I’m in the middle of writing a play. I’m ready to write the next scene. I know what has to happen. I stare at the screen. Nothing’s coming. Why? I can think of three reasons.
- Choices. I have too many. Are my characters happy, sad? Who’s going to speak first? What will they say? All basic writing, right? But every word is a choice, and every choice takes you down a path, and each path taken means I’ve skipped another. What if the other path is more interesting? What if this path is a dead end? It’s a lot. It can lead to paralysis.
I usually get over this by trying different openings, saving different versions with false starts, which I pretend I will look at later, but never do, and eventually pushing past to where the characters take over. They generally figure things out.
- Quality. I write a scene, everyone loves it. Onto the next scene. What if it’s not as good as the last one? What if it’s so bad that it will drag the play down and make The Moose Murders look like Shaw? How do I get around that? I force myself. This can sometimes take a few weeks as I find other ways to keep from writing. Maybe this is the time to alphabetize my library. I could do a little more research on the internet, whoah, look at what’s in the internet archive. Or I could write an essay about not writing.
Then I think about the characters in my play. They’re in a tough spot. Only I can get them out. They need resolution. If I write the next scene I can stop thinking about them. That finally forces me to write. (And if the scene is a stinkeroo, I can always rewrite it.)
- The end. The last danger is that I might finish the play. That’s supposed to be good, right? But that means that a) I’m going to leave these characters that I’ve spent about a year with, b) I have to go onto the unpleasant task of either rewriting, or submissions, c) I have a lot of free time on my hands.
How do I get around that? I’m thinking of taking up a hobby; maybe bookkeeping or tax preparation. Or I could start writing a new play … Any ideas?