Skip to main content

How to Tackle Writer’s Block

Relax and stop worrying. And you’ll get through that block in no time. If you are concerned about writer’s block, your concern might actually create a block or fortify the one you already have. So what can you do?

Relax and stop worrying. And you'll get through that block in no time. I can explain.

There's been a lot of talk, including an excellent article in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Script, about this important topic. If you are concerned about writer's block, your concern might actually create a block or fortify the one you already have. So what can you do?

1. Work through it - People get blocked in most areas of endeavor. I've seen or read about artist's block, CEO's block, therapist's block, place kicker's block, product manager's block, and on and on. Recognize that blocks are a normal part of life, and because writer's block is perfectly natural, you can now relax and allow it to dissolve and return to the soil. Just say, “Oh, I'm having a little block; I'll just plow through it.”

2. Free write - This is where you sit down at the keyboard and start typing continuously without much thought. You can write a scene or just nonsense. Free writing works because the continual keyboarding occupies the critical, thinking left side of the brain so that the creative, spontaneous right side can deliver the goods. Just have fun—don't think; be free. The first two pages are likely to be crap before you feel intuitively that something wonderful is happening. As with physical exercise, you sometimes have to do some warm-ups before you're into the flow of the session.

3. Outline - Sometimes crafting an outline or working through a beat sheet can help you prepare for the actually writing. Just as you draft with your heart (right brain) and revise with your head (left brain), allow yourself to be a little whimsical about your outline at first before you logically put each scene in its place. If you get the impulse to write a scene, stop outlining and write it while the passion is present, and then return to your outline. In my view, the left and right brains should work hand-in-hand.

4. Think - Thinking hard about your writing problem primes the creative pump. Here's what I mean. When your analytical left brain works on a problem, your creative right brain is inspired and intuits a solution in secret. Eventually, the solution breaks through into consciousness, usually when you are falling asleep, taking a shower, walking the dog, or at some other relaxed moment. You see, when your left brain is relaxed or occupied with something mindless, the right brain can push things into consciousness. Suddenly you are like Archimedes jumping out of the bathtub shouting “Eureka!”

5. Rejoice when writer's block strikes - That's because writer's block is often the moment when your left brain has taken something as far as it can—you're blocked—and now your creative side needs to take over. Just say, “Oh boy, this is going to be fun!”

6. Listen to music - Specifically, sing “Don't Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin before you begin to write. “In every life we have some trouble (a block), when you worry you make it double. Don't worry. Be happy.”

7. Have I said “relax”? - Relax, have fun, and write. Just as a frantic, nervous, or anxious attitude can create a block, so can a relaxed and fun attitude dissipate it. If you are angry at a loved one, become reconciled—the peace will actually help your writing.

In summary, relax, write, and keep writing.

P.S. I'd love to hear what works for you.

Dave Trottier has sold or optioned ten screenplays (three produced) and helped hundreds of writers break into the writing business. He is a script consultant, author of The Screenwriter's Bible, and host of As “Dr. Format,” he writes a column for Script magazine.