Another Tip for Overcoming Your “Creative Block”

…Hmm, these suggestions are all over the web. What can that mean? Everybody reading this who doesn’t feel blocked, raise your hand? Anybody? No…?

10 Block Breakers That Work – By Susan K. Perry

Whether you call it writer’s block or creative block, we all find our work coming less easily at some times than others. That’s when you need strategies, and plenty of them.

There are at least 90 such tips, tools, and techniques in Breakthrough! 90 Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block & Spark Your Imagination, edited by Alex Cornell, with a foreword by Erik Spiekermann.

Breakthrough! is a fresh compilation of practical, real world solutions offered by a range of creative individuals, including graphic designers, artists, writers, and photographers. These are people who are employed in jobs where they are required to be creative, regularly (brief bios are in the back).

The insights in this perkily designed, light-hearted, and useful little volume are sometimes amusing, often unexpected. It’s worthy of being read straight through and marked and stickied and personalized by any reader who has ever felt not lazy but gooey in the brain in regards to a particular project.

10 Top Block Breakers:

1. Redefine the problem to find it more compelling. Ask yourself something like “What if Winston Churchill was designing this packaging?” That will provide an unfamiliar angle and perhaps a new perspective. (Christian Helms, Graphic Designer)

 2. Dirty your canvas. Place an ink-stained handprint on its blankness so you have something to fix. (Deru, Musician)

3. Draw blindly for half a minute. You can’t criticize the results. Give yourself a theme (this works for freewriting, too, and let loose. Without expectation, you can break through to being able to work on your blocked project. (Paul Madonna, Illustrator and Cartoonist)

4. “Look at creative block as growth.” Consider this: “I’m not running out of ideas, just trying to push myself into better ones.” (Mike McQuade, Graphic Designer and Illustrator)

5. Fill your head with your view of the problem, review your notes, then go do something else, something mindless and mundane. ( Daniel Dennett, Professor of Philosophy)

6. Look for patterns in your episodes of creative block. Take notes when it happens and you may notice a trend (maybe it happens mainly on Mondays). (Simon C. Page, Graphic Designer)

7. Choose a better way to conceive of your blocks. For instance, rather than having to root through a blocked drain to achieve flow, consider temperature. “I try to find out what’s hot and start there, even if it may be unrelated to what I need to be working on.” (Michael Erard, Writer and Journalist) [Also see this post about famous poet Philip Levine, who “fires,” rather than flows.]

8. Induce a feeling of panic by giving yourself a deadline and stating your committment to other people. (Ben Barry, Graphic Designer at FB) [If the very word “deadline” causes you psychic pain, consider making friends with the concept; see this post.]

9. Come up with many solutions, not just one. Urged to list 20 possible next moves, your mind will stop fretting over finding the one perfect one. (Marc Johns, Illustrator)

10. Don’t browbeat yourself when you’re in the necessary in-between times when most creativity gets its start. A lot of thinking time is crucial, and it happens where you can’t see it. (Douglas Rushkoff, Writer)

Read it all

But…but if we didn’t browbeat ourselves what would we do with our spare time? You know, all that time we have because we can’t get ourselves to keep writing? What a world…what a world…

Why Writing Mistakes Suck

Cuz, believe it or dnt, sum people don’t gt it:

Typos, Spelling Mistakes, Grammar – by Danny Stack (Scriptwriting in the UK)

When a reader gets a script from the spec pile, they usually don’t have a clue who the writer is, or where the writer comes from. The script is going to be representative of everything the reader’s going to assume about the writer’s personality, talents and abilities.

To this end, some common mistakes and typos appear to suggest the screenwriter is not quite up to the task of writing a good script. Some of these blemishes are not immediately suggestive of a hack wannabe but are usually indicative of someone with a poor regard for the basic use of the English language.

In a fit of writing momentum, even the best writers may type you’re when they mean your, but that’s why proof reading a script is important. Ideally, don’t proof read your own script. Get someone else to do it. Somebody you trust and can rely on, whether it be a professional proof reader or a friend. Script readers usually make equally good proof readers, so they’re probably the best point of contact.

A total of one or two typos in a script may not be too disconcerting. However, when a script has a spelling mistake in its opening sentence, and then continues to pepper the description and dialogue with typos and dodgy use of grammar, then, well, it’s really distracting. Nine times out of ten, the story on offer is just as erratic, and the script becomes an easy PASS for the reader.

Getting the basics right can go a long way in ensuring a positive response to your script. Why not take the time to make sure that your script is wearing its Sunday best, and then no-one can complain about the way it looks, the way it reads, or the way it’s formatted.

Whoa! Even the Brits have this problem. In a way, that’s a relief!

Ken Levine is Holding a “Sitcom Room” Weekend

Do you have what it takes to participate?

SITCOM ROOM registration is now open – by Ken Levine

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a comedy writer on a sitcom?   Being surrounded by really funny people in a work environment where laughter is not just encouraged but required?    Is this something you’ve always wanted to do?  Or just something you’d like to experience one time?  Then I invite you to join THE SITCOM ROOM — a weekend hands-on seminar where you don’t just sit and listen to boring lectures for two days, you WRITE.   You’re put in a writing room where you will fix a script and see Hollywood actors performyour material.   It’s kind of like one of those baseball fantasy camps except you don’t blow out your hamstring.

I’m holding one of these SITCOM ROOM seminars on November 10th & 11th in Los Angeles.  And registration is now open.

Some things you should know:

I only do these once a year at the most.  Sometimes I do them once every two years.

I only take twenty students.

And I opened registration on Sunday for those on my mailing list and within 48 hours I filled half of the slots.  There are now only 10 openings.  So if you’re interested, please take advantage now.  When we’re sold out, that’s it.  I keep it small so that every student gets ample attention and opportunity.

Here’s where you go for more information.

And here’s where you go to register.

The price is $1500.

Read it all

Punchline 1: Now you know what Ken’s been setting us up for with all his great blog posts.

Punchline 2: Now you know what it takes to participate…$1500.


Feeling Too Guilty to Do What You Do Best?

Ya gotta let go! Ya gotta fly! Ya gotta WRITE, dammit, WRITE!

Guilt-Free Creativity: Stop Kicking Yourself & Start Producing – by Elizabeth Grace Sanders

We’ve all been there: You finally carve out the time to work on a big creative project and then you… choke. After counting on this break to really produce something, you’re suddenly paralyzed by performance anxiety. But instead of showing up as fear on the surface, it manifests itself as guilt. If you don’t proceed with caution, you can soon fritter away your creative fortune on nickel and dime activities.

Whether you’re going on a planned sabbatical or retreat, or just in between gigs, the best way to prepare yourself for creative productivity is to decide in advance how you will respond when guilt attempts to frustrate your efforts.  Here are three key temptations and how to thwart them:

Guilt That You Have More Time Than Others

The Challenge: If the people around you – family, friends, colleagues – seem really time-pressed, you can start to feel guilty that you have such unstructured days. To equalize the pressure, you might begin to volunteer to take on tasks such as running errands, attending meetings, and doing special projects because “you have the time.” At first, checking easy tasks off your list feels good, but soon you grow angry and resentful that you can’t make progress on your own big goals.

The Solution: Just because you’re working on a personal project, it doesn’t mean that you have free time. You must remember that any “extra” time has already been allocated toward your important goals. In a practical sense, this could look like blocking off your creative work time on your calendar – and respecting it – just like you would with a regular client meeting. Or if you prefer less structure, you could decide on a minimum number of hours each day and each week that you will spend doing what matters most to you. Everything you do for others will need to fit in the remaining discretionary time…

Guilt That You’re Not Making Money

The Challenge: If you’ve reduced your hours, decided not to pursue a job, or turned down contract work so that you can move your passion project forward, you may struggle with guilt that time spent on this work doesn’t immediately benefit you financially. This can lead you to distract yourself by doing time-consuming things that may save you a bit here and there, like selling things on Craigslist or going to three stores to find the cheapest price on a computer accessory, but ultimately steal time from your highest goal.

The Solution: If you start to feel anxious about finances when there’s nothing to actually worry about, meaning that you can easily pay your bills and put food on the table, remember why you decided to take this time in the first place. Remind yourself of how hard you found it to do your creative work when you had lots of other professional responsibilities. Also, decide to look at this as a long-term investment where you can have a larger pay-off in the end. To help make this idea tangible, look into contest applications, gallery show entries, grant opportunities, or job postings that you will be eligible for by using this time productively. Print them off and post them near your workspace…

Guilt That You Are Progressing Too Slowly

The Challenge: Once you have the time to focus on your creative pursuits, you may discover that you completely underestimated how long it would take you to make progress. Your grandiose visions of writing the next great American novel deflate to hopes of completing a few short stories. Or your desire to create a website that makes your designer friends drool diminishes to a hope that you’ll launch a site where all the hyperlinks function.

The Solution: Just because you have what you consider loads of time, doesn’t mean that you can get everything done at once. It took Michelangelo four years to paint the Sistine Chapel and some of the world’s greatest buildings took hundreds of years to construct. Instead of getting discouraged, record what actions you do on a daily and weekly basis and celebrate what you did accomplish. Also, try to find ways to get a sense of completion faster, such as publishing an excerpt of your book as an article, exhibiting the first painting in something that will become a series, or giving a presentation on your findings so far…

Read it all

Know who doesn’t feel guilty about these 3 things? Exactly: Successful, working writers. Instead, they feel guilty about “making it” too fast, making too much money, and not having time to do anything but write. In other words, you just can’t win.

Hmm, we feel strangely better now…

How to Improve Your Willpower…

…So you can, you know, write/succeed/finish-what-you-start!

Ego Depletion, Motivation and Attention: A New Model of Self-Control – by Sam McNerney

The human brain is fickle when it comes to commitments. Between 60 and 80 percent of people don’t use their gym memberships. Most diets work at first but backfire in the long run. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the British psychologist Richard Wiseman, about 88 percent of New Year’s resolutions end in failure.

Given how widespread our broken pledges are, it’s no surprise that psychologists study human willpower. Florida State University Professor of Psychology Roy Baumeister is one of the main figures in this area of study. His research on willpower began in the late 1990s with a few papers demonstrating that when people exert willpower, self-control, persistence and rationality founder. Willpower, he discovered, was a limited resource easily drained by everyday activity.

Read it all

Keep reading and you’ll see that the idea here is that willpower is an exhaustible resource. With that knowledge, we can now happily decide not to waste that exhaustible resource on little things so we have it when we need it.

Buh-bye, diet. Ten coherent script pages await the day! (Although, we always did want to learn Ukrainian. Hmm…)