Archive for writer’s block

The other morning I received a newsletter that included Robert Ringer’s three rules for writers and I think they’re worth making your own, whether you are writing a screenplay or anything else.

In case you’re not familiar with him, years ago Robert Ringer had a best-selling book called Winning Through Intimidation. That was a misleading title (which he changed in more recent editions) because really it was about standing up for yourself, not bullying people.

Here are the two parts of his first rule of writing, along with my comments:

1a: Force yourself to write; once you get going, don’t stop to congratulate yourself.

The idea behind the first part of this is that if you take writing seriously you can’t wait for inspiration to come to you. You have to go to it (even if it’s hiding and won’t come out at first).

In one of my writing workshops a participant said he tried to do this, but some days he would feel blocked in working on his project. I asked him what he did on those days. “Uh…just look around the internet,” he said.

I suggested that instead he start writing about one of his characters—anything, not necessarily material that would be in the script. For instance, if it was eight in the morning when he sat down to work, write about what his protagonist would be doing at eight in the morning.

He looked sceptical but told me he’d try it and report back to me.

A couple of weeks later I heard from him. He said not only did it work in terms of getting his writing juices flowing, it also promoted some new ideas for the plot.

(You’ll find 25 specific ways to get the flow of ideas going, in my book “Creativity Now!” (Pearson Publishing). You can get it from Amazon or your other favorite book seller.)

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Can images inspire a screenplay?

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A recent illustrated book reversed the usual procedure: the illustrations were done first and then the stories were written to fit them.

It’s called “To Slow Down the Time: Stories,” written by Matthew Allard, illustrated by Ian Dingman.

I find it helpful when ideas are slow in coming to do the same with random images, but instead of trying to come up with a whole new story I brainstorm how the images, or some section of them, might relate to a story or script I’m already writing.

Up for a challenge? You could start with two images and come up with a story element that links them. Then add another image to brainstorm how that could advance the idea that came out of the first two–and so on, until you have a complete plot. Would it work? I don’t know, but it would be interesting …

Whichever way, add images to your creative toolbox!

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Do you remember the bit in the Odyssey where Odysseus lashes himself to the mast? He knew that the Sirens (two seductive bird women) could lure sailors with their enchanting music and songs to shipwreck on the rocky coast of the island where they lived.

He instructed his men to stuff their ears with wax so they couldn’t hear the enticing sounds, and to tie him to the mast so he could hear them but not steer his ship toward them.

When he heard them, he ordered his men to untie him but they refused.

OK, you may be wondering what this has to do with screenwriting.

You’re Odysseus. You’re on a journey–writing your screenplay.

The Sirens are…new ideas. Beautiful, fresh, uncorrupted, seductive new ideas.

They sing,”We are better! We are more beautiful! We promise more! You’ll enjoy writing us…not like that hard work you’re stuck in at the moment! Leave that old idea, push it overboard, steer over here!”

Lash yourself to the mast! By all means listen, even take notes (if your hands aren’t tied…) but don’t go there. Not now. Because those Sirens will age quickly. They’ll turn into the same (temporarily) unbeautiful hags you’re struggling with (sometimes they’re called Act II). But if you stay on course, a miraculous thing will happen. You’ll write and rewrite. Then you’ll rewrite some more. And pretty soon, that thing you’re working on will start to look a lot more attractive.

And it won’t crash you on the rocks.

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