3 Ways to Beat Writer’s Block

It happens to all of us.  We get stuck, and then we can’t move forward.  Here are some tricks you can use when you don’t want to write anything.

1.  Use a timer.

Using a timer focuses the mind.  It’s better to have ten minutes of solid focus than a hazy weekend where you occasionally glance at your notes.

Set your timer for the time available.  If you have fifteen minutes, shut off the internet and spend that fifteen minutes in a pure, focused burst where you work solely on the project at hand.  For super extra-credit, keep track of all the focused bursts you’ve done so far, so you can say, “I’ve spend an hour on my screenplay, 90 minutes on my spec pilot.”

2. Write support material.

When we get stuck, it’s usually because we’re missing a preparatory step.  The brain knows you’re sending over a cliff that hasn’t yet been bridged, and it would prefer to spare itself the indignity of the crash.

So ask yourself questions and write answers.  This connects you to the material and draws new ideas out of you.  Understanding is like a ladder.  You don’t need to know every step, but you need enough steps to be able to climb up to your goal.

Sample Questions (50 words per):
1.  What am I trying to say with this story?
2. How does this character relate to me?
3. What is the theme of this story?  How can I use this script to explore a problem I don’t know the answer to.
4. What are my three favorite movies?  How can I plant subtle allusions to them in the next scene?

Save your answers in a seperate file.  They might come in handy.

3. Rewrite your worst scene

Scenes stack on each other like jenga blocks.  If you have a crappy base, your structure won’t have any success.  To quote two poets, build a sure and steady base or else the centre cannot hold.

If you’re anything like me, there’s at least one scene in your draft that stinks, maybe you got stuck on it, maybe you rushed through it.  It’s often hard to identify the scene you hate the most, but find it (or pick a random one).  Polish it till it shines.  Once the problem scene is fixed, you’ll have more ideas for how to continue the good plotting and storytelling going forward.


Note: This entry is a rewrite (and hopefully an improvement) from an older post.  Writing is rewriting and all that stuff.

Published by Matt Lazarus

WGA screenwriter offering in-depth writing instruction, notes, critique, and assistance.

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