INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)
There are several hurdles that almost every writer has to get past in almost every writing project; scripts, books, plays, or even a substantial essay or article.
As a writing coach I’ve helped many writers and talented would-be writers get over – or around – these hurdles. I’ve also written over a dozen scripts myself – plus many projects that never got finished because of one or more of these stumbling blocks.
Webster’s defines a ‘hurdle’ as: “an artificial barrier over which racers must leap”. I think the key here is remembering they’re artificial blocks, usually psychological, and they’re almost always put in your way by you. Of course, they seem – and act – pretty real.
HURDLE #1: GETTING STARTED
You might be one of the lucky ones who has no trouble here. If so you’ve probably gotten started on way too many projects. If you’re one of those people, you can skip directly to the second hurdle. But if you’re having trouble getting going it’s probably due to one of the following reasons:
“I’m too busy with other things!” aka “I can’t find the time!”
Get more organized. That might mean setting aside specific times to work, but it also could mean always carrying a pen and pad with you and making notes as they occur to you. A lot of people wait until the weekend and try to dive into the deep end with a binge of work after doing nothing all week. I’ve found that smaller consistent (ideally daily) increments are far more effective and keep the project in your head even when you can’t ‘work on it’.
Solution #2: Give it up. Maybe you don’t really want to write. Why should you? Writing is really really hard. If this solution gets your hackles up, then it’s probably not for you and you really do want to write. You probably just need to get more organized.
Or maybe your problem is:
“I’m blocked and when I sit down to write nothing comes out!”
Solution #1: Don’t sit down! Writing doesn’t always happen while you’re sitting at your desk. In fact, it often happens when you’re in movement elsewhere: walking, running, exercising, driving, taking a shower. Then take out your pen and for god’s sake write down the idea, scene, piece of conversation or whatever scrap you can get.
Solution #2: Live more. Maybe you really don’t have anything to write about. More life = more material. Volunteer. Fall in love. Go on a mad adventure. Do anything besides sitting at your desk.
Solution #3: Think of your audience instead of yourself. Creative blocks often come from a fear of failure, which comes from focusing on yourself and what you’ll get from the project instead of the audience and what you want to give them. We often tell comedians not to think about ‘getting laughs’, but about ‘giving laughs’. Less ego, more service. If you’ve got something to say or a story to tell that you really think is going to help people to see, feel, laugh, wake up or live then you have a higher purpose than feeding your own ego.
Once you get over this hurdle, there will probably be a flurry of creative excitement that starts gushing like a river. That lasts a little while (if you’re lucky) then, suddenly, the river slows down and spills into a big wide marshy swamp.
Congratulations, you’ve hit the second hurdle!