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!