The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Stuck In The Middle

I remember Terry Pratchett once saying there was no such thing as writers’ block. Thirty-odd novels later and he seems to have been proved right.

What’s usually called ‘writers’ block’ is not-being-in-the-mood. In order to write, you need to be in a certain mental zone for storytelling. Terry seems to live there permanently. Others need to travel. Particularly if you’re writing comedy – you have to trick yourself into ‘social’ mode, as being funny is rarely a solo activity. You need the sound of laughter even if it’s your own.

If you’re not in the mood then displacement activities beckon. The internet. Television. Exercise. Eating. Going to buy a coffee and a mango chicken sandwich from Gregg's. Anything and everything which falls under the Millennium-Dome-sized umbrella known as ‘constructive research’. But most of all, anything to get you into the storytelling zone.

What do I do? I read something someone else has written, a script usually. It gets my mind working in those terms. Quite often, I find myself thinking I could do better – which is usually enough impetus to then go away and attempt just that. It’s like any sort of machine. You have to put stuff in to get stuff out.

And deadlines help. Someone shouting at you to get on with it or they will sue you to get their money back is often a great motivator.

The other writers’ block is a crisis of confidence. It’s a paradoxical thing. You become convinced that you’re a terrible writer – so you might read back a piece of old work of which you’re proud – only to convince yourself that you’re still a terrible writer who got lucky once and will never be that good again. It’s like giving birth; you forget how difficult and time-consuming it was and how you felt like you were a terrible writer when you wrote that, too.

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