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  • Paul Davidson

Words For <i>Your</i> Enjoyment: Writers Block

Once again, like clockwork – it’s time for “Words For Your Enjoyment”! Where you get to submit ideas for me to riff on.

This week, our good WFME friend Kristi writes, “…I don’t know – it’s Friday and my mind’s a blank :)”

Great idea for our Friday column, Kristi!

Scientists have never been quite sure why Kristi’s mind’s a blank but they have gone to the ends of the Earth in order to determine just why on Fridays, in particular, there seems to be nothing available for her to share with the rest of the World.

Then again, the ‘ol “blank head nothing-but-air-between-our-ears ailment” does not just hit one person, but every person then and again. For people who make their living from writing, it becomes even more of a tragic scenario when there are deadlines to meet and pages to produce.

I have been a part of a writing group called T.N.S.G. since I moved to Los Angeles years ago. No, it doesn’t stand for something related to Star Trek. It sands for The Tuesday Night Screenwriter’s Group and if there ever was a way to combat the blank-headed idea disease, sitting down weekly with a group of other “blank-headed idea people” always seemed to be the way to get around the problem.

The funny thing about being a writer is this:

1. Writers most often work alone. 2. Writers are extremely needy, but yet are always working alone. 3. Writers love feedback, but since they’re alone and needy, they get self-conscious. 4. When writers get self-conscious, they start to question themselves and their product. 5. When writers question themselves, they keep rewriting the same page over and over again. 6. When writers keep writing the same page over and over again, they start to think their ideas suck. 7. When writers think their ideas suck, they get writers block.

It’s a vicious circle.

Something that always worked for the members of the T.N.S.G. was that if we were in the middle of working on screenplays or TV specs, but we were having blocks, we would have everyone in the group write a 3 page scene every day for a week that had nothing to do with the original project causing the block. A scene about nothing, literally. Random, weird, different. Because, in reality, it’s way easier to just pump out a scene that has no previous scenes or future scenes — there’s no logic to get bogged down with. Just write a great scene with snappy dialogue and great characters.

Eventually, after a week of that – other ideas would pop into your head and the block would be solved.

I had a particular horrible bout of writer’s block about a year ago, when I was on my eighth draft of a screenplay that currently is receiving some great attention. It was one of those scripts where the entire world was different from ours (think Tim Burton-esque). When you create a different world like that you always have to make sure the “rules” make sense. It’s a process that starts to suck the life out of you.

As a writer, you start to get superstitious. You say things to yourself like, “I can’t work in my house. It’s too confining. Too many distractions. The phone, the TV, the Internet. I have to get out somewhere else if I’m going to get anything done.”

So I go to the local Library. About fifteen minutes in I realize that “I can’t work in the Library. There are too many people on computers, and the buzzing of those computers is affecting my ability to think. I should probably go out to a coffee place or something… You know, get a snack.”

So I go to the local coffee place. About 30 minutes later, having ordered food and drink I realize that “I can’t really write until after I’ve finished my meal because I don’t want to get food on my keyboard…” And fifteen minutes after eating I realize, “I’m so full, I really should take a nap… Give my mind a rest…”

And back home I go.

I guess when it comes down to it, everyone has their own ways of combating the ‘ol “blank-headed stare” with tricks to click the creative mind back on. Little ways to motivate and generate ideas that will reap gold. They real key to cracking one code is, surprisingly for me, cracking a different code altogther (i.e. writing something else) in order to solve what’s on your mind.

As for Kristi, and this Friday — we’re just going to have to give her some space.

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