Writer’s Block: The Solution to Good Ideas

Writer’s Block is a luxury disease, like feeling too sweaty in your satin pajamas, or having a lobster allergy.  That’s not to say I don’t ever have Writer’s Block.  In fact I have it right now.  Sort of.  Let’s ask a quick question.

Question: Megan, how can you be actively writing 5 projects across 4 different media, for several hours every day, with fairly satisfactory progress, and still consider yourself blocked?

Answer: LIFE IS FULL OF SURPRISES.

Check it.

I have 5 active writing projects (1 play, 2 games, co-writing a screenplay, and writing a TV spec script) on my docket.  4 of those puppies have delivery dates in the next 3 weeks, which is crazy-go-nuts(tm), but do-able.  So, by some definitions, I don’t have Writer’s Block, because everything is getting done; I am writing.  But, for a while, even as I churn out dozens of ideas per day, which make their way into all these various projects, I’ve been feeling like I’m not just having Writer’s Block, I’m bricked up like a secret skeleton in a disused cellar.

The problem is with the kind of ideas I’m having: all the ideas are good.  Ewww.

Good ideas are are polite.  They fit well into the world of the project or product, have predictable word counts, are totally serviceable.  They are something most people can understand or recognize, so they are welcoming and kind.  They are often slightly clever, which makes you look pretty smart.  And, unless you add something else to them, (a splash of color and weirdness, a gash of violence or an explosion of joy), good ideas are also completely forgettable.

To write something that will really be interesting, some of the ideas you build your world with need to be bad.  They need to be awful, naughty, rude punks tearing up the city on skateboards, tagging everything in sight with spraypaint and going “You. Will. Not. Forget. Me.”

To keep things interesting, you need bad ideas, with their chaos and swearing, their disrespect and vulnerability.  But how do you lure them?  What’s the solution to good ideas?

Well… it’s more ideas.  If you don’t have an idea you really like for, say, the premise of your TV spec script… then we have a lot to talk about over coffee, but also you should sit down and write 100 premises for your TV spec script.  Yeah, 100.  Like the famous number of Dalmatians minus one.

The “100 ideas” method is straight-up stolen from an anecdote where Judd Apatow tells someone to do it.  He probably invented it, maybe?  It legit works.

By the time you get to idea #64 or whatever, or sometimes idea #3, you know that at least some of the ideas you’re having aren’t going to make it into the finished thing.  So, your job is no longer “to solve my spec script,” it is just “to come up with 26 more ways this story could go.”  You stop trying to be good, and just blurt stuff out.  It’s sort of like an interrogation method, where you keep asking “Tell me where the boy is” over and over until the kidnapper breaks.  Except you are the kidnapper.  And also you are the cop.  Writing is complicated.

Letting yourself think up 100 ideas when you only need 1 is beautiful, and very freeing.  When you know you’ve promised to have 100 ideas, you can have a bad one, a crazy one, a boring one, or a good one, and it doesn’t mean you are a bad writer, a crazy writer, a boring writer, or a good writer.  Thank god.

SAFETY IN NUMBERS, PEOPLE.  It sounds so simple, right?  Let’s do writing this way all the time!

No, let’s not.  I mean, I hope I won’t have to do 100 ideas for every 1 idea I need all month long… but whatever, if it turns out like that I’ll just drink even more coffee.

Xoxo, Megan

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