7 February 2009

How to beat writers block, the Warren Ellis way.

Ever since The Gentlemen's Club and it's torturous rise to obscurity, I've had a bit of a problem writing.

I have, over the last couple of years, embarked on a few different projects, most of which involved much researching, reading, note-taking and the like, but very little in the way of actual writing. Procrastination became my constant companion.

Indeed, this was summed up nicely by some research I was doing for someone else's script, on the psychological effects of space travel. As mentioned here, studies have shown that people "begin confinement with every intention of engaging in creative activities such as writing, completing a project, or accomplishing some serious reading. These worthwhile goals rarely are achieved, or even attempted. Instead, most hours of confinement are spent in time-marking activities such as solitaire".

I am living proof, if such was needed, of the veracity of the above statement, having become a devoted prisoner of Stumbleupon, which I love and detest in almost equal measure, and an expert on all manner of online games.

All the while, I gaily cantered about researching a large number of topics, scribbling notes furiously, and steadfastly refusing to accept that I simply wasn't able to write anymore.

That was until I came across a YouTube video of Warren Ellis answering a question about writer's block. In it he says, "Writer's block? I've heard of this. This is when a writer cannot write, yes? That's the one? Then that person isn't a writer anymore, is he? I'm sorry but the job is getting up in the morning and fucking writing. If you get up in the morning and you can't write then you're something else, obviously. Common sense right? You're a gardener or someone who watches television. You're that guy who scratches his arse for a living."

Sage words which rather rocked me back on my heels. In a wonderful moment of Damascene revelation, I realised that I simply wasn't a writer! It was fantastic.

Suddenly, I was torn free from the shackles of writer's block. I was unable to actually write anything, but it no longer bothered me. After all, I'm clearly not a writer.

Of course, this allowed me to devote rather more time to Stumbling, playing games, smoking and drinking vodka, so it was undoubtedly a good thing, right?

A few weeks back, I was given a hardcopy of a horror script penned by Mike Burry, one of the co-authors of The Gentlemen's Club. It was a generic teen horror called The House At The Edge Of The Woods.

I read it and immediately saw ways in which it could be improved - mostly in relation to the dialogue. But, of course, to make such changes I would have to be a writer. And I'm not.

But, the pages kept turning in my head, and little bits of dialogue kept popping in there. Eventually, I sat down to make some notes for improvement, and suddenly found myself opening up the document and rewriting it. In two and a half hours, I'd rewritten the final 20 pages.

This was duly presented to Mike who was very pleased with the results and asked me, over a few pints of Speckled Hen, whether I'd be interested in doing a rewrite of the entire thing.

I agreed.

So, there we have it. I am now a writer once again. At least I will be when Mike returns from holiday and sends me the damn thing via e-mail.

Warren Ellis was right. If you can't write, you ain't a writer. If you can, you are. There is no writers block; there is no middle ground. You either do it or you don't.

I am, once again, invigorated and enthused, and looking forward to getting my teeth into The House At The Edge Of The Woods.

The first thing I plan to do is change the bloody title.

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