First: A brief announcement. I hope to do another free Teleseminar in a few weeks, discussing writing and answering your questions. Anyone interested in the details (when they become available) just register at THE SITCOM ROOM site. If you've already registered no need to do it again. The last one was a lot of fun. I discussed stuff like this:
A reader asked how you overcome writers’ block. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Different writers use different methods. So instead of just sharing my approach I thought I’d ask a few working writers for their take. One said, “Music, crying, and/or Ativan. Any one, but preferably all.” Here are the others. Many thanks to the contributing scribes.
Note: As you know I like to include photos to spruce things up. But other than this spiffy cartoon I can't think of what to post about writers block. So instead I'll just offer pictures that might serve as incentives -- pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. You know me -- anything to help. Enjoy.
BILL KELLY (ENCHANTED)
I'm not sure I believe in it, at least for myself. To
me, "writers block" suggests a tormented artist
searching for the muse in some wretched Parisian
garret, which is a much more glamorous image then some
lazy slob splayed on the couch watching Love Boat
reruns instead of working (guess which one I am).
I'm not one of those people who "hate
writing". I just hate getting started. And you have
to write 'something', even if it's bad, in order to
have 'something' you can make better.
My work days usually find me trapped between the twin
tensions of my inherent laziness and my increasing
self-loathing that I haven't done anything yet.
Eventually, the self-loathing desperately overtakes me
and I start feverishly working.
Surprisingly, that's the best part of the day.
IAN GURVITZ (BECKER, WINGS, author: HELLO, LIED THE AGENT, writer/director of the feature LA BLUES, blogger)
I think the best solution is to do something else. Take a walk. Go shopping. Sleep. Anything that takes you away from the way you've been thinking about the problem because that road has run you into a wall and to continue to think that way will result in your just banging your head against the same wall, like the marching band during the riot scene of Animal House. Even though you can never really get your mind off it, doing some other activity often lets the mind settle so that whatever part of you that comes up with ideas can make new connections, which often results in a new way through the problem, whether it's a clever solution or deciding that the problem really didn't exist. If that doesn't work, then I would suggest just blasting your way through it and hope a connection hits you along the way. Or working on something else and seeing, over time, whether the story really wants to be written.
In either case, since a story rarely come out fully formed, these moments are simply part of the process and the desire or need to write it will drive you through. That is my assessment of writer's block and it is correct.
ELAYNE BOOSLER (writer/comedienne)
I feel one cannot hope to successfully write anything without first alphabetizing the linen closet.
DAVID POLLOCK (MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, MASH, FRASIER)
I completely give in to writers block and distract my mind by throwing myself into obtaining the answers to obscure research questions distantly related to the project. For example: Why was Schulyer Colfax kicked off the ticket as Vice Presidential running mate for Grant's second term? Who were the ten best righthand hitting Dodger left fielders who platooned with lefthand hitting Gene Hermanski in the late 1940s and early 50s? Which ethnic group was put out of business when the Vietnamese took over all the manicure boutiques. Etc., etc.
CHERI STEINKELLNER (CHEERS, BOB NEWHART, TEACHER’S PET, SISTER ACT (musical heading to Broadway)
Morning Pages (Julia Cameron, Artist's Way). I
don't do the full Artist's Way regime, and I usually
don't even do this - but when I do it usually works,
and is always interesting at the very least. Morning
Pages = free-writing 3 stream-of-consciousness
notebook pages first thing in the a.m., still in bed,
fresh from sleep and dreams, and not yet distracted by
the day's to-do list. It's a habit you need to get
into (and it's easier to get out of, that's for sure)
but it invariably gives more than it takes!
JANE ESPENSON (BUFFY, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, GILMORE GIRLS, blogger)
I always tell people that nothing cures Writers' Block like having a job. If a script is due, if you HAVE to write it, then, magically, there is no block. Conversely, of course, writing projects of your own, spec projects with no deadline and no one waiting to read what you've done --- that gets harder after you've become used to hard deadlines and guaranteed payment. I force myself to complete those only sometimes -- when the idea strikes me as so good that I really feel driven to complete the project. Maybe, in cases like that, Writer's Block is actually acting as a good executive -- keeping me focused only on the best ideas!
ROB LONG (CHEERS, author: CONVERSATIONS WITH MY AGENT, host of MARTINI SHOT on NPR)
I give into it.
(Well, honestly, I've never experienced writers block, if by that you mean the desire to write but the inability to actually do it. I suffer from what experts call "laziness," which is a much different thing. I don't want to write. I can't really concentrate. I surf the web aimlessly. I lie about how much work I've done; I lie to editors about being "five minutes from emailing the piece"; I lie to myself, especially, when I say, "You know what? I'll get up early tomorrow and...")
LEE GOLDBERG (PSYCH, MONK, DIAGNOSIS MURDER, FAST TRACK feature, blogger)
I have never had writer's block...what I've had are scenes I couldn't make work...and that's almost always because the initial conception of the scene or story was flawed. Fix the structural problem and the "block" will disappear.
DAVE HACKEL (BECKER, WINGS, FRASIER)
No magic answer for this one. Mostly I try not to sit at my desk and try. I do anything else. Take a walk, go to the gym, read a book -- anything. I find that that's when the solution to what I'm blocked on comes to me -- when I'm not trying. Guess I can't take the pressure. And if I do sit and try to beat it, the only thing that works for me is to start posing questions to myself, i.e. pitch to myself. And just at it is in a writers' room, I pose everything I can think of from the ridiculous to the ridiculouser and shoot myself down mercilessly. In the end -- a solution comes because, quite frankly, it has to.
JENNIFER FISHER (TITUS, ELLEN, WANDA AT LARGE, HOME IMPROVEMENT)
I put my fingers on the keys and just start stream of consciousness typing everything I’m thinking about at that moment – the complete inner dialogue. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Why haven’t you finished this yet? You can’t write. You’re an asshole. A lazy fucking asshole.” You know, all the good self-loathing usually comes to the surface first. And I’ll even write about the fact I have writer’s block and ask myself what it’s about, all the while typing it out. I just let all those voices tire themselves out and usually that unblocks me so the rest can flow.
Either that, or go to a movie so I can later lambaste myself for, once again, procrastinating.