Breaking The Chain of Writer’s Block: Part 4
By Jacob Krueger
Help Your Inner Artist to Cooperate With Your Grown Up Goals
If screenwriting was just about playing happily and freely, if you could simply free your creative child to play, your job would be done, and you and your inner artist could now dance off into the sunset. But just like any child, if your inner artist is going to give you the kind of writing you can use to build your writing career, it’s going to need some guidance.
Different children need different kinds of parenting. And the same is true for different kinds of inner artists.
When I was growing up, my mom used to laugh that she could let me play out on the front lawn for hours with barely an eye on me, and never have to worry for a moment. The same is true for my inner artist. When I write the first draft of a screenplay, I barely have to worry consciously about structure, outlining, hook, or any of the stuff they teach in screenwriting books. For the most part, I just need to allow my inner artist to play, and I’ll know he’ll get there.
This is true for many different reasons.
The first is that my inner artist is super-educated. From a lifetime of reading, writing, watching movies, breaking down scripts, learning from great writers, trying new approaches and reading just about every book on writing he’s become an “old soul” who just knows how to do it. But he’s also just “that type of kid”– just like I was growing up. Give him too much structure, and he feels trapped. Give him freedom, and a little gentle guidance here and there, and he’s blissfully happy. My sister, on the other hand, was an entirely different kind of kid. Crack the door an inch, and Carina would be off dashing happily into traffic with my mom chasing frantically after her.
If your inner artist is built more like Carina– you can’t just leave her unattended in the front yard to follow her impulses.
Because as brilliant and talented as she may be (Carina grew up to be a Harvard educated doctor) she also needs some structure to keep her safe.
At the same time, if you’ve got an inner artist like Carina, you’ve got to resist the urge to put her in a cage. Because she may be “safe” in there, she’s not going to be happy, and she’s going to fight you like crazy to escape.
This is where so many screenwriting gurus, screenwriting books and programs go wrong.
They put so much focus on “adult” stuff: outlines, image systems, rules and principles of “good writing” that your inner artist doesn’t get to have any fun at all. And soon, no matter how nice you treat her, she still doesn’t want to play.
To understand this, all you have to do is take a kid like Carina to a playground. Insist that she has to play on the swings, and she will kick and scream and cry and fight. But put her in a nice safe area with lots of great stuff to play with, let her run around madly for awhile from the swings to the slide to the sandbox to the jungle gym, and eventually you’ll be surprised to find her settling down into one area where she really wants to play. It may be the swing set you intended for her. Or it may be something else that’s even cooler. But at that point, you’ll be amazed at the endless creativity she’ll show you. The hardest part will be getting her to leave!
Become the perfect parent for your unique inner artist.
As writers, when we become obsessed with forcing our inner artists to perform the way we want them to, we cut ourselves off from our best writing and the endless source of creativity within us. But when we create just enough structure to keep our inner artists safe, our characters moving forward and our stories developing, and free our inner artist to play and explore within that fabulous playground, writers block becomes a thing of the past.
It’s impossible to be blocked when you’re having fun.