Monday, September 22, 2008

Screenwriting 101: Don’t Sweat the Dry Spells

Remember my screenwriting articles?

Well, the problem with any sort of creative work (screenwriting included) is you can’t force yourself to produce, despite how much you might want or need to. Sometimes you just don’t know what to do next, or how to do what you want to do something, and inspiration is being fickly silent.

Do not sweat it. This does not mean you’re a bad writer. This happens to everybody at times, and you can’t expect to produce material constantly or even eternally. Ideally, I’d write a page of a screenplay a day. And that would be a good habit for anyone to keep. But, in truth, it’s more erratic. You might write five pages in one day, ten the next, rewriting cuts that down to maybe 10, and then a few weeks of stubborn refusal to finish.

The invention of the internet makes this much more difficult. You can just sit on your computer and suddenly waste hours. And, of course, none of us are just screenwriting machines: there’s work (especially for those of us who remain unsigned,) school, family and friends and other loved ones. And, of course, there are the worries related to those things on top of that.

Acknowledge those feelings but don’t dwell on them. Here’s what I do when the creative juices stop flowing:

1) Work on another project

I try to keep busy, which possibly means working on other projects. I might revisit an old project that I had not thought about in a while, or start a new one. Given time and distance you can gain a different perspective on the work you’ve been staring in the face for the past few weeks.

The result doesn’t even have to be a screenplay. Right now, for example, I’ve started work on a children’s fantasy novel. And when I start having trouble on that I can move to another project.

The problem with this is you can just end up with a bunch of unfinished projects, so try to return to an old project more often than you start a new one.

2) Get off the computer

Every once in a while, it might be good to do something totally unrelated and fun, but not something that is an “obligation” or a “requirement.” Watch your favorite movie, read something totally unrelated to work or school, or go for a walk in the park. As much as I love wasting time on the internet (as many do,) it’s better for your creative functions sometimes to get away from it for just an hour or two to recalibrate your mind.

3) Skip Ahead and Fill in the Blanks

If all else fails, what I do is just drop wherever I am in the script and write a scene way ahead of what’s going on (a scene I knew was coming and wanted to write,) and then start working my way backwards and forwards to that event. Sometimes its easier to fill in the gap between A-Z instead of trying to figure out what happens after a problematic step.

Writer’s block happens to everybody. Just relax, don’t stress it, and it’ll come to you.

In fact, even after I finished this article, I’ve started reconsidering a page 1 rewrite of a project I finished last year. I might use this space as a free form discussion of that idea. More details, as they develop.

Good luck, and good writing!

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