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By Kathleen Laccinole · October 13, 2021
Really, really stuck.
Like, ice cream out of the carton stuck. Hyperventilating, teeth-grinding, panic-ridden stuck.
You can’t fix it. It’s not working.
My god, I just spent a year of my life on this thing and it SUCKS!
You have a complete and total meltdown.
There… Do you feel better? Okay, now repeat after me:
I am completely normal. This is just part of being a writer. It’s all gonna be okay.
Working on a story until you hate it is common. When you can’t find a constructive solution to a problem and everything starts to blur, what’s really happening is that you are waaaay too close. You’ve lost your perspective so you are hitting a wall.
Say it again:
I am completely normal. This is just part of being a writer. It’s all gonna be okay
Then try some of these suggestions to get out of your head, and through this horrendous part of being a writer.
Go a-wanderin’ — in your body and in your imagination. Sometimes boredom invites the best ideas. Letting your mind do its own thing every now and then is crucial to your creativity.
So, when you’re stuck in your story, dance away from it. Do something you love, something less mentally taxing, something methodical. Do something soothing that allows your brain to rest and your thoughts to run free. Listen to music, go for a run, wash your car. Some of my stickiest situations were solved ten shirts into an ironing spree on a Friday night. And make sure to keep a notebook or your phone’s voice memo close for when inspiration hits. Because it will.
I don’t mean to proofread it or attack the damn issue. Rather, see how much you’ve already accomplished. Be it an outline, a treatment, or a draft, look how far you’ve come from that oh-so-paralyzing blank page that taunted you once upon a time, then keep writing the bits that you know.
If you can’t envision how the script will end at this exact moment in time, don’t worry about it. Chances are your script will ultimately tell you where it needs to go. In the meantime, work on what you have, jump over the deep, dark, empty holes, keep on moving forward.
When you’re in a hamster wheel of rumination and drool is pooling on your shirt, maybe it’s time to try something new. Be daring. Do the unexpected. Have fun! There are lots of different ways to be creative, and no rule says you can only write (although it might feel that way).
When you try new things, it feeds your noggin, helping your brain to make new connections and shaking out the bats and butterflies nesting there. Paint, sculpt, sing or whittle wood, whatever it takes to get you giggling. Consider playing with your script: kill your main character, give him a sex change, turn the entire thing into a musical. Nothing is off-limits. If it pops into your pretty little head, put it on the page. Cultivate inspiration by creating inspiration.
Much of the time we freak out because we are unsure if our vision is coming across. We can’t manage to relay what we want to say. Hell, we aren’t even sure what we want to say in the first place. STOP! Get a fresh perspective from some fresh eyes. Invite your pals over (no screenwriting experience necessary). Order some pizza, a vat of wine, and a bottle of champagne. Pass out your scripts, pens, pencils, etc., for notes. Then pass out the wine. Assign each person a part, and prose to someone else. You do nothing but listen… and maybe drink a little wine. Then read the script aloud.
Hear how your words sound. Assess how people respond to it. (If they look puzzled, they are.) And when you’ve finished, go around the room and get notes.
If you get a note once – no biggie. If you get the same note twice, take a look at it. And if you get the same note three times – address it. Then, if your conundrum is still stabbing you in the head, throw it out there and discuss it amongst your brain trust. Chances are between you and the room your issues will be solved and you can open that champagne.
If you’re writing it to make buckets of money to save the house, then start looking for an apartment. If you are writing it to win an Academy Award to impress Jennifer and win her back – you’re delusional. (She chose Brad. Move on.) And if you are writing it to work out some long-simmering emotional issues you blame on your mother, I have the number of an excellent therapist.
Otherwise, remind yourself why you started writing the script to begin with. Remind yourself why you write at all. Remind yourself that writing it is the expression of your true self. And remember the exhilaration you feel when you type FADE OUT. After all, we write because we love to write. The joy is in the process, not that one plot point, flat character, or narrative twist.
Let’s face it. The most intimidating thing in the world is a question mark. Accept that screenplays, like life, are full of them… and unexpected twists, turns, delightful highs, and debilitating lows.
And never forget:
You are normal. This is just part of being a writer. It’s all gonna be okay.
Because it is.