What Causes Writer’s Block? by Karl Iglesias
Film Courage: Are we all procrastinators?
Karl Iglesias: Oh, yeah! [Laughs] Absolutely. We’re probably the biggest procrastinators around and the only reason for that is because writing is hard. Creating is hard. Yeah…I’m probably the biggest procrastinator there is…Every writer will relate to the experience of trying to do anything else but write. You know, the whole thing about sharpening your pencils and doing your laundry and cleaning your house and you know answering emails or playing solitaire…on one hand it’s something that’s advised because there is that whole thing about the creative process where we’re talking about the gestation period where you’re supposed to think about your creative problem and ignore it and do something else that helps creatively. Some people think “Okay, that means procrastination. You can do other things.” And there is some truth to it. The problem is if you’re constantly afraid to write and you’re trying to do other things, you’ll never write because you’re just constantly procrastinating. So there’s got to be a point where you’ve got to put that aside and actually write and you’ve got to get over it. Online there is plenty…I mean there is tons of advice online about procrastination and how to avoid it. Because it’s not just for writing. It’s for everybody. Everybody procrastinates. Anything that is worthwhile to do and is scary to do, people will procrastinate.
“Anything that is worthwhile to do and is scary to do, people will procrastinate.”
Film Courage: …Well I think you’ve said that fear is more of what’s at stake, not writer’s block and that there really isn’t writer’s block?
Karl Iglesias: There isn’t…right. At least I do not believe that. It could be I’m wrong but I think it’s fear. Fear of success, fear of failure, fear of being judged negatively, fear of embarrassing yourself. Those are certainly old fears that I relate to and that I have had to overcome.
Film Courage: Why do you think we put the label of writer’s block? Like I’ve heard some people say “Well, I’m currently blocked right now.” Like it’s an affliction.
Karl Iglesias: Because it sounds good. Like “Oh, yes. I can’t. Writer’s block is for real artists. I’m a real artist because I have writer’s block.” But a block really just means you’re not writing. It means that the words are not coming up and the words are not coming up because of the tension that prevents you from writing. That’s what it is. So it’s like saying for a plumber…a plumber never says they have ‘Plumber’s Block,’ right? They just go to do their job. It’s about doing your job. Showing up at your job. You have to understand that writing is a job, whether you get paid or not, you have to show up to your desk and you have to put your butt on the chair and you’ve got to type words. So that’s what it is. We use it as an excuse, we say it really is a fear of writing, fear of whatever all those procrastinating things I’ve said but it doesn’t sound good to say “Oh, I’m afraid of it.” It sounds a lot better to say “I am blocked” because then people can go “Oh, poor you! Yeah, you’re an artist.” So it sounds better but it’s really just fear. And again, there is plenty material out there on how to overcome those fears. It’s all psychological stuff we have to overcome.
Film Courage: Do you see a lot of that fear resurface once someone has really gone out there and either pitched or shared their material or had (quote) “people in their peer group” give them feedback?
Karl Iglesias: Yes…and it’s usually because the writing…[people] didn’t respond to the writing as much as they wanted to. They really expected the pat on the back and being told how great it was and chances are it wasn’t as good. So really it’s up to you. It depends on how thick your skin is. It’s about how much you want this. How much you’re conscious enough to understand that feedback is important and that you should take it as it is. You should look at it as constructive criticism and pay attention to it and re-write it and make it better. It’s all about making it better. You’ve really got to know how to do it. It’s a big part of the Hollywood job as a screenwriter. I mean I’ve never heard of something just being a first draft. I mean [you hear] of 30 drafts or 40 drafts. So they’re constantly [revising] and you’ve got to be able to do that. If you’re the type of writer who does not like to be told that something is wrong and want to say “No, this is the way it is. It’s my art and that is the way it is.” You shouldn’t be writing screenplays. You should be writing novels or plays. That’s really the only two professions where the writer is king, really. Unless you’re doing television because the writer is king there, too. But mostly novelists and playwrights where, yeah the editor can tell you something is not working and you can take it or leave it, but it’s really you that has the final say on that. Then you should do that. I think people who have thin skin or are very sensitive to creative feedback should not be screenwriters. I mean, they are in for a really frustrating experience, if that’s the case.
Question for the Viewers: What are your thoughts on writer’s block?
Watch more videos in this series with Karl here on Youtube
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