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Screenwriting : The dreaded block! by Andy Davie

Andy Davie

The dreaded block!

Hello fellow creatives... I'm wondering (again) how you overcome creative blocks when you're writing or creating in your chosen medium? Currently I'm working on a screenplay which started life as a short and keep finding that the story isn't flowing as swiftly as I would normally like. Instead of finishing the first draft in roughly two weeks, I'm less than halfway through and struggling to get going at my usual pace. I've tried music, taking a break, writing and reading something else, but all to no avail. So I thought to myself, I know... I'll ask the Stage 32 folks how they deal with the dreaded block and see if there's something I've yet to try :-) This also serves as a good reason to be perusing the site instead of working of course... looking forward to your responses. Cheers Andy

Antonio Ingram

Constantly retrace your steps from where you started to where you are at the moment. We retrace our steps in life when we are lost. I hope this helps you, I never really experienced that but I hope this helps. Best of luck man.

Marvin Willson

A few questions: 1. Is this your first feature length screenplay? 2. Have you written a feature length treatment, or are you working just off the short?

Andy Davie

Hi Antonio, thanks... good thinking re retracing my steps... I tried that this afternoon and it did indeed help a lot... Not quite back to my normal speed/flow, but definitely getting there. Cheers :-)

Andy Davie

Hi Marvin... No this isn't my first feature length screenplay... I've over 20 written so far... two features currently in post production, one in pre-production (they just finished shooting a teaser trailer) and another in pre-production development. I normally fly while writing features or shorts, but for some reason this one is proving a slower process... I suspect it's tiredness, but I can't take a break as there's a producer waiting for it! Yikes! Thankfully there's no deadline to meet... Re the treatment, I did write a very rough step outline, but may review it and expand it. Not used to being blocked or slowed down, thus the question posed to see what other writers do to get things moving :-) I'm sure I'll crack it, but I'm curious to see what others do, like writing to music and so on...

Monique Mata

I went through this on a current writing assignment. I was working off producer notes but couldn't see the sequences for the life of me. I had 2 weeks to produce 25 pages and it wasn't until 4 days before the deadline did the block crack open while watching a scifi movie (the script I was working on was horror). Sometimes reading a novel or watching a movie completely different from the genre I'm currently working on loosens up the block. Best of luck!

Sara Dee

Don't forget the "what if" option. Just let go and read the final line your happy with and then say, What if an earthquake hit right now? What if they had a heart attack right now? What if a car crashed in through the roof? Just go a bit mental, "What if frogs fell from the sky? Who cares, "What if your wife suddenly turned up?" It's not to find solutions its to get your head dreaming again. Enjoy the madness then sleep on it and I bet your head will tap into something you can move on with easily. Good luck

Andy Davie

HI Monique, that's a good idea re watching reading something completely different. Makes sense to distract the mind I think. Glad you made that deadline... I reckon the block has lifted now thankfully, no doubt in part by asking the question on here and thinking about the answers rather than the problem :-) If I'm right, I'll complete the rest of the script in a week (which is my usual turnaround at this point) if I'm wrong I may need another week or so... we will see.. Thanks Monique

Andy Davie

Sara!! :-) I live for the 'what if' scenarios, they usually open up all kinds of wild possibilities... your last possibility actually gives me a cracking idea for the best way to transit from the current scene to the next... thanks :-) Though it won't be wifey who turns up, but Daddy (methinks that'll give you a clue as to which one I'm working on now) and sleep is definitely what's needed, so I plan on an early night to night... I'll keep you posted... Really good to see you on here Sara :-)

Nancy Ahern

Try writing something completely different like blog or a newspaper editorial.

Manina Lassen

Try some Qi Gong exercise, balancing the right and left side of the brain. Then draw a mind map of the different ways the story could take from where you are. Forget about your structure for a moment and just write down what's coming in. The censor can do his work later! Good luck!

Andy Davie

HI Nancy, good idea re writing something completely different, like Stage 32 lounge posts perhaps :-) The good news is, my block has lifted and I'm now back to normal speed, when I'm able to actually sit down and write, (family always takes priority :-) It is fascinating reading people's different responses to this one...

Andy Davie

Hey Manina... Qi Gong? I'll have to check that out... the mapping out different ways a story can go, regardless of structure, sounds good to me, something I kind of do mentally repeatedly during the writing process and I rarely worry about stucture until the first draft is complete, then I go back and do the editing/censoring, so you're spot on there... Cheers! :-)

Ceidrik Heward

I've completed 18 screenplays Andy. When this writer's block happens to me, I take it as either: 1) I should put writing aside for a few days 2) I haven't 'bonded' with the story idea on a deep level. I don't have the message it contains in my heart so I come up with a new idea and let that percolate in my mind for a few weeks before starting to put it on the page I've found this works well. For example, i tried to get a thriller set in just 2 locations, finished but each time I tried to develop it, my mind went blank. I've now come up with a completely new story still using the basic limited location setting. This new idea is flowing well. Maybe this helps you.

Kem Royale

To alleviate a block I usually take a nap. Because I am so absorbed with my story I dream about it. Often, I awake with better plots, dialogue, and story arcs. When they say, "sleep on it." They know what they're talking about. To sleep is to dream. Kem

Andy Davie

You know, it's really wonderful reading everyone's responses... so many thoughts and ideas for beating the block... Just so you al know I have cracked it and am back on track, but I'm loving all the ideas and hope other who might read this thread are helped by everyone's suggestions I know I'll be using them should the block ever darken my keyboard again... :-)

Andy Davie

Hey Ceidrik.. You're spot on with the lack of bonding creating a problem and taking a bit of time out certainly helps clear the mind. Getting back to the original message I had in mind at the start of it, i.e. the birth of the idea/story and the short it inspired, had slipped my grasp, but once I found it again, it was indeed that realisation that helped me get back up to speed. I'm glad you were able to get the two location thriller working well. Yes that helps a lot... Cheers Andy

Andy Davie

Hi Kem, yes sleep is indeed the greatest healer and opens up the imagination with what the subconscious is able to play out in our dreams :-) Many of my ideas come to me in my dreams or are inspired by them... Cheers Andy

Nancy Ahern

Hi Andy, Glad your block lifted.

Ceidrik Heward

glad you got something from my comment Andy. I'm actually writing my latest screenplay, A SHORT ETERNITY with a specific actor in mind Tuppence Middleton, I'm finding looking at her photos while writing her character gives me a clear vision of the scenes and how she will appear in them. It's the first time I've done this but I'm finding it a real help. (it's a very gritty British story)

James Madara

I usually have a general outline hitting the key plot points. When I get caught up on a part or it gets clunky, I'll usually skip it and come back to it. If I need to work something out I'll keep it in the back of my mind and do something else besides writing. It usually comes to me when I'm watching a movie or just before I fall asleep.

Andy Davie

Hey Ceidrik looking at photos of your character/actor is a good way of imagining things about them, even better if you know them personally. A gritty British story sounds good to me :-)

Andy Davie

Hey James, I can see how outlining would help you go to another part of the story and then come back to anything that's problematic... My outlines/step outlines, tend to be extremely rough though... watching movie/distracting myself or having some sleep definitely seem to help the most though...

Andy Davie

Thanks Nancy :-) That block was getting a bit heavy, but talking about it on here and reading everyone's suggestions certainly helped :-)

Monique Mata

Huzzah, the block has lifted!!

Andy Davie

Hey Monique! Yup, Huzzah! indeed! The block has lifted and I'm back on track! Thanks in no small way to everyone's input on here :-) Thank you everyone, but keep it going as I think it's fascinating and maybe helpful to others reading about all the different ways to beat a creative block... :-) Cheers Andy

Jonathan Kramer

Get a copy of Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art".. you might also read Mike Rogan's blog which deals with exactly this subject: http://scriptbully.com/script-writing/screw-you-writers-block/

Andy Davie

Hey Jonathan, thanks for these references, they're great! I'm looking at Mike Rogan's blog right now and it's really rather good :-) Thank you sir :-) I've just read the whole of the front page and am truly impressed. What a wonderful read that was. I'll be delving deeper to read more... but for now... I must write... cheers Andy

Roshanna S. Evans

Hi there, sometimes the block is necessary to get you to detach, shake your self out, and allow your writer and muse to assimilate what's been done and intuitively align for the next stretch. It sounds like you need to shift your focus somewhere else, even to nothing but vegetating. Whatever allows you to authentically 'chill' and give yourself time to realign. Most of all, do no fear the block, make it a friend and explore it the way you would a character. You are in the hands of the muse.

Andy Davie

HI Roshanna, not fearing the block is a good idea. Exploring it as I might a character is good idea. I like that thinking :-) Chilling out and letting the muse take its lead definitely makes sense too... all the suggestions and ways people come up with for getting out from under the block are fascinating and great. It's also wonderful to see so much creativity in one place... thank you for sharing Roshana and everyone else thus far :-)

Bob Vance

Writer's block is your inner child telling you "don't do it, don't do it"... but you know you must whoop that child into shape and onto the page... so get out those gummy bears and that hand grenade and start a war... soon enough they'll be dropping drone bombs on your hesitancy. Hopefully your grandchidlren won't get caught in the crossfire.

Andy Davie

Hey Bob! Thanks for giving me a good laugh. Man I needed that :-) Grenades, grandchildren caught in the crossfire and drones blowing away any hesitancy! Yeah, that's pretty much what life is like around a writers computer, or maybe just in his/her head... what a great place to be methinks :-) Mmmm... gummy bears... hang on... milk duds, where are my milk duds!!! :-) btw, pretty much 3/4 through the current wip, so the first draft should be done shortly after the weekend! Yay!!!! :-) Cheers Andy

Simon Berry

Try running, it always sets my mind off in a number of ways, or (if you cant be arsed with the exercise) try re-visiting places you haven't seen in a great number of years. Hope you get inspired and back-on-track soon (albeit perhaps an entirely new one!!) :)

Kelly McGarr

For me I watch movies and drop the screenplay for a few days, for some reason I work on my writing subconsciously while doing other things, in particular watching movies. good luck and when in doubt sometimes a shot of tequila helps

Marina Phillips

I write something else - just whatever comes to my mind - sometimes poetry, sometimes a story, sometimes just a jumble of 'stuff' - whatever comes. Usually after that I can get back to what I'm 'supposed' to be doing :) Good Luck :)

Andy Davie

Hi Simon, running would likely give me a heart attack, after three major heart ops I ain't chancin that buddy, but walking and revisiting old haunts is a good idea, I tend to go for walks on Sundays whenever possible, so good call sir :-) I'm happy to report that I am back on track btw :-) Cheers Andy

Andy Davie

Hi Kelly, yeah dropping the script and doing something else like watching movies certainly helps... ahhhh, tequila! Now doing the above with said tequila or my personal fave Jack Daniels, definitely clears all kinds of blockages :-) Cheers Andy

Andy Davie

HI Marina, writing other stuff, any other stuff certainly seems to help keep the creative muse going until the time or muse is right for the one I'm 'meant' to be working on :-) Cheers Andy

David Taylor

Keep more than one screenplay or piece on the go. If one stalls switch to the other. Also... when all else fails write one-liners (Questions or answers or phrases). You will find that 20% are probably useful later.

Andy Davie

Hi David. I've always more than one on the go... err screenplays that is... and you're right being able to switch from one to another until the block on one has lifted does help and the noting down questions and answers does indeed often help later on. The input from everyone here is great, so many tricks and tips for writers to peruse should the dreaded block decend :-) Cheers Andy

Jonathan Kramer

This is great advice.. I think it's time for me to develop a new outline and get to work on another very different story. I think it's also time to get some industry feedback on my first script too :)

Andy Davie

Hi Jonathan, sounds like a good plan to me... Go for it! :-)

Stephen Mitchell

I like Hemingway's solution of just writing one or two true sentences. Great for the novelist and adaptable to scripts and other formats as well. What I always told my filmmakers is your theme is the guide and will dictate to you what you need to write. Remember that you are not writing a story so much as proving your theme with the events you describe.

Ceidrik Heward

Well put Stephen.

Andy Davie

Hi Stephen, very well put indeed. But I especially like the idea of proving a theme with the events rather than focussing on telling a story so much... hmmm that's given me a huge amount of food for thought. Thanks Stephen :-) Cheers Andy

Stephen Mitchell

Glad you liked it Andy. It has gotten me out of trouble on many occasions. :)

Andy Davie

I suspect it will get me out of trouble in the future too :-) Cheers!

Mark Metz Wagner

Always look at notes, drawings, newspaper articles, and meditate if necessary. Best wishes.

Wayne Schotten

There are so many causes and variables. Best case is you've chosen to write about something with more intricacy than you first realized, so I my approach is to put down what I've got, fill in around it, slog through it, take a pause to clear my head and repeat. Worst case is you may have started a project that has lost passion for you. We all have dozens of stories at different points of completion, but sometimes you have to say to yourself that it wasn't as interesting as you first thought. Then turn to the story you find gnawing away at you while you were trying to work on this one. In the middle, you may need to look at the decisions you've made, and see how those decisions should be propelling the story. If they don't conform to your fundamental choice, you may need to revisit your choices. Make sure you enjoy any discoveries you unearth in your story, as that enjoyment trains your mind to find more discoveries. Sometimes I resort to examining my story to see whether it has a fundamental dramatic situation, an exploration of what that means to the characters, and what they do driven by that meaning. That applies to the story, a scene, a line of dialogue. Sometimes you just have to go out and mow the grass and trust when you come back to your writing, you'll be ready to write 20 pages off the top of your head. It works.

Andy Davie

Well said Mark and Wayne, you're on the money when it comes to both realisations, either scenario you put forward can be solved, but the loss of passion is perhaps the hardest one to restore... still, in the particular case I was thinking of I'm back on track thank goodness and have a couple more projects on the go now too, so it's all happening and the one that suffered the dreaded block is now going quite well. All the suggestions, thoughts and ideas that have been posted here have been very useful... I hope others will come across them at their time of need and be equally helped :-) Cheers Andy

Ricky Hawthorne

Go and do something ridiculous, outrageous, in public even and see how that makes you feel. Then write about it. Even if it's crap it'll get you moving again

Andy Davie

Hey if it's mad enough Ricky it could become a story on the news :-) I hear what you're saying though, the distraction etc could free up the creative flow... Cheers Andy

Donna M. Carbone

I teach the "Writing the Feature Screenplay" course at the Burt Reynolds Institute. Ours is a think tank atmosphere... students bring ten new pages a week and we "perform" them in as a staged reading. Then everyone gets to offer their insights. The results have been amazing. Every week we leave inspired by what we have heard. Perhaps a meet up with other writers would help clear your mind and bring your fingers back to the keyboard.

Andy Davie

Hey Donna, I've kind of been sharing with fellow creatives on here and it certainly helped a great deal. I finished the script in question this very afternoon! Letting it sit for a bit before I go through and do any revisions. I figure the new work in progress I started will give it plenty of time to sit :-) But you're right, meeting with fellow writers whether in reality or virtually definitely helps get the creative juices flowing :-) Cheers Andy

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