonymous said...

I suppose if you write nothing, you're not a writer and if you write something, you are! I agree with Andy, writing every day is vital.

Sally Seward

Robert Yates said...

I agree with your post, Dom. It's totally true. It does not exist.

If you step away from the laptop then it's even easier to do again, and again. It's giving up, not writing.

The solution in those moments is to get yourself back on that seat and train yourself to write crap.

As Woody Allen says "Eighty percent of success is showing up."

Good advice, great post!