Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How to Beat ‘Writer’s Block’

I'm going to start today's post with a declaration:

Writer's Block doesn't really exist.

Ok, I'm obviously going to have to defend that statement, so let me start by saying that the reason people have problems with Writer's Block is purely down to perspective.

As writer's we've all found ourselves in that position where we're ready to start banging our heads on the desk because we're 'stuck' halfway through a story, or staring at a blank page completely convinced that we've 'run out of ideas'.

It's impossible to run out of ideas. They're literally everywhere. Let's say I've got to come up with a story right this second, I look around…

There's a sealed envelope on my desk. It has a stamp on it…

Ok, someone uses stamps to smuggle drugs into the country by lacing the glue with LSD…what if these stamps get out into the general population?...what if someone takes them on a plane and drops one on the floor? What if the pilot sees it, picks it up and decides to write a postcard when they're in the air? What if the guy doesn't drop one on the floor, writes a postcard himself…but it turns out there's something wrong with the LSD and it turns him completely psycho? What if he starts hearing voices about how the pilot intends to crash the plane? What if it turns out he's right?

There's a good few ideas from glancing at my desk and seeing a stamp.

Now, what Writer's Block really is, isn't the lack of ideas, it's the lack of confidence in our ideas. If you're 'stuck' halfway through a book and 'just can't think of a way to get from point A to point B', chances are you actually have three or four ideas…you just don't think any of them are really good enough.

The trick is to give yourself a short deadline to come up with an idea you really like, and if you haven't thought of anything better by then, pick the best of your 'bad' ideas and carry on. You can always go back and change it later, or in the context of the whole 'thing', that 'bad idea' might just be the lynchpin that holds an awesome story together.

The simple truth is that sometimes a really bad idea is what makes a really, really good idea possible further on in your story. Plus, most of the time, it's not the idea that really matters, it's the execution of the idea that's important. How many times has someone described a movie to you, and you've thought the idea was stupid, only to watch it and love it? The opposite is also true. You hear about the concept for a movie, TV show or book…only to experience it and realize it's the worst crap you've ever wasted your time on.

In fact, it's really hard to tell what's a good idea and what's a bad idea until you try it out.

The thing that makes Writer's Block a real killer, however, is 'Brain Crack'.

You see, I think everyone has that one 'amazing idea' for a book or movie script, song or whatever inside them. The problem we have is that as long as that big idea stays in our heads, it can stay perfect. It's going to remain the idea that's going to make us rich, put us at the top of the best-seller list and show everyone who ever doubted us just how awesome we are.

As anyone who's ever tried to bring their 'big idea' into reality can tell you, actually acting on that idea is a whole other story, because the idea is never quite as perfect as it was in our heads.

That's where a lot of Writer's Block comes from. We get this amazing idea that gets us all excited and just itching to write…then we get stuck, but only the absolute best ideas will do, because this is our big idea and we don't want to spoil it by using anything less than 'A' material. So, our big amazing novel that was going to change the world gets about five thousand words put on paper, and then it languishes on our hard-drives or in our desks because of 'writer's block'…or more accurately, because we're unwilling to move forward with it because anything less than perfection just isn't good enough.

In the meantime, the successful writers are churning out page after page, because by allowing themselves to create work that is less than perfect, they're getting a ton of experience and learning what makes a good story and what doesn't and realizing that sometimes, the biggest success comes from the stupid, throwaway idea that occurred to you on the commute to work…and not the amazing 'big idea' you've been mentally nurturing since you where seven years old when you first decided you wanted to write.

Basically, you don't have 'Writer's Block'. You've never had 'Writer's Block'. All you've had is the lack of courage to execute one of your ideas because you felt it wasn't 'good enough'.

The big trick is to realize there really is no such thing as the one 'big idea', and that the first time you try something, chances are you're going to suck at it. However, even though that first idea might fail, what you've gained is a million times more experience of what makes a good story than the guy sill sitting on his couch, dreaming of signing books for his legions of adoring fans.

He cure for writer's block is to write. You have an infinite number of ideas. Pick on and run with it.

Go on, I dare you.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Thats actually a pretty good point. When writing I sometimes 'run out of ideas', but when I think about it, I realise there are actually a dozen ways I could go, and then these ideas can be worked on to make them perfect.