Sunday 5 February 2012

Creative Stuckness, Continued..

TONJA: For me, it's just family, the mommy-gig, getting in the way finding time to write and keeping up my momentum on writing projects. On the other hand, the pressure of having only a few hours a week to write definitely moves me forward. I don't waste those hours.

Tonja, first of all; it sounds like you're doing really well! For so many, the 'Mommy-gig' is the death of their writing pursuits. "I would have been a writer but...", or "When the kids grow up, then maybe I'll...".

You should give yourself a huge pat on the back for still being a part of the game! You write when you can, you read sites like these that are linked to your work. Do you give yourself the credit you deserve for all this?

The hardest thing for nearly all writers, is discipline. It seems that you have it, because you know your writing time is precious and short. Maybe try and develop that a bit more -- try to find a time of day, or certain day of the week, when you'll focus your energy on the writing, and then dedicate yourself to it. 

But it sounds like you're doing better than you think. 

BRUCE: I'm getting more ideas lately for things to write about but I have a problem with getting distracted. If I can just finish this level on a game I'm playing. If I can finish this movie I started watching last night. 

The real problem is I need to commit to sitting down to write more often and I'd like an editor to go over my work. I'm too wordy and I need help getting my point out in a shorter fashion. HELP!

Bruce, I totally get this. 

Firstly, the distractions. Allow yourself to be distracted! Say "This next hour will be for the distractions!" --- indulge in it... watch half a movie, flick around on Facebook, snack on food, text your friends, do all that nonsense; but do it willingly and happily, not guiltily, not like you should be doing better. This is your NONSENSE TIME! 

Also, find time to relax! Turn everything off and listen to your favourite album or watch a film you love, but dedicate yourself to completing it. NO DISTRACTIONS FROM IT, even if it's painful. Even if your brain begs you. Get through it. 

Have some NOTHING time. Sit in a room, put a countdown alarm on for ONE HOUR. Sit, breath, think. DO NOT write, do NOT record any ideas you have, no matter how good they are (during this nothing time, even writing ideas are distractions!). 

---- And, as a separate exercise; have your writing time, your creativity time. Dedicate yourself to seeing it through, do not succumb to distractions. 

The reason for all these different things I've mentioned? We get CAUGHT up in ambition so much so that we refuse to rest. We NEED rest, so we keep trying to rest and be distracted. But whenever we do, we feel guilty, so we force creativity. It doesn't last long, because we're so TIRED!. 

We need to dedicate to each stage of creative life. CREATIVITY, REST, NONSENSE, etc -- they all play a part! Do each of them CONSCIOUSLY and purposefully. 

Neuroscience is proving that the brain follows patterns of behaviour, habits. If we have a habit of getting distracted, we'll keep doing it and doing it and nothing will change.

Break that pattern. Decide what to do, consciously, and stick to it, see it through. The more you do, the easier it'll get. 

DANIEL: Ok, for me it's that I've got loads of writing, which I really WANT to do and am doing, but I also feel I OUGHT to be making short films (which I don't feel passionate about doing right now). So I am worried that if I just carry on with the writing and don't do any directing for a bit, I'll 'miss out' on some directing practice.

Who is the voice of this 'OUGHT'? Is it the wisdom you've heard from a director you admire, or a screenwriting book you read? Why does this voice have so much authority? Question it! And then see what resonates with you. You could make fifty films but how good will they be if you don't know how to write good scripts? Learning comes from all places, it's all relevant and valid. If your juice is getting going for the writing, then do the writing! 

Before you know it, the directing bug will be back and you'll do three short films in a month or something crazy like that. Go where the river is flowing! 

DONNA: Oh wow, there's a lot. I think all artists go through dry spells, not sure there's any real "cure" for that, other than time, patience and willpower. For me it's lack of focus and my own insecurities. When I finally do sit down and write, I keep going back over it tweaking and trying to make it better until I convince myself it's not good at all.

Dry spells would be fine, if only we'd be okay with them. Instead we fight them and get grumpy and think about quitting. Enjoy the process!

Lack of focus is a big one. I think it's often linked to what I wrote about BRUCE'S problem, about the mind being in too many places at once. You often need to step away to get focus, indulge in the things that are affecting your clarity. 

The important thing with writing; is to get the thing written! Go full steam ahead and save the criticism for much later. There's no rule that says your 1st draft must be golden. It's allowed to be awful! You've just to get to the other side, get through it. Otherwise you'll keep re-wording and re-drafting forever and ever. 

Insecurities affect every artist I know, whether they're starting out with short films or directing Hollywood blockbusters. It's part of being creative. If you're not insecure, your art probably isn't that interesting. 

Make sure you remind yourself of your successes. Of how you're better prepared and qualified than you were two years ago, or ten years ago. Creativity is a process that takes time, it has many ups and downs, we just need to hold on to why we started a project and why we want to finish. 

Re: convincing yourself it's no good at all. Compared to what? Compared to your favourite writing? Compared to what you think you're capable of? Or compared to what a friend/parent/partner thinks? Figure out who you're writing for, who the judge is (in your mind), then tell them to back off! It's just writing, it's art, and we only write well when there's an element of fun and energy to it. 

Go Where The River Is Flowing! My new catchphrase!

Care to share?


  1. Great advice for everyone.

    When I worked full-time with kids, I couldn't find time to write - or at least that was my excuse - and I did give up on writing. I can definitely squeeze out enough hours now that I'm home full-time to continue to move forward one step at a time, one chapter at a time.

    1. I second what the Kid says Tonja, it is excellent that you're still writing, even though you've got your kids to look after. Well done you, all the best with it.

  2. @Kid in the Front Row
    Go where the river is flowing, absolutely right, thank you for your thoughts on that.

  3. I gave up writing for years as well after the birth of my first daughter. Yet have found myself writing more than ever now (My eldest is 12, youngest 5) after they go to bed. It's my "Me" time, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. If I don't feel inspired that day, well then I read what other people are writing. <3

  4. I love your advice on Nothing Time, and also your kind responses to everyone. It would be so easy to be cruel and horribly funny about people's procrastination problems, but you chose to be actually helpful...

  5. TONJA - glad you're sticking at it.

    DAN + FROG + ANON - Thanks!

    LUCKY - Thanks, and welcome to the blog!

    MICHELLE - Am glad you're writing again. I imagine your children have filled you with imagination :)

  6. You know, I post comments on blogs sometimes all day long. I can't tell you how impressed I am that you not only replied, but replied with style and content and sincerity. I don't know how long it might take me to finish my novel, but I will eventually. I promise myself that. BUT, thanks to your reply, I got a little motivation and actually finished a children's book I've been playing around with for months. Yeah, it needs work and I'll have to talk my 19 year old daughter into doing some illustrations for me, but I'm excited about it and it motivated me to start thinking about my novel again, so thanks. From the bottom of my heart.