Writers’ block? Know what mode you’re in.

As country singing legend Kenny Rogers says ‘You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run’, if you don’t know Kenny Rogers now is the time to acquaint yourself. I’m going to use Kenny’s metaphor for gambling and apply it to writers’ block. As a creative you have to be prepared and willing to criticise your own work, but also your working style; recognising when to hold onto an idea, when to leave an idea alone for the meantime, when to walk away from it all together and identifying that it’s a hideous idea and not on your greatest hits playlist. This advice will apply to many aspects of your life, but also to writers’ block or artists’ block, which is the bane of many creatives’ lives.

What do you do when you’ve tried all of the usual methods for getting yourself out of that funk? Sometimes it just isn’t going to happen, but there is something you can do to help yourself. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given is to ‘know what mode you’re in’. Are you in ‘input mode’ or ‘output mode’?

Sometimes you might be in ‘output’ mode, which is wonderful and productive and you might even get that golden few hours of ‘inspired writing’. Other times you could be staring at the dreaded blank page and nothing good is coming, and it could be that you are in ‘input’ mode. Take this opportunity to feed your mind. Read books, plays, blogs or anything that you’re interested in. Watch a TV series, watch a film or go and see a play, but do so with purpose. Analyse your favourite film, why is it your favourite? What about the characters do you like? What about the scenes makes them good? Is this the type of film you would love to write? That’s the wonderful thing about writing, everything is inspiration.

I’m quite a visual writer, so I’ll think of an image or a scenario and frantically start writing down all kinds of ideas and imagery. But there is always a lull in creativity or inspiration when I have to carve those ideas into a coherent structure. I have to walk away from my script for a few weeks and go into ‘input mode’, which for me means watching films of a similar genre, watching episodes from the TV series I’m into at the time, going for long walks and generally going about my day to day life until an idea comes to me. Im not saying this is the best way to go about things, but it’s what works for me. And every creative needs to find their own rhythm.

The most important thing to recognise, is your own habits as a writer and when you’re in ‘input mode’ or ‘output mode’. Even though we wish we could be writing the-next-big-thing every day, it’s not always possible. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and have fun!

 

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A whirlwind year and the daunting ‘Real World’

I feel like I’ve been putting off my entry into the ‘Real World’ for long enough now. After studying my undergraduate degree in Drama at Bath Spa University I enrolled onto postgraduate course, at the same university, in Scriptwriting and managed to get a scholarship! Happy days all round.

I was determined that I was going to pack as much into my Master’s year as possible, and I can happily say that I achieved this target. I wanted to challenge and push myself outside of my comfort zone, both personally and professionally. I signed myself up for The Bath Half. 13.1 miles. Now, for those of you who may know me, you’ll understand how ridiculous this notion is. For those of you that don’t- I avoid all exercise, I have a terrible diet and I’m a smoker (working on it).  At the start of my training I could barely run down to the end of my road, but I managed to finish the race- even if it wasn’t in a ground breaking time- and get the coveted finishers’ medal and goody bag I had longed for. That was one thing checked off my list for the year and one term of my Master’s completed.

My next goal was to gain more experience in my field. Going from an active degree like Drama, where you’re constantly stretching into yoga poses or embodying your choice of animal, to a sedentary postgraduate was taking its toll. I needed to be up on my feet and creating something. An opportunity presented itself in the form of The Bath Fringe Festival. I put together a group of writers, we entered our idea for a radio play and we got rehearsals underway. This was my first fringe festival, so when the reviews came in I was rather nervous how our radio play would be received, but we managed to pull four stars out of the bag. Second term: done.

In my third and final term I wanted to really focus on writing my feature film script and making my short film ‘Habitual’, as third term counted as 100% of my overall grade. That being said, an opportunity to be a script reader at Bristol Old Vic occurred and my previous rule went out the window. I helped with reading the scripts that are submitted as part of their Open Session in June, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I knuckled down, I made my short film, I moved out of my uni house and back home and I wrote my feature film. I finished my Master’s after a year of battle cries and angst and for that I am proud.

But, what now?

I can’t deny that there is a sense of anti-climax. I’ve had a wonderful year of learning, writing and being taught by wonderful tutors and I feel far more secure after doing a postgraduate, compared to my fledgling-undergraduate, everything-will-be-fine self. I feel more prepared as to how to go about creating a life for myself in the arts. But now it is about practicalities- my arch nemesis in all things- and figuring out what my next move is. This blog is going to help me figure that out and document the process.

The main challenge I foresee is balancing a ‘regular job’ for income and having enough time and funds to carry on creating theatre, writing scripts and making short films. Either way, I feel motivated to move forward and keep trying.