Writer’s block is the devil. To my mind, it’s like being trapped inside a Sartre play: locked inside a room with no windows and no way out.
I’ve been blocked lately – and it’s actually not a normal state for me. In fact, this might be the first true writer’s block I’ve experienced in the last few years, if ever.
Of course I’ve been actively thinking about my stories every day, working them out in my mind, connecting the dots, but nothing was coming to the page. It was incredibly frustrating.
Then I had a fantastic writers’ group with my Albuquerque peeps. One of my peers, Chris, submitted a sci-fi story that was fantastic subject matter. We spent a good hour or more brainstorming ways to enhance and further flesh out the story. The material is very contemporary, unique, relevant, dense with social commentary, and resonant with connection. We all connected to the material in a very unique way, and I think this was why the discussion was so vibrant.
It reminded me of something I always ask, “Where is your passion in this story?”
So often, if material is feeling flat, it’s likely not because the author didn’t have a seed of passion within it, otherwise he wouldn’t likely have written it. But, sometimes the passion doesn’t find its way onto the page. It is always a helpful exercise to get back to that seed of passion and rediscover it and then grow it.
When I returned home that evening after group, I sat down for a while and really tried to reconnect with the passion I had for my project, the seed of why I had to write it. I rooted down into why I was burning to tell this particular story, why it needed to come to light. Once I was able to reconnect into that feeling, I was able to push aside all the bullshit of why I hadn’t been writing. That night I wrote several pages and then went on to finish that story. And now, poof, I’m writing again. Forgot even why I hadn’t been writing. Ridiculous.
Getting back in touch with the passion of what you were trying to do initially, the feeling of it, can help you break through any barriers. It is also this passion that will find its way onto the page – and hopefully what you’ll communicate to the reader.
In Syd Field “Screenwriter’s Workbook” there’s an exercise in one of the last chapters where he suggests the writer should write three essays before starting the first re-write of the script. It matters to write these essays sometime in the beggining, as it will help you get over blocks later. The essays should answer the questions:
– What was it that originally attracted me to the idea?
– What kind of story did I end up writing?
– What do I have to do to change what I did do into what I originally wanted to do?
Having these essays by my side in “harsh” times helped me survive.
That’s kinda what you did, right Mon ?
Too true, Monica! I needed to hear this. I have my feature screenplay that has been languishing as I catch up with my design clients, and watched “Analyze This” in preparation for a screen consulting job. I watched it a second time and had my laptop on my lap and as it went around the second time, I wrote down each beat including the Six Major Beats and it was effortless. I reconnected with the whole idea of telling a story and all day today, I keep remembering how easy it was to understand and beat out a movie. That exercise reinvigorated me and now I can’t wait to get back to my own script.