Tuesday, January 11, 2011

These days I find many of my students at the Academy Studio – ScreenWrite.In come up with the answer very often: “I was not in a mood to write” or “I don’t think I’m getting the right thing to write”, some even say straight, “I have a Writer’s Block.”

Is there a Writer's Block at all? Or is it one’s reason just to avoid what one should be doing – write? I’m of the opinion Writer's’ Block is another name for your priority to do something at a given time. If your priority is to write, well you write. When one is hungry and crave to fill in, I don’t think anyone will come up with a Hungryman's-Block. Ha Ha!

This’s a quote I like very much and I have posted this in facebook long back: "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." (Mary Heaton Vorse)

Well, I’m not being cynical, and I do agree most of the screenwriters and writers will have trouble with Writer's Block at some point in their lives.

From my experience of having seen other screenwriters work, also having written many a screenplay, I can well understand the many many hitches during the process of writing. Writing is of course a journey, like life itself, like the story one writes itself. Trepidation, anxiety, a life change, financial commitments, the end of a project, the beginning of a project…almost anything, it seems, can cause that particular feeling of fear and frustration in the writer.

Let me ask you something: What's the most arduous part of writing? Or, what phase of the writing process gives you the most of burden? Is it developing the story? Structuralizing emotions? Rewriting? Revising? Editing?

For many of us, the hardest part of all is ‘getting started’. Sitting down in front of a computer screen or a blank sheet of paper, facing a blank wall, and--and nothing.

"The easiest thing to do on earth is ‘not write’."

We really will want to write. We may be facing a deadline that should compel us to write. But instead of feeling motivated or inspired, we grow anxious and frustrated. And those negative feelings can make it even harder to get started. That's what we call "Writer's Block."  

Or sometimes, even after we start writing with labored focus, making time to write will always be something of a struggle. With friends and family, financial obligations, and emotional issues all vying for our attention, it takes determination to make a writing schedule and stick to it. Writer's Block, of course.

When asked about the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, novelist Ernest Hemingway said, "A blank sheet of paper." And none other than the Master of Terror himself, Stephen King, said that the "scariest moment is always just before you start [writing]. After that, things can only get better."
It’s interesting to read what’s found in Wikipedia on Writers’ Block:

Writer's Block is a condition, associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked" writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite.

Writer's Block may have many or several causes. Some are essentially creative problems that originate within an author's work itself. A writer may run out of inspiration. The writer may be greatly distracted and feel he or she may have something that needs to be done beforehand. A project may be fundamentally misconceived, or beyond the author's experience or ability. A fictional example can be found in George Orwell's novel Keep The Aspidistra Flying, in which the protagonist Gordon Comstock struggles in vain to complete an epic poem describing a day in London: "It was too big for him, that was the truth. It had never really progressed, it had simply fallen apart into a series of fragments."

In her 2004 book The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain (ISBN 9780618230655), the writer and neurologist Alice W. Flaherty has argued that literary creativity is a function of specific areas of the brain, and that block may be the result of brain activity being disrupted in those areas.

(to be continued . . .)


Palani Murugan N said...

Hungryman's-Block :)

Anonymous said...

once you start, writing seems great, so much so that I feel like quitting other things and write.....

If the next blog was "getting started" I could probably write all the time :-)

John E said...

@ Avinash: Good that you can sail well aft once started.

@Palani: :)

Mira's Mumblings said...

hahaha...wow...loved this John...so true... i am into so many things currently on the professional front that i have loads of starting trouble in doing what i love and passionate about - writing...but am determined to do away with it... instead of waiting for the right mood/ambiance/quiet to set it i am just going to blast away wherever i am ...even in the midst of sound and fury ...will let you know the day i do that...hopefully soon!

John E said...

@: That's the spirit to write, Mira. Great to hear you are truly determined. :)

Vijay K Basuthkar said...

Well said about Writer's block! :)

Bhargavi sekhar said...

I disagree with the 'hungry man'theory. Writing is a self-expression whereas eating comes from a physical need for self sustenance. Writing itself being an outcome of a psychological process one can not think of writing all the time and expect it to make sense.

There are times when the brain might just shut down. It is important to respect its decision and take a break, rather than torturing it go on and on which can result in backfiring. As much as it is important to keep writing, it is necessary not to keep on writing. So, once one experiences block, it shouldn't be taken for lack of interest or ability, it is just the temporary absence of creative spark. It is ok.

John E said...

@Bhargavi: Of course you have a point here. Same time, as you say Bhargavi, 'if it's a temporary absence of creative spark' you may not even call it a 'block'. When one writes, the most pressing need is persistence. Another way to look at it is as Robert Mackee suggests: The writers block really means, "I've got nothing to say."

Bhargavi sekhar said...

@John E,
...Which means, you have nothing to say to the world. You could possibly be communicating with yourselves, thinking. Not everything needs to be in the form of verbal communication :)At times, the trick is in using the full stop or even ellipsis rather than indulging in verbal diarrhea. Right? :)

Palani Murugan N said...

@Bhargavi => "I want to have food but I'm not hungry" - Hungryman's-Block

"I want to write good stuff but no creative 'spark' " - Writer's Block

Palani Murugan N said...

@Bhargavi => "I'm hungry but no food" - Hungryman's-Block

"I want to write good stuff but no creative 'spark' " - Writer's Block

Bhargavi sekhar said...

@Palani Murugan N,
No one dies of not writing, I'm sure you have heard of hunger deaths though. Period.

Palani Murugan N said...

@Bhargavi => I was surprised to see your comment with lots of words on it! I thought you were communicating to yourself.

You see, *sometimes* you've to communicate in writing. I think we are talking about those moments - not about basic necessities of any human. I think for a writer, writing something everyday would become a basic necessity over a period of time.

Hunger deaths? Tell me more!

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