A good friend of mine told me recently that every time he tries to work on his current play project, he gets stuck. Then he gets frustrated and puts it away for a while. Then he blames himself for not working on it, and wonders what’s wrong.
I can’t think of a more pointless activity.
I asked him about a couple of other plays he’s written that turned out very well, and that he enjoyed writing. He told me that he never got stuck on them. I said, “Doesn’t that give you a clue?”
You cannot force yourself to write. It doesn’t work. This is not to say that writing is never hard. But there should always be some kind of pay-off for the work. If it’s a total struggle, then you have to analyze why that is happening.
In the case of my friend, I think there’s probably something he’s not willing to see. He’s working on a play from a few years ago, and he’s doing rewrites. He’s made admirable progress, and has jettisoned a couple of characters, which has streamlined things considerably. But he may be missing something more significant – perhaps a plot point no longer works. Perhaps he’s trying to force an issue.
Your body will give you good cues. The trick is interpreting them. What I think my friend ought to do is to write something else – something that flows out of his fingers onto the keyboard. He needs to remind himself what that flow feels like, so that he can more clearly analyze his lack of flow. I think it’s a mistake even to use the term “writer’s block.” It implies that such a thing exists. I don’t think it does. I think there are writers who are not writing, for all kinds of reasons, but that’s all it is. There’s no block, there’s just a lack of movement.