Writer’s block. The bane of the writer’s existence. It’s a bitch, it is. It’s stupid, fucking bollocks, piece of shi-
I may be going through a period of writer’s block at the moment. Well, a writer’s block of sorts. It’s less like a complete stonewalling and more like a dam with a small crack in it, with words dribbling out. I want the crack to grow and grow until the dam collapses and the words come crashing out. I’m a movie villain in this analogy, it seems.
Last month, I saw an ad for a screenwriting competition. Now, screenwriting competitions don’t hold quite as much esteem as their short story and poetry counterparts, but this one had a hefty prize to go with it. The deadline was July 31st, only a month away, so I set myself a challenge: can I write a full first draft of a script in a month?
It is only the 23rd right now, but it’s going to take some kind of Freaky Friday situation where Kevin Smith is switched into my body to get it finished.
Research has been done, stories have been planned and laid out, then re-planned again, then reverted to the original plan, then changed again. I looked to movies, documentaries and books for inspiration, which has worked in the past, but it just turned to procrastination and wasted hours.
I would stare at the screen for ages, occasionally writing a piece of dialogue. All the ideas are formed in my head, they just won’t go from my brain to the screen, not until I have confidence in them.
To me, it seems like the actions of a perfectionist. But that implies that the resulting work will be perfect, at least in my eyes. I don’t want it to be perfect, I just want it to be there. It’s a first draft for shit’s sake, it made to be re-written.
So why is this happening? I really do enjoy screenwriting, and no-one is forcing me to do it. Perhaps it’s the pressure of the tight deadline, or the fact it will be judged for a competition. I’m not entirely sure. It doesn’t help that I’m overthinking it, but I can’t help that. I really do envy people who can effortlessly write thousands of words in a day or write stream of conscience. The bastards.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking – I’m hungry. I’m a bit peckish, too.* You may also be wondering if I have some tips for those in the throes of writer’s block. Maybe some quotes from famous authors.
Okay, here’s one:
‘The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.’ — Ernest Hemingway
Here’s some more:
‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.’ — Mark Twain
‘Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.’ – Neil Gaiman
I think tips on writer’s block are a bit like hangover cures – there are a myriad of purported theories, and there are some that work for a group of people, but there’s no real cure. I know it’s not a particularly inspirational thing to end on, but I still haven’t got over my writer’s block, so I could be wrong. Anyone got any ideas?
*This is as stream of conscience as I get: writing a dumb joke and not deleting it.