Thanks again to all the writers who have contributed to this post. Again, for pictures I am offering incentives as to why you WANT to break through your writers block.
LLOYD GARVER (FRASIER, HOME IMPROVEMENT, ALF, THE NORM SHOW)
Years ago, I actually took a course about writer's block at UCLA extension. We were taught stuff that you and I pretty much already know: put anything down, keep moving forward, etc. One interesting thing was that many people are afraid to mess up the perfect blank page with what they think is shit (obviously, I'm not one of them), so they have a hard time getting started. This was in the pre-compute days, and the teacher suggested that those people draw on the paper, crumple it up, do anything so that it's not pristine. Then they won't feel like they're messing up a perfect page with their first draft attempt.
For me, if someone is paying me or even waiting or expecting what I'm writing, I have no or little trouble with writer's block. I'm motivated by fear -- "fear of getting in trouble," so I put something down.
Other things that I do if I get stuck -- if I've been sitting at the computer, I try writing longhand. Or I may try dictating into a tape recorder.
I do not use a yo-yo to relax me. (Note from me: I do.)
ALAN EISENSTOCK (MORK & MINDY, WHAT’S HAPPENING, author of nine books)
I've never had writer's block. Like some well-known writers, I have a trick. Hemingway supposedly sharpened pencils to get him going. Faulkner supposedly fucked and drank all night and started blasting away at his typewriter every morning. I've heard that Joyce Carol Oates runs five miles every morning.
Here's what I do.
I tape a copy of my mortgage statement above my computer.
Works like a charm.
PHOEF SUTTON (BOSTON LEGAL, CHEERS)
Sweating blood and hitting your head against the keyboard?
I'd have written sooner but I couldn't think of what to say.
MARC FLANAGAN (TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW, MURPHY BROWN, GRACE UNDER FIRE)
Is not writers block just a romantic notion, an artist in crisis, an excuse to drink absinthe or take some kind of drug...isn't it just a state of depression. I wrote an episode of "High Society", I was working on it as an Exec Prod. Jean Smart (so talented) played a trashy novelist ( a Jackie Collins type) and we tried to tell a story about her missing a deadline because of writers block. The story never took off, the lesson we learned was that writers block is neither dramatic or amusing, perhaps too internal a conflict... as a condition or a narrative device - it stinks.
RUSS WOODY (MURPHY BROWN, DREW CAREY SHOW, BECKER)
Here's some stuff that helps me:
Read--Classic novels, works you most admire; Joseph Heller, Hosseini, Hemingway, Palahniuk, Steinback, the greats. Spend a day or two just reading. Read as fast as you can. Gets the brain working faster.
Also--read books about writing. It can be very inspirational.
Journalize--write in a journal, no limits, no boundaries, no spelling worries, no censors, just write. About dreams, about things/people that make you angry. Write a letter to your dead mother, or mine. Or just write gibberish (to free yourself up). Write five pages of rambling, incoherent thoughts. Something will click.
Read biographies about great writers. Read about how they had blocks and drank themselves into oblivion or beat their wives or cats, or shot someone, or committed suicide. Makes you feel a little less alone. Except for the suicide thing.
Then rent the movies you most love/admire. Just watching them can spark other ideas, inspire, motivate.
But, mostly read. Read, read, read.
MIKE TEVERBAUGH (DREW CAREY SHOW, ALMOST PERFECT,
I walk. The anxiety becomes too much and I have to expend that energy by walking. That's one of the reasons I purchased one of the much-maligned Blackberries. I can type on it and make notes of whatever pops into my head while I'm out walking. I have, on occasion, been very rude to neighbors who see me out wandering around and want to join me. And then I spend the next hour obsessing about whether or not I've hurt their feelings. Anyway, that's what I do.
TOM CLEAVER (Roger Corman classics)
I personally think Hemingway had it right when he said a writer had to sit down in front of the typewriter for an hour every day at the same time, whether anything came out or not. Eventually it gets so boring sitting there, you come up with something. And then the good news is that computers make All Writing Is Rewriting so much easier, so you don't have to worry that everything appearing on the screen is gold.
I also have a rule when working: I can't go fuck off and do something enjyable till there are 5 pages done that day. Hopefully, things get good and the enjoyable thing to do that day is to write. But 5 pages a day will get you through to "fade to black."
JON SHERMAN (RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, FRASIER, SABRINA, blogger)
If by "writer's block" you mean hitting a wall on something, well, then I turn to other friends and/or family (some of whom are writers, some not) and bounce it off them to see what they think. I have one friend who loves it when I turn to him for ideas. Needless to say, he's an actor.
If, on the other hand you mean running out of ideas completely, well, then I would turn to my agency. They appear to have no shortage of (mostly crappy) properties. I was actually pitched "Life's Little Instruction Book" as a series because as one agent said, "every page in it is an episode idea!"
Yeah. Every episode in it is an episode idea. Just like every relative you have works someplace that "would make a great series!"
Except that what makes a great series isn't the idea, it's the execution. If all you needed was an idea, "Hello, Larry" (Following the breakup of his marriage, radio talk-show host moves from Los Angeles to Portland) and "Frasier" (Following the breakup of his marriage, psychiatrist moves from Boston to Seattle to become a radio talk-show host) would have had pretty equal success.
ALLAN KATZ (MASH, RHODA, MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, ROSEANNE)
If you don't care about the quality of what you write, writer's block is never a problem.
STEVE PETERMAN (HANNAH MONTANA, MURPHY BROWN, SUDDENLY SUSAN)
I get into a room with six other people and a clock. We look at the clock, realize that we don't possibly have enough time to write the next episode, let alone have a block about it, and then we write it.
ALEX EPSTEIN (Canadian screenwriter, author of excellent book: CRAFTY TV WRITING)
1. I turn off the wireless internet and force myself to actually focus on the problem. That cures most cases, which are really just letting distractions get in the way.
2. I find talking through the problem with my wife, or another writer, or an assistant, helps quite a bit.
3. Analyze the scene. What does each character want? What is the relevance of the scene to the overall piece? Actually writing down the bones of the situation often makes clear what I need to be writing.
4. Look at other people's work that's similar in genre. If I'm doing a horror comedy, I watch horror comedy.
5. Clean my desk (pay bills, etc.). Likewise, this results in a feeling of accomplishment, reduces angst, and gets the bills paid. The theory is that afterwards I'll be better able to focus on the writing. I'm not sure this is true, but I've got to pay the bills some time.
ME (you know the credits)
Start a blog.