Writer’s block is something we’ve all struggled with.
Looking back at our past conversations, we found further insight into facing the daunting blank page. What can you do to overcome these obstacles, and what steps can you take to get your story back on track? Here are five tips for tackling writer’s block from past AFF panelists and celebrated writers/creators in film and television:
1. Concept vs. Character
“A really great idea is- is no match for characters. It doesn’t matter what your characters do if they’re great. People watched how many seasons of FRIENDS? What do those people do, really? They drink coffee, you know what I mean? That’s why you start with your characters, because they have inherent conflicts in themselves. In each character there’s a conflict, so you can always just service that conflict.” – Courtney Kemp (creator/showrunner Power)
2. ‘Failure’ is your Friend
“And there’s no wasted effort. Even your bad script, that is 1 step further to writing a good one, so I mean, just keep writing. Nothing wrong with trying something new, taking a risk, doing all of those things, it’s all going to help you in the end.” – Derek Haas (creator Chicago Fire)
“I worked on shows created by other people, and that gave me the opportunity to sort of learn from them and- and sort of be confident enough in my own ability to, honestly, get more in touch with what is specific and more unique about me, right?” – Alan Yang (co-creator/executive producer/director Master of None; writer/co-executive producer/director Parks and Recreation)
4. Realize Your Strengths & the Rest Will Come
“You get to a place where you’ve written a dialogue-character-centric movie, and then you hand it in and they’re like, ‘Yeah, this needs an engine of some sort.’ And I’ve heard that so many times with movies where I just don’t write the engine of the structure of it as much, and I have tried to get better at that, but that’s the hardest thing, because it’s dry to me. And I need to find more ways as I develop but I’m gonna get there! That last day, I’m gonna hand in a rough draft and they’ll go, ‘The structure is impeccable!’ But I, I find that I really have trouble with, you know, building it, because I don’t think in that linear way. I like to think in more of the way life is, where you have a million scenes a day, and they kind of build up to a theme.” – Paula Pell (writer Sisters, Saturday Night Live)
5. Take The Pressure Off
“I then started to have the task of like being asked the question ‘what’s next?’ it was sort of prompted by a schedule of ‘now you should put out another movie’ my work started to suffer versus it being born out of ‘I have something that I need to express.’ My work got lazy, I started to feel like I was trying to repeat some sort of magic I had found in something that was really genuine and so that’s something I’ve learned having kind of arrived at the other side of it. But yeah, when I’m writing a lot of times I’m just- I’m just improv-ing. And I am not a very disciplined writer, I have been at times, I used to like make sure I sat and wrote for three hours a day or something, but now I spend a huge amount of time imagining, like months imagining the script and imagining what the scenes are and really understanding what the tone I’m going to write is, and then I write very quickly, and then I write the thing that I’ve been imagining for so long.” – Jason Segel (actor The End of the Tour, I Love You, Man, Knocked Up, Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Freaks and Geeks, How I Met Your Mother; writer/actor The Muppets, The Five Year Engagement, Forgetting Sarah Marshall; author Nightmares! book series)
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