Writer’s Block 1

by Diane Grant

I just wrote a paper for a festival and that is about all I’ve written for a while. It’s long, so I’ll put in here in sections. Maybe, it can help somebody with the same problem.

I’ve been suffering from writer’s block. I want to write a new play and have no ideas. So I’ve been thinking about it. How to start again? Can I work myself out of it? Do I wait until it’s gone? Do I just stop?

Sometimes, writing is easy. I’ve written with ensemble groups and know and love how that works. It’s so much fun and so exciting to build a play together with others – from stage to page using research and improv and a writer who gets it all down, then cuts and shapes the work into a whole.

I fantasize that Will Shakespeare came in to work every morning and said something like, “I just read about a man who was poisoned through his ear while he slept. Could it be a king, maybe?” “Not another king,” they say. “No, this is different. He’s the King of Denmark.” “OK. What next?” “Maybe his son wants to avenge him.” And the men say, “How does he know about it?” “Who tells him?” they ask. “What about a ghost? says one. “I play a good ghost, Will. Isn’t that right?”

However, Shakespeare was with one company for a long time and could work and rehearse every day. I don’t know too many companies who have the time and money to do that now.

When you’re alone at your computer, it’s different. I know I always want to have a story, someone to root for – a protagonist who wants something, a conflict – an antagonist or antagonists who prevent him or her from getting what he or she wants – and a resolution – a decision or action by the protagonist that changes things.

But how did I begin before? What started the process?

Here’s what John Steinbeck said, writing to a friend.

“Dear Robert,

I hear from a couple of attractive grapevines that you are having trouble writing. God! I know this feeling so well. I think it is never coming back, but it does – one morning, there it is again.

About a year ago, Bob Anderson asked me for help in the same problem. I told him to write poetry – not for selling – not for seeing – poetry to throw away. For poetry is the mathematics of writing and closely akin to music. And it is also the best therapy because sometimes the troubles come tumbling out.

Well, he did. For six months he did. And I have three joyous letters from him saying that it worked. Just poetry – anything and not designed for a reader. It’s a great and valuable privacy.

I offer this if your dryness goes on too long and makes you too miserable. You may come out of it any day. I have. The words are fighting each other to come out.

Love to you,

John.”

Might be worth a try!

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