These creative blocks apply most directly to writers; novelists, screenwriters, tv writers, non-fiction and other writers. However, they can apply to any creative projects; songs, musicals, art projects, graphic novels, acting showcases, pottery, architecture or painting projects.
I do psychotherapy and career coaching with all kinds of creative professionals. Similar blocks exist for different jobs and similar “fixes” can be helpful. For more information, click here.
1. You can’t come up with an idea.
This is easier to deal with than execution blocks. Where do writers go for ideas? Everywhere. Newspapers, magazines, your friend’s lives, an autobiographical incident. True stories, (Argo, 12 Years A Slave, The King’s Speech)
Try writing exercises, think of an interesting character and write a scene, see if it suggests a story. What happens to the Sandra Bullock character after Gravity. Before Gravity? Tv shows, Law & Order, Criminal Minds, real life forensic shows, other movies, graphic novels, comic books. Do a classic play play with teenagers. Get yourself thinking, and writing ideas down.
2. You have a ton of ideas, but can’t commit to any of them, and when you try, they peter out.
The good news; many of these ideas might make a short or a tv show. If you don’t get anywhere, its often a sign that it may not be good for a movie. Try to outline them, but if it’s not coming, after a while, put it in the drawer. You’ve just been exercising that part of your brain that works on ideas, and now the pump is primed.
3. You have an outline but you can’t get through this one part of it.
Some writer’s ignore large portions of their outline, and use them as “jumping off points.” Some writers stick slavishly to the outline. Forcing things to work is usually a bad sign. Great ideas kind of have a flow to them. Some movies get written in a week, like Taxi Driver.
For comedies, make sure the scenes are inherently funny, and each character has a funny attitude about it. Then you can almost improvise the script. Sometimes you need to FOLLOW the characters, don’t force them You may need to veer off the outline. Follow the logic, follow the characters. What are the themes running through your story? Pick a direction that will allow you to expound on the theme.
4. You’re stuck in the middle and have no idea what happens next.
The opposite of 3. Maybe you veered off the outline, and it’s useless. Maybe you never wrote an outline. Often, you get into the “Flow” and write 20 pages of great material. You knock off, go to sleep feeling this is in great shape. But the next morning, you’re blocked. The next step feels boring, you’re not sure it’s going to the great 3rd act you thought of.
One way: Go back and read the good stuff from the beginning, you might recapture the Flow. If that doesn’t happen you might need a break. Clear your head. Tomorrow it might all come together. Sometimes you have to abandon the great stuff, and go a different way. Or, try introducing a new character or plot twist
5. You have a terrible feeling your story took a wrong turn fifty pages back, and you’ve hit a dead end.
You’re just realizing that clever twist, was cool at the time, but it screws up the rest of your script. Think hard. Don’t give up 50 good pages if you don’t have to. After a couple of days, you might have to bite the bullet.
You can keep writing to the end, but start where you should be now. Then you rewrite the good stuff later. Rewind partially, think about how you could maybe keep half, and get back on track. Not quite so painful. Or try to discard your 50 pages and do a complete rewind.
Next week blocks 6 -10 will be discussed. For help with any creative problems, especially involving a Hollywood career, feel free to click here, to take advantage of my 20 minute free phone consult.