Do Something Else

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Do Something Else

You're having a problem with a particular scene or character, and there's no solution in sight. You've spent hours with your butt glued to the chair. You've brainstormed, turned the scene inside out, and even given your character a sex change. Still, nothing. You're beyond frustrated. You're suicidal.

Before you hang yourself, consider taking a break. It may sound illogical, but sometimes not working on a problem helps solve it.

Trying too hard to make your brain come up with a solution is like trying to make a small child stop crying by shouting at her—utterly counterproductive. By turning your attention away from the problem, you allow your subconscious to work on it in peace. So give your subconscious a little space, will ya, and go do something else.

Most writers eventually discover which activities coax their creative muse. "My best ideas come when I run and listen to music and really zen out," says screenwriter Lindsay Norgard. For me, it's taking a walk, daydreaming on a train or a plane, or doing some yoga. There seems to be something about a rhythmic, repetitive activity that frees the mind. But sometimes the solution just comes to you the same way a name you've had on the tip of your tongue hits you in the middle of folding socks at the Laundromat. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what you do so long as you get away from your story for a while.

Sometimes all you'll need are 10 minutes away from your desk. Sometimes you'll need a break of several weeks from a particular scene while you work on something else. Screenwriting isn't a linear process, so give yourself the time you need. It may seem useless at first, but letting an idea percolate in your subconscious is an essential part of the process.



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