Bad news: Writers’ block is a thing.
Good news: It can be overcome.
Better news: Use your loss of focus to improve your writing.
Best news: Distract your writers’ block by doing an unrelated activity.
Distraction For Screenwriters
I’ve previously discussed the importance of screenwriters undertaking non-writing related activities to exercise their right brains and exercise their creative muscles. Improv is one of those tasks, because it forces writers to examine their stories from a different perspective and find alternative outcomes through instinctive, impulsive, visceral, non self-censoring activities. Wow!
Consider the modus operandi of Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society”. He asked his students to stand on their tables to question the world and view it through an unconventional lens.
Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) encouraged his staff to undertake courses unrelated to their jobs. These include foreign language, crafts, art or learning a musical instrument. Steve Jobs took a calligraphy unit before starting up Apple computers. These tasks stimulate your right brain to find alternative solutions that you may otherwise have never considered.
Improv For Screenwriters
Improv is a vital tool for writers, especially for “on the fly” rewrites. Consider a scene featuring water skiing about to be filmed. The boat hasn’t shown up, or the producer has been ordered to trim the budget, but the cameras must keep rolling to adhere to schedule. The director tells you to write an alternative action scene in an hour. Go. You’re at the beach already, so use this as a starting point. Bounce a few ideas. Being forced out of your screenwriting comfort zone, generates amazing creative electricity in your subconscious mind. Have you ever come up with something brilliant and baffled yourself where it came from? It’s all you, baby… Just from the depths of your mind you rarely access.
The first rule of storytellers is to observe your surroundings using all your senses and register them to memory; see, smell, hear, taste and touch. This forces us to raise our awareness levels and create more colourful characters and plots. Awareness is different to consciousness.
Many screenwriters consider their profession a solitary one. Improv helps exercise those social muscles in a non-judgmental way by forcing us to relinquish control to allow the release of latent creative energy.
The improv process allows screenwriters to embrace failure. I once heard a screenwriting quote “throw yourself failure and hope you miss.” Consider the following statements “I failed” vs “I’m a failure”. The first is a temporary state relating to an event whose outcome was undesirable. The second is an going state of negativity, which is now banned from the screenwriter’s lexicon.
Take A Calculated Risk
I remember reading interviews from billionaires who all quoted that they weren’t afraid to take a calculate risk and weren’t afraid to fail. They failed many times before finding the gold nugget to success. The Beatles were initially rejected by every record company in the UK before scoring a hit. The key is to analyze failure in terms of what wasn’t working and what can be done differently next time. It’s a process called learning by trial and error.
Remember, a script reader may simply not have an appetite for your style of writing.
Consider unusual techniques when pitching your screenplay. Ask the pitch to tap the table once when they don’t understand something, and twice when something really isn’t working for them. Your job is to tighten up your pitch on the fly.
Once you have determined the point of a scene, you are free to illustrate it as you wish. Be visual, truthful and believable when establishing the skin and bones of your character and their relationships to other characters. If you know what you need to convey in your scene, there aren’t any wrong answers. It’s a bit like a ball and skittle games at a fair where every player wins a prize.
If your character hasn’t gelled, ask the following questions: “Where am I from?” “What do I need to do?” and “How do I feel about it?”. Write your answers in first person like you write in a diary. You’ll love the intimacy as your creative juice gush.
Just as children explore life in an unrestrained, open fashion, improv helps us tap into those grey areas of our creative muscles through theatre sorts.
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