Screenwriting : Writer's Block by Philip Singh

Philip Singh

Writer's Block

Hey all. I am relatively new to screenwriting and in the process of writing a screenplay. I have suffered from the well known Writer's Block couple of times. Have any of you guys suffered from Writer's Block? If so, how did you conquer over it and continue writing?

William Grey

I know this all to well. I have used rereading and rewriting to get the juices flowing again.

Jody Ellis

I tend to be of the opinion that there is no writers block. There is, however, resistance. It comes in many forms, procrastination, fear, feeling "blocked". You have to force yourself through it. Make yourself write every day, even if it's two pages of pure shit. Just keep writing. It gets easier when it becomes a habit.

Tawny Stokes

I agree with Jody. There's something stopping you from writing, it's likely something in the story itself. If I'm hesitant in writing, I go back to the beginning, and look at my outline, or I skip ahead and write a scene I REALLY want to write. Or I work on something else. This is why I always have 4-5 projects going at once in varying stages.

Steven Michael

I agree that there is no writer's block. Mental roadblocks maybe, but not pure, dead-in-your-tracks stoppage. One trick I use for plot blocks is I try to think up 20 different ways for a scene or character to act out. What other actions can take place, how can my character(s) change their situation? Usually the middle five alternatives get my writing going again.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Just get naked and keep pounding the keyboard. That works for me.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Philip: Read my post about this very topic from a few weeks back. https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/Is-Writers-Block-real-or-an...

Vasco Saraiva

Read the war of art.

Charlotte Talley

I take a break from my writing then I might see something or hear something then it will spark a vision to me then I write again

Melissa Willis

Hi Philip, This is probably going to sound like some woo-woo hippie-dippie psychobabble bullspit, but please hear me out. This is something very close to me and my heart that I'm just coming out of but still working through. I did everything I could - I wrote my way through it (unsuccessfully), I read every book I could about it (including The War of Art, which was inspiring yet didn't exactly help), set goals and deadlines, took coaching classes, writing classes, dove into Improv - EVERYTHING. Nothing seemed to work. The thing only thing that seemed to really pull me through this excruciating experience was to really figure out what was going on inside of me that was causing resistance, and that's exactly what it was/is - resistance. For me, I think it was an unhealthy combination of the following: Fear, feelings of inadequacy, and a severely wounded inner child, all of which were a result of my emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend who liked to hit me where it hurt - my creativity. So I recently began to address my inner child issues and I can't tell you want a difference it's made in such a short time. What the answer is for you I don't know. Only you can know that. But I think your inner kid is protesting for some reason and it might be beneficial to figure it out. They're very insightful and can tell you a lot more than you expect.

Jody Ellis

I think for those of us who want to make a living as a writer, there simply can't be any writer's block. I mean, I can't miss a deadline for a freelance article because I have writer's block, as that would be both unprofessional and ridiculous. Treating writing as a business and conducting oneself in a business-like manner (ie; writing every day whether you want to or not) can be very helpful in treating "writer's block".

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

@Melissa: We all experience creative bullies and have had a few mean ones here at S32. I abhor bullies of any kind and I'm so glad to hear that you're encouraging your inner child. I remember reading an article about January Jones, who said when she dated Ashton Kutcher, he told her she wasn't a very good actor. And by my estimation, she acts circles around him. We all have chinks in our armor and there are plenty of souls that enjoy discouraging you from pursuing the desires of your heart. So keep listening to your inner child. That's a voice you can trust.

Melissa Willis

@Phillip - So true! Thank you for the inspiring words! :)

Michael Hager

In my experience a block means I'm trying to force a story when none is there. When a story is right, I never get writer's block!

Dave McGuire

@melissa: That is a very true point. I am currently going to therapy, and in my last session, we got to a point of discussion where I addressed this (the fear, inadequacies, and overall feeling of no worth). I had been afraid of doing things that were good for me, (which came to me in the form of writers block) because I was afraid that I didn't deserve it - that I was just meant to be working a desk job all my life. But that isn't true, for anyone. We are ALL worthy of getting what we want. Writing is a beautiful and amazing experience and once you find out the thing that is holding you back Phillip, as Melissa stated, you will find that the block is gone. Just remember dude, you are worthy of this business. Tell your story. Cause somewhere out there, someone will watch it / read it, and they will connect - you have the potential of changing someones life with your words. Be that change. :) Nice to meet you all. New to 32.

Melissa Willis

@Dave - you nailed it. That was/is a big part for me, too - believing you deserve it.

Phillip "The Genuine Article" Hardy

Michael: I tend to agree with you. I always do a lot of upfront work developing a story idea before I ever type a word of screenplay. However, I've seen people take a premise and turn it into a hundred page script that goes absolutely nowhere. I read them all the time.

Ben Roache

I tend to write autobiographically when I get blocked. There are more stories in your own life then you are aware. Write about the problems in your own life then find a way to make those issues universal. Try focusing on a specific aspect of your own personality

Bill Costantini

Congrats and good luck, Melissa and Dave! Favorite Movies About Writer's Block 1. Barton Fink 2. Writer's Block 3. Adaptation 4. The Shining 5. The Lost Weekend 6. Ask the Dust 7. Satansbraten 8. Phillip and Bill's Not-So-Excellent Adventures, Part III: Bangkok Nights, Cambodia Mornings

Jeremy Dewayne Humphrey

Hello Philip Singh, there is a great link below that will be of some assistance. Hope this helps. http://nofilmschool.com/2016/03/rough-draft-text-editor-maybe-your-new-f...

Nelle Nelle

Jeremy, thanks for sharing! I might have to check that app out. The Flowstate sounds a bit intense tho. 5 secs?

Jeremy Dewayne Humphrey

JL Ivory...it seems a bit intense; however, the app's objective is to bring out the organic and creative stories to the page we all have inside of us. For me, the app keeps me accountable with the 5 second cancellation feature, as all of my initial thoughts and ideas are the ones i daydream about all day.

Philip Singh

I think the main problem I am having is my environment. I have noticed a few times when I change my environment, I tend to write a lot. Another problem is I have so much ideas flowing through my heads, I want to write them all and it often sidetracks me and misses up my mindset. All great responses. Thanks for the advice!

Philip Singh

Also wanted to ask, is it better to write one screenplay or do multiple ones at the same time?

Christina Patjens

Write different scripts. I'm about a feature, a short and a short story. At the same time.

Jody Ellis

@natasha, or as many writers say "Write drunk, edit sober" :-)

David Levy

If I hit a roadblock while writing, I stop writing that script or concept. I will work on something else or do a small mundane task I need to get done, but, I still have the roadblock issue working in my head. I will get my "oh shit" epiphany and sit back down and keep writing with a clear road in front of me. As long as my mind is constantly working on the problem I will come to a solution. I can write and work on other concepts to keep the creative juices flowing and it may help trigger what I have the roadblock on. Never stop working the problem, don't let the problem work you.

Tawny Stokes

Philip, I have several projects going at once. I'm also a novelist, so I usually have 1 book I'm writing, 1 book I'm editing, 1 script I'm writing, another script I'm outlining, and other things I will be making random notes on. In a day if I have 5 hrs to write, I will set time limits to write on each thing. So if the book is humming I will write 3 hrs on the book, then 2 hrs on the script. Or vice versa.

Nelle Nelle

@Jeremy! I see your point. I might check it out. Try it on something low priority like a grocery list then progress to brainstorms. I tend to get distracted easily. Before I even realize it. Which is the point of the app, right? lol

Aray Brown

@Philip Singh - I know for me I have to have complete and total silence when I write. I get distracted easily so I avoid them when I can. Turn off any noise, keep my door closed, wear headphones. Hope this helps ;)

Philip Singh

@Aray Brown - I am the same way. I have to have total silence when I write. I do this all the time. Thanks for the advice!

Dr Randall Maxwell

Just make a habit of continuing to write, write, write, and write some more. Make a habit of writing a specific amount of time each and every week. IN writers block, sometimes it is best to get away from focusing on your script and perhaps writing in paragraph format back story or even character description, as this may trigger your thoughts that you may continue writing your script. The main thing is the discipline of forcing yourself to write, regardless.

David Levy

^^^^^^ Agree completely! Research is a great tool. It can spine out different tangents of thought to free up your block and raise questions to plot ideas you may not have thought about. Good one Jim (aka James).

John Ginty

Hitting my head on the hardest object possible until an involuntary black out which induces a hallucinogenic state usually yields great ideas and story solutions....but that's just me.

Jennifer K.Machado

@John Ginty...why didn't I remember that? Oh, yeah. It was an ice skating rink on Mother's Day 2008, last time, and somehow I didn't remember driving, and I gave W. a third term in office. I'm not sure I can recommend that one again!

Phil Richards

I wonder if sometimes writers think they're having writer's block when they're really just running up against the fact that writing is HARD. Sometimes it takes a lot of thought to finally get that breakthrough idea that will allow you to crank out the pages until you hit another wall and have to repeat the process.

Jody Ellis

@phil I think that's a lot of it. This stuff isn't easy and sometimes it's downright painful!!!!! Ugh! My latest screenplay was incredibly challenging and took FORever because writing it was such a fight. But I did end up pretty happy with it. I'm sure I'll need to do at least 1-2 more revisions after my agent reads it, but I feel pretty good about it overall.

Jennifer K.Machado

Phil Richards, I'm interested in your perspective. I have found in many creative outlets I enjoy easily, I can choose things that others perceive as "hard" for them to accomplish, but I resist the idea that it is an elitist pursuit, or can be the same journey for anyone. If I'm singing a song someone else finds out of their range, I don't think they can not accomplish it. Just reset the pitch to the closest range, and practice. Filling out forms at a doctor's office make me question my existence, but writing a résumé for Beowulf in Iambic Pentameter was fun! I think it matters what your intent is, and when we find a hill, how to not develop it into a mountain, unless we just want to dust off the climbing gear and add adrenaline. Some find added pressure, (real or imagined) increases their output, while others crumble. Knowing it is ultimately survivable can take some unnecessary pressure off of the process. We each have triggers and methods of avoidance, but it is really hard to watch when someone self-sabotages in the last lap to victory. Knowing the ways to get out of our own way is very useful, for anyone in a creative venture, as long as we act upon the knowledge. To all, I wish you a great pen, strong cup, full heart, and blank slate! If that doesn't help break through, get a great massage.

Bill Johnson

I try and do a three hour meditation so I can get to a place of quiet, peaceful mind, and then think about my story, characters, and plot. Many years ago I knew a literary agent who thought writer's block was caused by a writer asking a story character to do something that character didn't want to do.' Bill

Jeremy Dewayne Humphrey

@JL Ivory..yeah, that is the point of the app. And, your suggestion for a grocery list or a to-do list can work as well. It applies to anything procrastination and creating a more productive workflow.

Jack Bybee

Writer's block? A cure sought? Simple. You're trying too hard. Stop. Get away from the monitor. Here is my method, and I hardly ever block - might work for you, then again. The major premise: "It's ALL in the mind." i.) A la Julia Cameron, author, [The Artists Way] "...As I am falling asleep at night, I repeat a mantra, that is: 'I open my mind to all the Creativity I need'...." ii.) My biggest unblocker? Write ! That's when I get all my ideas for further writing. Usually, at the start of school term, I buy 20 wire bound notebooks; after creating a mind map of ideas, that will later become my ToC [Table of Contents] I write long hand in the note book. I just get the ideas down, and expand a bit. a.) Major trick for getting the ms done? Write consistently. Every morning 2-3 hours for me. CONSISTENTLY. iii.) NOW... I leave it generally for 24 hours, then retype into the word processor - and expand it to a reasonable Draft_i or D_ii. iv.) My biggest unblocker? Time. Leave the text for days, if you can. As a technical writer, after Draft_iii has been reached, I almost insist on 48 hours of total avoidance. THEN, go back and the edits needed just pop out. [This I learnt teaching myself to program Basic / C++.] v.) If you have an absolute deadline. STOP. Go walk around the block. Go have a beer. Go chat-up a bird in the pub. Then come back.... vi.) When all else fails - reboot! When the computer system freezes - you reboot, right.?When your brain freezes, you... ? RIGHT! Reboot! vii.) I forget the author's name, but she wrote Writing Down the Bones, and says, you need 'to refill the creative well.' i.e. go traveling, get out of you comfort zone; go to an art museum, travel to another state, etc. viii.) Lastly... when all else fails - ASK. Ask whatever higher power you believe in, for guidance, for help. ["Ask, and it shall be manifested unto you."]

Izzibella Beau

Jennifer, I'm just the opposite I listen to some music while I do the lawn, weeding, cleaning, etc...It sparks up new ideas and gets me out of the corner that I was in. Writer's block is the worst. To have a blank screen set up and no ideas coming to mind kills me.

Jody Ellis

I can't imagine meditating for three hours before I write. Oftentimes three hours is all I have TO write!

Kent Rodricks

Some screenwriters say there is no such thing as writers block. I've found that times when I'm not feeling creative if I keep writing eventually something cogent will come out of my brain. Just keep writing.

Jennifer K.Machado

@Izzibella On that point we are similar. I had posted earlier, (though thought I deleted a duplicate posting) about finding a life forward task, like washing dishes by hand, seeing the things around that require attention, and the bigger jobs of breaking through concrete that needs replacing or a roof repair on the shed, or gardening, that my writing can afford other experts to handle...if avoidance is the dysfunctional but operational mechanism, see the opposite side of what you'd imagine avoiding more, and use it to one's advantage. I cannot force my mind to be creative, and when the switch is on, I cannot stand in the way of that creativity, and neither will anyone around me. I exhaust all resources at hand, if a tablet, notepad on my phone, audio recordings, chalkboard, post-it notes, or put it to a song I create in the moment, until the thread is consumed. I can limit distractions by choosing my time based upon known interruptions. Or, maybe the concrete will get broken as I physically release tensions and solve my writing dilemma. I'm no good as a slave, but wonderful as a genie let out of the ink bottle!

Bill Costantini

Kent - "some screenwriters" are wrong. Writer's Block is a long-documented condition that could have its basis in psychological and even neurological conditions. Those writers you refer to should do a little research before making such inaccurate statements. And I'm not even mentioning behavioral conditions that may impede a writer's ability to write.

Christina Patjens

What is weird, I suffered only from Writer's Block, as a poeme writer. No shorts, no scripts, no prose. Maybe you should change than the literary genre, for some time.

Hazy Eye Publishing

What I normally do is go to a crowded place like a mall, park, restaurant etc. and "PEOPLE WATCH". It's always helped with character, scenes and even plot development.

Jorge J Prieto

I'm, with, Jody. You got to write everyday, exercise that creative muscle. What I do when a story idea enters my head, I let it sit there for weeks, let it percolate. I've said this before, I need to know my beginning and my tentative ending, then I write 2-3 scenes at a time, each with a beginning, middle and end. Each, serving and pushing the plot forward towards the climax. IF, I hit a writers block, I take a little break and as crazy as it sounds, the characters talk to me late at night and I get up and write that scene and the beginning of the next, iif too tired and need to go back to bed. But again writing as much as you can, without long breaks in between scripts is key. Good luck, fellow happy writer.

Jorge J Prieto

Philip Sing: One screenplay at a time, always. If you are stuck and have a better story, put one away and come back to the other once you are done with one or the other. Remember part of writing is listening to your characters and living in their world until you are done with your first draft.

Abel Diaz

Best thing is to take breaks and maybe enjoy a piece of media (tv, music film) that is unrelated to your project and just clear your head. Even good food can do wonders.

Anthony Moore

No, not really. A proper outline before I start or making the unexpected happen when I get stuck have gotten me pretty far. Just think of the least likely thing that could happen and write that in. Trust me, a twist even you didn't expect can really get the old noggin working.

Michael Eddy

Quickly (I hope) - I adamantly disagree with those who've posted above that there is no writers block along with those who say the way to beat it is to write your way out (if you were writing at all - you wouldn't be blocked) even if it's pages of "shit". I've been writing (on and off very successfully) for decades - and in that time - I have had writers' block a couple of times. Speaking only for myself - I think in both instances it was brought on my severe frustration at how my career was going at the time - and bear in mind - I was working regularly and making good money - but the frustration came in the form of getting absurd studio notes from some execs who couldn't read much less tell a writer how to write - and in being hired over and over again to write the same genre or type of movie (I know - before those with no work get all riled up over someone complaining that they had a steady gig - trust me - doing the same bit over and over because you're cubby-holed as a writer of a certain type - can get humdrum and monotonous and burn you out in a hurry. Or it's the frustration of doing good work and even optioning or selling it - and getting caught up in the spin cycle of development hell where nothing gets made while you watch as other lesser movies do - and you wonder what you're doing wrong (nothing - it's how it works - and the name of the game - and no less frustrating) or if it will ever change. Writers block is NOT when you are feeling a bit burnt out or can't make a story work and just want to walk away for a bit and take a deep breath and get some exercise and hope it all comes to you in a dream so you can go back to it. Writers block is when you genuinely want to work - and you can't. The ideas don't come. You're so intimidated by the blank page that you physically avoid sitting at your writing desk and your computer or laptop or if you're a throwback - you avoid taking pen in hand and staring at the spiral notebook. I've had it once where it started one way and became another. Where my agent told me (because I hadn't given her a new spec in a while) that if I was blocked - she could suggest a psychologist to talk to. I told her I wasn't blocked - I was tired. After 6 months of writing not a word - I realized - I was blocked. The way I came out of it was a fluke. Another writer friend called me to ask if I'd seen a certain movie that had just come out. I hadn't. Same genre as a script I'd written at the start of my career. He starts reading me passages of dialogue from the script of this newly released film. Made me think of my old one. On a shelf. In a cabinet. While he read, I fished it out from the bottom of a stack. When he stopped (and it WAS a very good speech - delivered in the movie by Robert DeNiro) - and as a joke, I said, "You think that's good, listen to this..." and opened my old script to a random page with a long speech on it and read it to HIM. He had been a movie exec at Paramount when we met - and thought he'd read all my work - but not this and he says, "Holy shit - what the hell was that". Too long story short - he encouraged me to take another look at my old script - since this new movie would probably open a fresh marketplace for the genre - I did. Rewrote it from page one - and it was the biggest sale I've ever had. Went in a bidding war. I've never suffered from Writers Block since then.

Phil Richards

One more comment; something that just occurred to me. Some years ago I attended a design school to get a degree in photography. The school was known as an extraordinarily demanding "boot camp" environment - 15 to 18 hour days, 7 days a weekwith some all-nighters thrown in; very high standards, unrelenting pressure, etc. I made the mistake of trying to complete all eight trimesters without a break and burned out badly about halfway through. I would sit for hours trying to get ideas, sketching one thumbnail after another and coming up with bupkis. I finished the program and graduated on a wing and a prayer and missed out on a lot of opportunities in my time there because I was just so friggin' exhausted, mentally and emotionally. So, I guess my advice would be to take care of yourself (exercise, hang out with friends), take breaks, don't obsess on your writing or you'll end up draining the well.

Bill Johnson

This isn't a direct play to writer's block, but brain scan studies have shown that when people are fully pre-occupied with a problem, it blocks the subconscious from floating ideas up to the conscious. So taking a break, going for a walk, watching a movie, can open a line for those fresh ideas to manifest. On a different note, I tend to be a streak writer (for my own work). I accept I have dry spells and use them to rewrite, edit, go to a movie, etc. Bill

Jorge J Prieto

Then, to reinforce what Michael Eddy, said, the best way to not have to face writers block is not to sit in front of a computer, laptop or blank page. Why torture yourself like that. I speak based on my experiences, I never sit down to write unless I have worked out that opening scene. If making the choice to wait for an idea to come is writers block, then I've suffered from it many times, now I can honestly say that in the last two plus years, I have not stopped writing. Maybe is because I been suffering from insomnia and I spend my sleeping time writing, which my doctor told me is not healthy . Btw, Michael, your story about the screenplay you had buried in the closet and what happened years later is amazing and a great story in itself. Hey, at least we are all here for another, even if sometimes the help or advice comes across a bit too strong or insensitive, but we're all grownups and we can take it, just like the 'pass' from Execs, who simply don't connect with our stories. You move on.

Michael Eddy

Thanks Jorge. In trying to be brief in my last post (and failing) I failed to expand on an earlier thought which ties in to what jorge said about forcing things and another poster talking about writing "shit" just to get words on paper. If you're forcing it just for the sake of making your daily page count - DON'T. Shit in means shit out. It's not writer's block to step away and skip a day if you're not feeling it. If you write shit for the sake of writing anything - that's all it ultimately is - and you'll have to dump it all later. If I'm not feeling it - just staring at the page and nothing's happening - I walk away - and live to write another (more inspired) day.

Martin Wilsey

I confess that I never get writers block. I sometimes get the reverse, too many things to write. I credit this to the fact that I am a big planner. I start with a single sentence description of the story. Then a ten line outline, that turns into a two page outline, that turns into a fifteen page scene by scene outline and character sheet. By the time I sit down to write I know what to do. I never wait for the muse.

Blake Henry

Not that I'm that experienced, but I know that once I start writing I really enjoy it and it's a lot of fun. When I get stuck is when I think about writing too much. For me, the fun writing is the stream of consciousness type. Just sit down and start writing whatever comes into your mind and make a story out of it. Don't make it too serious, just make it spontaneous. Give yourself permission to have some fun writing whatever you want. Spiff it up till it makes you laugh or cry or just feel good. Then go back to your project with that new perspective. Give it a try. Maybe it'll work for you!

Cherie Grant

I have had writer's block on an issue with one screenplay for years. It's driving me mad. And it's not a plot issue, but a character issue. I just want to finish this damn screenplay.

Bill Johnson

Cherie, I suggest you visualize sitting in a room with this character and having the character tell you why they are doing what they are doing. Let the character tell you what they want. Bill

Cherie Grant

Thanks for the suggestion Bill.

David Taylor

Read what Bill said again. Have fun. And why not ask your character a few embarrassing questions? Ones that YOU think have nothing to do with the story. You might get a nice surprise. Worth a try.

Izzibella Beau

I agree with Bill and David. As an author, one of the things we would have to do sometimes for a blog is a character interview. Maybe that would help in your case, interview your character.

Michael Eddy

Cherie - I have to admit - I've never heard of anyone getting blocked over a character before. That's unique. Usually - one begins with their protagonist and supporting players - and your 3 acts - and have at it. Maybe this character was never fully fleshed out in your head before you began. Touching on what others have said above - and I would sift through all their advice and choose what works for you - let me add that I read an interview once with Neil Simon - one of our great playwrights. And he said that he begins not with plot, but with character. And once he feels as if he knows his characters - he's ready to write - because the characters will tell him where they want to go and the story they want to tell. It struck me as a bit bizarre (although who am I to question Doc Simon?). In other words - he channels his characters and gets action and dialogue. In that vein - you might need to re-boot and make sure you know all your characters before moving forward. That might unblock you in this specific case.

Michael Eddy

And see Bill Johnson's comment above...

Louis Sihler

Just sit and stare, it'll come to you.

Jorge J Prieto

Excellent points, Michael. Totally agree with the great Neil Simon, we gotta listen to our characters, they take a life of their and guide us. The late Jackie Collins use to say that her characters control her. Sounds crazy but the lady was not crazy, she was successful.

Kody Chamberlain

I don't get writer's block. On those rare days when I have trouble getting started or have trouble writing anything useful, I just allow myself to write badly. I know my brain is perfectly capable of crafting words, and my fingers can type those words, so I can ALWAYS write badly. If I stick it out, the good stuff always comes. On occasion when I'm dealing with stress, anger, heartache, or the general distractions the brain throws at me, I pour that stuff directly into my journal with as much detail and emotion as possible because for me, that's the hardest stuff to create on the fly. Example, if I'm writing a grieving character, I'll go back and reference the journal entries for those times I grieved. I can usually pull useful elements from those experiences.

Michael Eddy

Jorge - Jackie Collins made a great living writing thinly veiled characters based on the real ones she met and worked with in Hollywood. The old adage "write what you know" put to very successful results. I'm not so sure her characters controlled her - I'd bet that it was her attorneys - worried about her getting too close and getting sued.

Sue-Kim Steele Green

Hi Stanley, Thanks for the add. You have a wealth of experience and knowledge which is just fabulous! As a newbie this gives me great hope and fills me with excitement at entering the industry. I started off my career in design and I'm heading into screenwriting. Again, thanks for the add, it's lovely to meet you. Sue-Kim

Jorge J Prieto

Michael: Great point, but she refer to the sex scenes, that they dictated to her when to have sex. Anyway. Food for thought.

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