5 Tips to Tackle Writer’s Block
Writer’s block. It’s the worst. It’s haunting, it’s emotionally complicated, and it fills us with crippling self-doubt. It’s a tricky beast that comes for us all at some point during the musical theatre writing process, but it does not, by any stretch, have to break us. I’ve learned that the easiest cure all for writer’s block is perspective. Perspective gives you a way to see that this too shall pass. However, when I’m feeling particularly frustrated and even the word “perspective” makes me want to hurl my laptop at the wall, these alternative tips tend to help combat my writer’s block.
1. Walk Away. Yup, there is such a thing as thinking too hard, and chances are if you’re at it for hours and nothing is happening, you’re guilty of the over-think. So walk away. Go play a game of tennis. Have coffee with friends. Go dance in the street with the naked cowboy. Just take the rest of the day off, and return tomorrow. It’s not giving up. As my husband likes to say, it’s shelving it for later.
2. Reach Out. Typically, great ideas are not strictly born of one person’s genius. It takes a village. If you and your collaborator are hitting a wall, I’d suggest contacting a mentor, a savvy friend, or a talented peer. Chances are, simply spitballing with a fresh mind will jog something loose for you. In fact, I’d like to almost 100% guarantee that.
3. Start Over. I don’t necessarily mean the ENTIRE piece (unless it’s terrible), but I’ve found that with certain numbers, I’ll be attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole, and we all know how well that goes. Sometimes, you just gotta kiss the initial idea goodbye, dig deep, and start again. Our first ideas are not usually our best ideas, so truthfully, you’ll probably be much more thrilled with your fifth draft as opposed to your first.
4. Tell Your Ego to Take a Hike. Look, you can write. You can, I promise. Just because you’re having a slightly less creative day does not at all mean you’re a failure, nor does it determine the kind of writer you are destined to be. Every great writer tangos with writer’s block, so do not consider yourself immune to the dance. It’s supposed to be hard. You’re supposed to struggle at times. That’s what makes the end result so beautiful. So take a breath, whisper I’m a talented wizard to yourself, check your pride at the door, and power through.
5. Write Something Else. For a day. Don’t toss your current project to the wolves, curse it, and forget about it. However, if you have the opportunity to simply write a song that’s irrelevant to your current musical, a blog entry about rare sea creatures, or a personal essay for your mom’s birthday – that’s you opening a new, unblocked part of your brain. You’re allowing your creative juices to flow in a new direction, and so ideally, this new mini-write is not demanding perfection, but instead demanding joy. It provides you with some instant gratification, which will feel like a gorgeous gift from heaven compared to the seemingly impossible marathon you’ve been running with your current musical. This brief but exceedingly positive (not to mention plain fun) writing experience will boost your confidence and improve your attitude as you then continue to tackle your musical.
So there you have it! Five simple tips to keep in mind if you’re ever dealing with the devil known as writer’s block. Hopefully any one of these will help in your time of need, but if all else fails, do try at the very least to remember perspective.