When we were first named finalists in the Industry Insider Contest I knew it was going to be a busy summer but there was a part of me that was like "I got this". We were given three months to finish a screenplay and we already had the concept and the first fifteen pages written. Easy peasy lemon sqeezy, as my five year old daughters like to say. Let's all take a moment to laugh at Dave for how naive he was. I'll be covering how wrong I was on that in a post later this week. Apparently tight deadlines and the free flow of creativity are not always the greatest mix. In the last few weeks I have seen a lot of articles touching on the subject of writer's block. All of them are different and all of them are right, because there is no one cure for everyone. So I just wanted to throw my two cents into the discussion and share some of what I have learned this summer. Because I have found there is a huge difference between writing on spec and being able to set it down and come back later versus sitting at your computer and thinking "Mother of God, I need to have ten more pages done by tomorrow".
Turn off the internet: Well, not until you're done reading this article of course. I once read a quote that said "Being a good writer is 3% talent and 97% not being distracted the internet". All I really have to say about that is when I went looking for the quote for this article I spent about a half hour looking at the links on that page, which led me to YouTube, which led me to watching a video about a great white shark eating a seal next to a boat, which led me to....
Hide your cell phone: My iPhone is great, I could go on and on about the great features and games, especially the games. Did you know I am level 628 on Infinity Blade II? I'm excited to see that Zombie Gunship just came out with a rank structure and I am pretty sure I can make General by Thanksgiving, I'm undefeated on 9Innigs Pro Baseball, if I make just one more island on Tiny Wings I get to level up.... you get my point.
Play Xbox: I was going to bury this one a few spots farther down so you would have to work to put these last two posts together to call me a hypocrite, but hear me out. When I play games on my cell phone I am usually sitting there thinking "I'm a horrible person, I need to set this down". When I do finally set it down all it does is sit there and stare at me saying "Just one more level. It will be fun. You can trust me.... friend". When I play Xbox I am making a conscious choice. I say "I am going to take 20 minutes and play one sports game." (finite start and finish) Then, when I'm done I can get back to work because playing the game allowed my mind to relax and a relaxed mind is a creative mind.
Doodle: When I was a supervisor with the government we had to attend quarterly all hands meetings. One thing I could never figure out was whether it was better to take a notebook and be seen not writing anything in it, or not taking one and truly showing that you didn't care about the meetings. I decided to compromise and sat there and doodled all morning (It's okay, it looked like I was taking notes). One day my chief asked to see my notes and I had to tell him that they were pictographic thought ticklers. He wasn't impressed when he had to ask me what the sinking ship and nuclear mushroom cloud depicted (I really was not cut out for government work). That doodling wasn't just a defense mechanism against boredom though, it was a way to keep my mind engaged because an active mind is a ready mind (my chief didn't want to buy that one either). To this day, I keep a book on my desk and pop it open when I get stuck. (In the interest of full disclosure I must note that when I went and got the link to the book I spent about ten minutes looking at all the other links Amazon "suggested" I would like.)
Know your key creative times: You can't just sit down and say "I'll be creative between 10 and 11 today". It doesn't work that way. Some of us are morning people, some of us are night people, there's no use fighting it. I am a night person. I spent all of yesterday saying "I need to write, I need to write and freaking out when it wasn't happening. Then midnight hit and 14 pages just flowed out of me by the time I went to bed at 4am. Know your type and schedule around it. If you are a night person there is no use getting up early and sitting at your computer.
Just write something: Let's face it, as writers we excel at looking at other people's work and saying "I would have done it this way." It's the same with your work. Just write out your scene, no matter how craptastic it is. I guarantee you will look at it and say "No, I should have said this." And ignore that voice in your head that says you are wasting time by having to do it over. That blank page sitting there waiting for you to be perfect isn't exactly the pinnacle of productivity.
Change scenery: Get out of your house. Get away from what is comfortable. Get away from your home phone, your mail, your DVR that is way too full. Get away from the things your mind tells you that you need to do everyday and just focus on writing.
Fail safe: If all else fails just sit down at your computer, stare at the blank screen and hit your head against the keyboard until you bleed. That's what you're thinking you feel like anyway.
And, to head off questions to my my Infinity Blade II claim, here is proof. (I know, I need help)