Posts Tagged ‘writer’s block’

Facing Writing Challenges

July 22nd, 2010 Comments off

Every writer encounters times when they aren’t eager to write. It’s a difficult reminder that the creative writing process isn’t mere automatic scribbling (hopefully, anyway), but a thought-out presentation of ideas which often define or describe a theme or story. In other words, writing is hard. And some days (or minutes, weeks, months… whatever) you simply don’t feel like writing. It’s only natural – but it’s also the time when you should push yourself the most to write, since small interruptions in writing almost always turn into greater delays… if not outright halts.

Some refer to it as ‘writer’s block.’ Much as an experienced runner will ‘hit the wall’ but continue running despite physical adversity, devoted writers who experience challenges in their productivity because their creative juices aren’t flowing should write their way out of the problem  by continuing to create, since the mental writing ‘muscle’ is always best kept active. Many screenwriters and novelists I know often use an old writers’ trick of skipping ahead (or backwards) in their tale to change-up their creative flow and offer some variety in their duties; even though these ‘diversions’ often end up left out of the finished work, the very act of continuing to tell the tale aids the writer to get back on track story-wise (and in terms of productivity as well).

While the writer’s work is often a solitary pursuit, having a writing partner can help sustain productivity, especially if partners complement one another in terms of output. Writing partners may meet to discuss a story, then write their own material separately, which they later refine and reconcile; other partners designate one writer as a ‘rough draft’ scribe and the other partner as the ‘edit and polish’ contributor. There are many kinds of working arrangements between writing partners, but the bottom line is that only you know what arrangement works best in your case.

Don’t let a writing challenge stop you from writing. If you feel you need a brief break, take a walk, visit a museum, see a movie. But – and this is key – afterwards you must return to writing. Because if you consider yourself a scribe, a bard, an ink-stained wretch or whatever it is you call a writer, you don’t want to write – you NEED to.



June 24th, 2010 Comments off

You hear it all the time: ‘adversity builds character.’ And it’s true: place someone in a situation of ‘misfortune’ or ‘continued difficulty,’ as the dictionary defines adversity, and you’ll see some real character emerge. Perhaps not always the kind of character you were expecting… but that’s the nature of man – and the formative power of adversity. Diamonds are formed under pressure, as the old saying goes… but, then again, so are earthquakes.

But adversity can be inspirational. It can motivate someone to react, refine and adapt to deal with tough circumstances. For some, it brings writing inspiration, turning a negative into a positive – literally.

In my life and in my work, I have encountered adversity and I have dealt with others who have done the same. None of us are exempt from misfortune, but it shows a certain resolve to ‘turn that frown upside down’ or ‘make lemonade from life’s lemons.’ In terms of writing, the adversity characters experience in a story or screenplay is called conflict; it is the job of the writer to frame this conflict in a way that allows the reader to empathize with the character’s adversity – and hopefully resolve it in a way that satisfies the reader while ringing true for the character. As simple as that sounds, it really is difficult to construct (and conclude) a screenplay without running into some ‘writer’s adversity’ along the way…

As a story analyst and reader, I have dealt with a number of screenplays and manuscripts that were inspired by their authors’ own struggles with adversity, from substance abuse to physical disability, chronic illness or psychological problems. Each author wrote from the heart, and their sincerity was always evident. The quality of these works varied wildly, from novice screenwriters making simple mistakes with plot, story, or pacing to experienced, established authors whose tales evoked a level of poignancy rarely felt. And occasionally there were surprises, like the first-time writer who chronicled his often harrowing, always painful treatment for deadly Hepatitis-C; his manuscript made his ordeal come alive for the reader, turning a conventional medical tale into an affecting, scary and honest memoir.

We experience adversity in our lives in the same way that characters in a screenplay deal with conflict. It is how we respond to our adversity that is most important: if you see every challenge as an opportunity to learn, create and grow, then maybe some adversity isn’t all that bad!