Writers’ Block isn’t real! There, I’ve said it. I know, madness, right? But no, it’s true, writers’ block doesn’t exist and here’s why.
Writers’ block is a myth perpetuated by writers who have run out of things to say, whose idea doesn’t have legs or who haven’t prepared their screenplay/novel outline properly. “Oh no, I’ve hit a wall on page 30!” That’s because you didn’t plan your beat outline, sometimes called a scene by scene, well enough, not because you’ve hit an actual wall. You should really only run into problems if your planning is lacking and your idea is poorly thought out.
There are also times when your motivation will be low and you find yourself struggling to put words on the page even with a beat outline, but there will never be a point in your career when you simply go blank and can’t write anything. There is ALWAYS something you can be getting on with even if that means going back and reworking your beat outline.
Here are a few tips to help avoid the brick wall and keep those words flowing even during moments of low motivation.
- PREPARE IN ADVANCE – Whether you’re writing a TV episode or a feature write a paragraph for each beat of your story before you start – usually twenty beats for TV and forty for a feature. Make sure you hit all the necessary points – the catalyst, the break into act two, the midpoint and the break into act three. Work and rework your beat outline until you’re happy it works perfectly. Once it’s well-worked and polished it then becomes your guide for writing the screenplay.
- JUMP TO ANOTHER BEAT – Even if you do work everything out sometimes you’ll come to write a scene and won’t know exactly how that scene is going to play out. That’s fine, there’s no pressure. If this happens just jump to another scene in your outline and write that instead. You’ll usually find that when you come back to the original scene you were stuck on it has miraculously sorted itself out in your head while you were writing other scenes.
- FEED YOUR TEA/COFFEE ADDICTION – Can’t quite get the core of your scene then go make yourself a drink. Even a few moments away to make yourself a drink can be enough to reignite the ideas and give you inspiration. Drink enough coffee and you’ll actually have trouble stopping those words being typed. I find I’m usually at my most productive on two to three cups of coffee. Your acceptable caffeine level may be different.
- WALK THE DOG – Going for a walk for an hour gives you the headspace to restart the brain so that when you get back to your desk those words should flow easily once more. If you can go for a walk where there are trees and grass then even better. Don’t think about your work just enjoy the walk and the exercise.
- WRITE BOLLOCKS – Just write. Don’t tie yourself up in knots about getting the perfect words down on the page, just write anything. It’s easier to rewrite a page of crap than it is to rewrite a blank page. So many writers I know get so hung up on the first sentences of their scenes that they spend an entire day just writing once scene. Just put words on the page and then worry if they’re crap or not later. Quantity is for the first draft, quality is for later drafts.
- ANOTHER PAIR OF EYES – If you’re really stuck then let someone else read your work and give you feedback. Sometimes you can be so close to your idea you can’t see the faults, so a fresh pair of eyes can help move you along.
- MIND MAP – If you’ve run out of ideas or think you have, try using a mind map to work through your existing ideas and see if they inspire some new ones. I never settle for the first idea that jumps into my head as they are usually clenched and overused. It’s when I get to my third, fourth or even tenth idea that I get really excited as I find they’re usually the best ones. I find it helps to write down anything to do with my idea before I embark on a beat outline so that I’ve explored every corner of every branch of every idea to the fullest extent that I can. The more ideas you put down, even the silly ones, the more you have to work from.
- ALCOHOL – Have an alcoholic beverage. Don’t get pissed, just have one or two, just enough to distract your brain so you stop thinking so much and start writing lots. This one is usually a last resort if all the others have failed to do their job and is not recommended if you’re in the last few hours of a deadline.