This "Thing" Called Writer's Block
by John G. Johnson
Teams of people tirelessly work behind the camera to breathe life into the TV shows we are addicted to each week. Or binge watch when the opportunity presents itself. Let's face it. If you own a laptop or TV then you have a favorite TV show. Perhaps several. (What’s one of mine? The Walking Dead). A skilled staff-writing unit makes up a part of this production team. Their job is to generate premises and break them into story beats. Then a member of this coveted staff writing team transforms all that information into a competent script ready to be filmed. Oftentimes he/she has less than a week to write the episode that hooks and hold us.
Most do an exceptional job. However, if a writer dares to complain to the show-runner that "writer's block" is preventing them from handling the job, the solution is simple: Writer is replaced or fired, and the task handed to the next writer in line. TV is a voracious animal. Consuming content is how it survives. It spares not the meek or whiny, whether in front of the camera, or behind it. It’s nothing personal. Just business.
But guess what? TV writers claiming to be in the throes of “writer’s block” rarely occur. The smart writers inoculate themselves against it; and if it (writer’s block) arises they have strategies to handle it. This then begs the question, “What are some of these strategies they utilize?”
Most important is the proper frame of mind. World-class writers possess the attitude, gained through experience, that their first draft is insufficient, and that their best is yet to come. This helps to keep their mind in top form. Flexibility, focus and confidence are other states of mind writers take advantage of when writing. These states allow surprises and discoveries, submerged within a writer's rich, deep, creative reservoir, to float to consciousness’s surface and reveal themselves.
Keen writers are also well aware that the act of writing is an output activity. This presupposes an input as well as a processing sequence exists before any official writing takes place. What subject matter is the writer writing about? What does he/she wish to accomplish with the piece? Etc. Having a direction in mind is part of the input and processing phase. It dictates what type of content the writer chooses to absorb, study, the information he/she gathers in order to explore, read, analyze etc. Law & Order: SVU, (their tagline: “ripped from the headlines!”) the longest running dramatic TV series to date – 20 years strong -, is a perfect example of gathering information – first – then working with it to produce a “work of art- that riveting episode.” Writers' get themselves into trouble when they violate this sequence.
The universe as it's constructed can give us a surprise, or two, once in a while. For a writer, those surprises are sometimes disguised as writer's block. When things seem to be going well, the writing is flowing, etc. writer's block can mysteriously creep into ones creative mind space, setting up residence, sometimes acting like a mind virus, weakening, if not crippling our progress. Things happen. It during these challenging times we are given the opportunity to learn and to grow.
Definitions vary as to what writer's block is. In a nutshell, it is a tense conflict between the writing task we wish to complete versus the excuses we tell and/or show ourselves why that can't happen. These excuses are just symptoms expressing itself in creative ways. For example, giving yourself so-called 'valid' reasons why your task must be put on hold; procrastinating, avoiding the writing assignment by ranking other activities as more important to do; allowing nasty internal dialogue or images to consume your focus that triggers a cascade of physiological responses, (sweaty palms, nervousness, etc). The examples are limitless...
So then what is writer's block from an NLP perspective? Hint...It's in the title. It's a nominalization, a fluid process that somehow has been transformed into a thing, immovable, stuck...a metaphorical "block" impeding progress. Looking from it from this angle then what needs to happen is to transform this static state back into a process, something moving. And that's where the fun and adventure begin.
Strategies to either eliminate, get through, above, below and/or around writer's block exist. Here are some more:-Get into a relaxed state and ask yourself, using a curious voice tone, "What is blocking me?" It's important to use the gerund "blockING!' It turns the noun back into a process verb. Also notice the present tense of the verb being used - IS.
Pay close attention to what emerges into consciousness via one or several of your modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory). What you become aware of, revealed to you, is the issue, or issues begging to be taken care of so that you can return to the flow writing state.
A variation of the above is as follows: Get into a relaxed state and ask yourself, using a curious voice tone, "What 'was' blocking me?" Just as above, it's important to use the gerund "blockING! This time the past-tense "WAS" is being used. This variation presupposes that the issue is now in the past. Sometimes that might solve the problem. Oftentimes not, what this variation does do is to put space between you and the issue, giving you another point of view in which to address it. (As the expression goes...Give me some space to xyz...). Again, notice what surfaces in one or several of your modalities.
Writing is a whole-brain process, meaning the creative as well as the analytical part need to work together...in the proper sequence. Suppress the need edit your work when completing your first draft. Just write! Errors and all! Put words on the page! When you enter the editing phase, that's when the critical mind is needed. Not before. You need something to work with...
Another advantage of putting words on the page - first - is that you give yourself the opportunity to unpack and reveal the deeper meanings hidden within the words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc. Take for example a simple sentence; "I watched TV last night!":...:
What kind of TV is it? How big/small? Flat-screen, or a box TV? Color or black & white?
Where were you last night?
What was the temperature like?
Were you alone?
TV sit-com writer, Ellen Sandler, once said, "Writing is discovery on the page!" This requires that you are in-the - moment, the here and now. You need to put something on the page for this to occur. If writing begins by information input then - reading - is a great habit to get into. Books, (blog, e-book, etc.), aren't the only sources of information. There is also the environment in which you live, the people whom you interact with, places you visit, activities you partake in, the moments you experience, and so much more. There's also the world - within - you that you can read. As the NLP tenet states, "We have all the resource to affect change". Get to know who you are, your strengths, weakness, hopes dreams, pleasures, fears, angst, memories, desires etc. It's about utilizing opportunities to spur creativity and also to get ahead of writer's block.
So - "What did you think had stopped you from moving forward, or casting aside, what you had thought was writers block?"
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