I’ve been reading Xander Bennett‘s fantastic screenwriting book, Screenwriting Tips, You Hack, after winning it in a contest. I’ve fallen in love with this book, and today I had the opportunity to follow through on one of his best tips from the book:
Screenwriting Tip #101: Write even when you really don’t want to. Often that forced, un-fun, “I’d rather do laundry” writing turns out to be surprisingly good.
He’s right on the money with this.
I’ve known this tip was true for years, and I think plenty of us do, even those of us who use writer’s block as a way to hide from our script. It’s so easy to assume that feeling shitty will translate to shitty writing, or that writing that comes when we feel like not doing it will somehow be uninspired. Perhaps it is for some writers… but I’ve found that my voice is remarkable consistent, whether I wrote in a frenzied, religious rush of inspiration or chiseled it, piece by painful piece, from that mythical stone block in the middle of my path. And often, writing through the block creates inspiration.
Because pushing through when you have no ideas means writing, which can create the seed of new ideas, new excitement. Two characters start a conversation that just works, driving forward with ease. An action sequence turns when you realise the best obstacle that pulls you in and makes the tension more urgent. Your characters enter a location that blossoms within your minds eye, creating a playground you can’t wait to enjoy painting in Final Draft for everyone to see.
One strategy for these is a forced writing sprint. Jane Espenson, a veteran TV writer who worked with Joss Whedon (among many illustrious credits, including an amazing advice blog for screenwriters), will regularly announce these on her Twitter feed. By announcing them to her 50k followers, suddenly she’s got a pressure to follow through. If you told fifty thousand people you were going to do something, something so simple as focusing on writing for an hour, wouldn’t that make it a bit harder to punk out? And there’s something freeing about being an outside participant of these. You don’t have the hump of being the one to push the button – Jane does – so you can just relax and focus on completing the sprint alongside her.
Just know that the writer’s block can often be defeated. You just have to remember, you are creating the block, and you have the power to push through. So just do it.