Weekend Writing Inspiration: 10 Things To Do When You Can’t Write a Word
October 25, 2019
Feeling blocked, stuck, uninspired? Here are 10 things you can do when facing your script feels just plain impossible.
- Journal about how you’re feeling about your script
Sometimes writing about writing is enough to unlock whatever’s got you in the writing doldrums. Give yourself uncensored permission to free write about anything—including things that could come about your screenplay.
Try dialogue with yourself by posing questions like, “What’s stopping me from moving forward with this script?” or, “Is there something I need to solve or address that I’m avoiding?” and “what might help me move forward?” Record whatever answers arise and see how they guide you.
- Fool around outside your draft
Sometimes you’ll be in the thick of perfectionism and not even realize it. If you open a separate document or get out a fresh piece of blank paper and tell yourself you’re “just fooling around to see what happens,” you can write new scenes and try out ideas without feeling like you might irreparably harm your current draft. Writing outside your script lets you play freely and see what comes, and hopefully helps you shake off perfectionism’s death grip.
- Interact with your characters
Your characters are a great resource when you’re feeling stuck. Explore ways to interact with them, like writing down questions for them to answer. Much like #1 above, but instead, your characters supply the responses.
You might also try dialoguing with them simply to understand them better. What are their greatest hopes and dreams? What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to them? What are they most afraid of? Digging deeper into your characters and their history will help guide you when you’re ready to return to your script.
If putting words on the page feels entirely impossible, try this: Imagine your character sitting across from you in an empty chair and talking to them. You can “listen” to their responses in your imagination, or, take the chair for the character and respond to your questions the live-action way.
- Do some “fear-storming”
Often times, the culprit behind not being able to write is fear, which in turn, manifests as resistance and procrastination. Working longhand, write out a big, long list completing the phrase “I’m afraid that…” until you can’t think of another single thing to jot down. Getting the fears onto paper in black and white lessens their power over you, allowing you some mental breathing space. When you’re done, you can even shred or burn the paper to release the fears as a kind of “letting go” ritual.
- Get out and about in the world
One of the challenges of being a writer is the insular nature of our existence. Working alone and being in our heads so much can be isolating and creatively limiting. Even though the worlds and stories we create can sometimes seem more real to us than regular life, getting out into the real world and interacting with other live humans can spark ideas, interest and even just determination to return to our writing rooms and escape back into our stories.
So, if you’re feeling a little too turned inward, get out of your writing and head space by going to a café, meeting up with a friend, or creating an exciting adventure to visit somewhere new—or just down the street.
- Do something physical
As writers, we’re often sitting at a desk or computer, aka, “the new smoking.” Get up and do something physical! Ideally outside or in nature, to combat the physical atrophy that comes along with so much sitting. The added benefit: you’ll wake up your mind, too.
Can’t write? Read.
Stephen King once famously said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
If you’re struggling to write, head to the library or that stack of books that’s been piling up on your nightstand and dig in. Opening your mind to others’ words can help you tap into your own.
- Take yourself out to the movies
Film is your medium. Watch a movie to inspire yourself, or even better, head out to your local theater and see something fun and fabulous on the silver screen. You’ll be supporting your fellow screenwriters AND reminding yourself why you love screenwriting in the first place.
- Work on a more mundane aspect of your script
Sometimes the reason you can’t write is that you’re feeling blocked or overwhelmed about writing new words. This is a great time to clean up your slug lines (scene headings) and check for consistency, such as in times of day and location, and character names. Or, you might do a little wordsmithing on a past scene and evaluate the gender and ethnic balance in your story. You could also dig into analyzing your script for repetitive words, with an emphasis on checking for your “verbal tics” (the words you personally tend to overuse).
- Set a timer
One last thing to try if you feel like you really can’t write, but you either have to or really, really want to, try setting a timer for five minutes and commit to writing for only that long. See what happens! You might be surprised to find yourself setting the timer for another five when the bell chimes.
Your Weekend Writer’s Assignment
If you’ve been feeling like you can’t write, pick a tip from the list and put it into practice this weekend. Hit me up on Twitter to let me know how it goes! I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you.
Got Questions You Want Answered?
After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write Founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting, trust yourself more as writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Jenna’s online form at https://calledtowrite.com/final-draft and she may choose your question to answer anonymously in a future article.
Written by: Jenna AveryJenna Avery is a screenwriter, columnist, and blogger who redesigned her life and career to support her calling to write. She specializes in sci-fi action and space fantasy, and her most recent project is a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story for a Canadian producer. Jenna is also a writing coach and the founder of Called to Write, where she has helped hundreds of writers overcome procrastination, perfectionism, and resistance so they can get their writing onto the page and into the world where it belongs. Jenna writes about writing, creativity, and calling at calledtowrite.com, for ScriptMag, for Final Draft, and teaches for Screenwriter’s University. Download Jenna’s free guidebooks for writers when you join her mailing list at https://www.calledtowrite.com/mailing-list