The Dreaded “Block”

Writer’s block.

We’ve all had it, we all hate it. If you’ve ever stared at a blinking cursor on your screen, or at a stack of empty note cards, or off into the abyss and thought, “I’ve got nothing,” know that you’re not alone. Even the greats find themselves in creative and motivational funks. But just because things may seem difficult or bleak, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way out.

Here’s a concise and action-centered list of things to do to shake off the gloom and get back into the swing of things. It also has a handy list of things that do NOT help with writer’s block (like reading and writing articles about writer’s block, whoops!).

But as every article, blog, and well-meaning professor or mentor will tell you, the only true way to get through the writer’s block is by simply writing. Writing crap, writing nonsense, writing something terrible and confusing and so off that it’s cringe-worthy. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, so long as you actually do it. So stop dragging your feet, stop expecting perfection or inspiration or ease, and just write already!

How have you dealt with your creative blocks? Share any helpful tips or encouraging stories in the comments.

The Importance of Shared Inspiration

Brianne Hogan with Creative Screenwriting sat down with Lisa Robinson and Annie J. Howell to discuss their project, Claire in Motion, as well as how directors can learn from their actors, and their writing process.

Read the full article here: Shared Inspiration: Claire in Motion

Common Misconceptions About Hollywood

Ken Miyamoto from ScreenCraft discusses common misconceptions about Hollywood, debunks the myths, and discusses the changes that the industry has experienced.

Read full article here: Top 5 Misconceptions Novice Screenwriters Have About Hollywood

What is Stream of Consciousness Writing?

Sarah Cool shares Overall Adventures insights on a thing called stream of consciousness writing. What it is is simply sitting down with a journal or at a computer and literally writing everything that comes through your head as it comes to you. They explain the benefits of using this technique of writing and how it can help you create the world you want in your head and on paper, but can also help you solve problems in your real world.

Full article and video here: Stream Of Consciousness Writing

Twelve Tips for Writers

Fun fact: writing is hard. Very hard. Sarah Cool shares a video from writing coach Stephanie Newell that discusses useful advice for writers. This is geared specifically towards prose and novel writers, but her advice is equally useful to screenwriters.

See full article with video here: 12 Tips For Every Writer

Screenwriters Final Draft Checklist

Ken Miyamoto from ScreenCraft provides a checklist for screenwriters to use to perfect the final drafts of their screenplays. Consider these guidelines for a well-polished and ready script for readers.

Click here for full article: The Ultimate Final Draft Checklist for Screenwriters

Marvelous Lessons Creatives Can Learn from “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

Amazon’s new show “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” has been a huge hit this season. The show created by Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman – Palladino picked up two Golden Globes at the 2018 ceremony: one for Best Musical or Comedy Series and a second for its leading lady, Rachel Brosnahan, for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Series. So we weren’t alone, or crazy for that matter, for falling head over heels for this show. Go watch it. It really is marvelous.

I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t watched it yet. But the show is about a woman in 1950s New York who begins pursuing a career in stand up comedy after her picture-perfect life gets turned upside down. I found that Mrs. Maisel’s story has some valuable lessons for anyone trying to pursue their dreams, especially in a creative field.

  1. Sometimes life takes unexpected turns when every plan you ever made falls apart. Sometimes you realize what your dreams are later in life or that you should chase that fantasy you thought was only a pipe dream. Sometimes, your eyes are opened to a gift you never realized you had. It’s okay when that happens. Go for it. Will it be difficult? Yes. Will it be difficult? Yep. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
  2. The fear of failure is a fear worth confronting. Will you experience failures? ABSOLUTELY. Will you make mistakes? Yes. Will you hear the word “No”? Yes. Lots of people, powerful and influential people, will tell you no. Sometimes the material you come up with just doesn’t work. Sometimes you don’t like the material you created. Fear of failure of a very legitimate fear and it can cripple you. But it can also empower and strengthen you. Failure and mistakes are how you learn. You also have to acknowledge the fact that you failed. Think about a diamond. It’s a rock, a hunk of carbon to be exact. It’s made of the same stuff as the graphite in your pencils. (See the connection?) Diamonds are not only one of the most beautiful gems, they are also one of the strongest. But what did that hunk of carbon experience that separates it from the pencil graphite? It’s experienced more heat and more pressure for a longer period of time. So the next time you mess something up, get rejected, totally bomb, or something doesn’t happen in the time frame that you think it should happen, (looking at you fellow 29 and 30 – year olds) Remember that you are a diamond undergoing the necessary heat, pressure, and time and you are one step closer to becoming that drop-dead gorgeous diamond. You will get there. Now go get your pencil graphite and make something 🙂
  3. Plan and prepare. Spontaneity is great, but preparation is greater. A lot of people who are not me are great improvisers. They can come up with material on the fly. It seems that some people have this coveted superpower of the creative gods and others don’t. Some people can whip up Shakespearean levels of perfection in seconds. It’s infuriating. But is it really that spontaneous? Nope. Creatives spend lots of time creating, bombing, and creating some more until their work shines like diamonds. Spontaneity is great. It can make your work feel exciting as your creative energy bursts. But sometimes, like a secretary on a pre-QWERTY typewriter, the gears can jam. You can get stuck and flop on your face, or your butt, or both. You need to plan and prepare your material. It may be difficult to do at first. I struggle with prep work myself. My head refuses to produce anything until the last possible moment. But the more you prepare and organize your thoughts and outline your plans, the more it will benefit your work. This is much easier said than done. Preparation leads to better work. Better work leads to boosted confidence. Boosted confidence leads to more opportunities. Having more opportunities leads to success. This is the “pressure” piece of the diamond-making equation.
  4. Be your truest self and go with your gut. This sounds cliché, but it’s true. Lots of well-intentioned people will give you lots of well-intentioned advice on how to pursue your work. They will give you lots of do’s a don’ts. At the end of the day, the work is yours. You have a unique voice that deserves to be heard. Like the Miles Davis quote goes, “you have to play a lot of other people’s stuff before you start sounding like yourself”. You will have to learn the craft, the business of the craft, and what material already exists as you begin creating your own. Take notes of your life’s experiences. Carry a notebook so you can do so. But by being your truest self, you ultimately become your best self and can carve out your place in the creative world by showcasing your unique perspective. If you study notable people’s careers, you will notice this pattern. This is the “time” piece of the diamond-making equation.
  5. Not everyone will understand what you’re doing. Go for it anyway. Especially if your heart, your head, and your gut are all in the same place. Some people will tear you down, insult you, laugh at you and your ideas, and constantly demand justification as to why you’re pursuing the career you’re pursuing and it often comes from the people closest to you. You will want to quit and, for a period of time, you just might. Please keep going. Keep working. Channel your inner Dory and just keep swimming. Use the things that excite you, make you curious, or make you furious. Those aspects of you are what make your worldview unique and worthy of sharing. One now-famous example is when Lin-Manuel Miranda first introduced his early Hamilton material at a White House event (a poetry slam hosted by the Obamas, I believe). He began with saying something to the effect of “this is about someone who embodies hip-hop: Alexander Hamilton.” The audience literally laughed at him. Just shy of a decade later, he’s gotten the last laugh as that material from the poetry slam has grown into a Broadway smash hit. Excellent proof of what you can accomplish if you just keep working at what you are genuinely passionate about. It will feel like you are the only person in your corner; it’s because you are. You will have to be the only person standing in your corner to prove to others that your corner is worth standing in. This is the “heat” piece of the diamond-making equation.

Contrary to popular belief the creative life is not for the faint of heart. It takes a tremendous amount of work, mistakes, determination, and vulnerability to find your voice and learn how to use it. You are capable of becoming a diamond, but you will have to endure the heat, the pressure, and the time. Keep going and you will get there.

 

 

Learn How to Take Creative Risk

Lauren Sapala with Screenwriting U Magazine discusses the importance of taking a creative risk. She includes an activity that writers can use to help them overcome fears and anxieties about the possible outcome of their work. Once you can overcome those, then the magic can happen 🙂

Read the full article here: Want to Be the Next Big Screenwriter? Why You’ve Got to Learn How to Take Creative Risk

TED-Ed: The Power of Creative Constraints

The people at TED-Ed provide a great video discussion on creative constraints and how they can actually help you solve a problem as well as help you grow as a creator and innovator.

TED-Ed: The Power of Creative Constraints

I Needed Color

When most people think of Jim Carrey, they think of actor known for his goofy, zany roles such as Dr. Seuss’s Grinch or Ace Ventura. Well, the actor recently released a mini documentary on Vimeo that revealed a completely different side of himself and an astonishingly amazing talent: painting. The video went viral as people were amazed and surprised at the hidden artistic talent and the pearls of wisdom that he shared.

What I admired about this was not only the incredible artistic talent, but the ability of Mr. Carrey to channel whatever emotions or experiences he had – sometimes dark and painful – into something bright, beautiful, and worth sharing. Internal battles are the hardest to fight and I’m so happy that he was able to find that healthy outlet in something that created the good kind of surprise in the world, the kind of surprise that makes people smile and say “have you seen this!?” as they can’t wait to share it with the world because it is just so darn amazing.

I guess the takeaway from this is that writers can do the same thing. Use the pain, love, joy, heartache, elation, whatever, and use it to create something that the world can’t help but notice and share.

Mr. Carrey, I sincerely hope brighter days are ahead for you right now. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible talent with the world and showing people that it CAN be done. You can take whatever darkness you see, hear, and feel in the world and turn it into light. Keep shining, sir. The world appreciates your light.

Watch Full mini documentary here: Jim Carrey: I Needed Color