Wednesday 6 April 2011


I am writing this without having anything to write. I thought it'd be best to warn you of that now, so that if you're bored already you don't have to keep reading. I always write when I have an urge to write, when I have something to say. Right now I don't.

But I'm curious to find out how I write when I really don't have anything to write about.

I find my creative juices are similar to playing sport. Practice helps. Warming up helps. And the best work comes when you're in good form, writing great line after great line. But if you play too often, you burn out, you use up too much energy.

The mistake that's easy to make is to come back too soon, or to force ideas when really you need to be resting. We all need rest. The problem that creative people have is that they feel guilty. We can't watch four minutes of a daytime tv show without screaming at ourselves to do something more meaningful.

But the resting is important. Seeing your friends is important. Sitting out in the sun is important. Its important to get through new experiences without cutting them short because you want to take the 'new experience' juice and turn it into a story idea.

You may live to write but you also have to live to live, too. A screenplay, or a story, even an acting performance; they need life and wisdom. What you get from writing, is a lot is experience, and craft; you learn the shortcuts and you figure out how to turn mediocre into good.

But to be great, you need life. And so often we forget that, because we're too busy fighting with ourselves, demanding that we create masterpieces. But when we demand it of ourselves, we often create hostile work environments within our own minds. Inner discipline is good, but inner chaos will stop you completing projects.

I used to cause myself a lot of distress by constantly having a voice in my head screaming "Write something! Make a film! Make some money! Make a masterpiece! Write a blog! Do something worthwhile with your life!" and it was constant, and aggressive.

But that voice, constantly in your head, is as powerful and energy sapping as if there was literally a person standing there screaming the words at you.

So now I take the pressure off. I am still extremely prolific as a screenwriter, film director and as a blogger, and I'm very demanding of myself; but when the creative well is dry, I don't use up my reserves; I just see it as a sign that I need to rest, or refuel on life, or on reading.

The voice in my head demands things instantly, as if I must write a masterpiece or create something magic before 11am. But not only is it impossible, it's unnecessary. And the pressure gets me nowhere.

I wrote this post without major pressure; just out of mild curiosity and wanting something to do before going to bed, and maybe it didn't turn out so badly.

Whether you're a successful professional or a hopeful amateur, I'm giving you permission to have the night off. Please take it. You undoubtedly deserve it.

Care to share?


  1. This post was exactly what I needed to read tonight. Thank you! I need some time off but tend to feel guilty when I take it.

  2. You've hit the proverbial nail on the head -- this is exactly how I feel tonight. It's comforting (in an odd way) to know someone else is feeling the same... thanks!

  3. Ok...its weird. I am the 3rd person writing this! So everyone faces this! =O

  4. Absolute truth.... about the hostile work place and the hostility in our brains for all the pressure to produce. Genuine work and creativity will come when no price tag or time limit is placed on it. It will come like inspiration and discovery. There is no price or time limit on the amount of real learning and inspiration you may encounter in this life.

    It so important to have a life and live it, if we could all remember this every time we feel like guilty failures how much of a difference it would make to the work environment and our work output. Its all about balance something so simple and we as humans find it so hard to see work and rest as being of equal importance. We end up with burn fuses and need patching up and repairs all the time.

  5. I enjoy an occasional post such as this where I can read the ramblings of a nomadic mind, on the march, riding his or her camel thru the desert in search of some out-of-the-way oasis where rejuvenation may occur. Get some fresh water, sleep under a desert palm tree. Put your camel to bed. Dream. Arise refreshed. Ha.

  6. I love to just do a stream of consciousness here and there, I often get my best ideas for a new chapter from the oddest and most random thing that comes form my mind, but no matter how hard I try I just can not stop writing, sure I may write about how writers block sucks, or you say your writing about nothing, well that nothing is not nothing, it is something, and you are writing it, so in some ways I believe, as long as you have thoughts going through your mind you have something to write about, it may just not be what you expected, or wanted, but it is something.

  7. I'm not a writer and would never claim to be, so I don't really feel qualified to comment on the processes you guys go through when you're being creative.
    All I will say is I enjoyed your post and if this is an example of your writing when you're not in the mood then I'm looking forward to what you come up with when your creative juices are flowing!
    I hope you found Clint's oasis last night.

  8. You're not the boss of me! But.... ok. Nothing it is. With leftover chilli.

  9. Really? The night off? I'll end up hating myself. I know it. But maybe I'll give it a try. Maybe. ;)

  10. Fantastic advice. I really think more artists need to learn the sort of self-nurturing that you talk about. Drop the guilt, live your life so that you have inspiration, and do the best you can. Everything else is just details :)

  11. I don't know how you got so many followers but damn!