Beating the Writer’s Block

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The biggest adversary of screenwriters across the globe is the Writer’s Block. It is also the most difficult hurdle to overcome in the writing process. This comes in different shapes and forms: ‘I just do not feel like writing now/today’ ‘I do not know how to take this character/ scene forward’ ‘This conflict does not feel good enough’ and so on. Staring at a blank page, waiting for the words to come can be quite frustrating, more so when you are starting out as a screenwriter. Here are few techniques to fight this menacing monster:

Draw a plot outline

This is a good practice which involves defining the characters, scenes, flow of events and all important elements of the story before starting to write the actual script.

Do not be a victim of perfection

Do not try to be extremely good in the first go. The quickest way to write is not to think about making it perfect. Just go ahead and write something, review it and make it better. Writing is an iterative process and nothing is set in stone.

Unburden yourself

You have to eventually write the full film/episode/play, but for now you have to finish this scene. Thinking about the volume of writing that is still left to be done will do you no good and will only busy your mind with the deadlines rather than the problem in hand.

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Focus on the problem area

Think about the world, the characters, the complexity, and most importantly the conflict of the scene that you are currently working on. Take a break and imagine the scene, visualize the setup, let the dialogues flow, replay it multiple times in your mind until you have something that you feel is good enough to write. Eventually the answers will come to you. Unconscious mind of a talented writer has already created stories within it. Once he is inspired enough, these find their way to his work.

Skip ahead

Sometimes certain scenes and characters take time to come to you. In such situations it helps to go ahead and get done with easy ones while you are waiting for the breakthrough, on the complex stuff. Writing is rooted to your emotions, so there can be days when you cannot bring yourself to write something funny and in mood for something serious and drama oriented. So go ahead and pick that part of script which suits your mood.

Set a schedule

This works for many professional writers. Dedicating a slot in the day purely for writing can help you get that procrastination out of the way. This helps in making sure that your other day-to-day activities do not stop you from writing. There can be thousands of legitimate reasons for you not to write and which you will eventually end up calling writer’s block.

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Ultimately it all boil down to getting yourself to writing. As many screenwriters suggest ‘Get to your desk, say I do not have a writer’s block and start writing. That is the only way.’

The Life and Times of Anand Bakshi

Digital Academy – The Film School recently organized an interactive session to discuss the Life and Times of the late Anand Bakshi , one of India’s greatest lyricists where his son Rakesh Bakshi and the noted historian and lyricst Vijay “Akela” gave the students insights on Anand Bakshi’s life.

Anand Bakshi achieved fame with the song from Brij Mohan’s film titled, ‘Bhala Aadmi’, 1958. He became a star in 1965 (Jab Jab Phool Khile) and went on to work as a lyricist of over 3500 songs and 650 films in the course of his life. His hits touched the cords of the masses – right from ‘Sawan Ka Mahina’ (Milan – 1968) to ‘Taal Se Taal Mila’ (Taal – 2000). Some of his other noted work in the later part of his career included songs of ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’, ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai’ & ‘Pardes’.

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Vijay ‘Akela’ who’s written a book on Anand ji, called ‘Main Shayar Badnam’ comprising 151 greatest lyrics of Anand Bakshi, spent a long time with the great lyricist and got to know him very closely. He and Rakesh Bakshi shared many interesting incidents from Anandji’s life. He said that once Anandji sat with a Producer to narrate the lyrics but before starting he asked the Producer to make the Actor wear a hat and only then did he start the narration. Once the Actor did that, Anandji started narrating the firstt stanza, “Tirchi Topiwale”. Anandji used to insist on listening to the whole story, because he used to make lyrics out of common everyday situations. Many times it so happened that Producers used to like Anandji’s creation to such an extent, that they would create situations and modify their movies especially to accommodate his songs.

Rakesh Bakshi nostalgically narrated “When Anandji used to write, he used to whistle. That whistle used to be the tune that he’d prepare in his mind for the song that he was writing,” Another incident that he shared was that during the India-Pakistan partition, Anand Bakshi had to flee Pakistan overnight and come to India. The only thing he brought with him was his mother’s photograph. Looking at that, his father got angry and asked him, why he didn’t carry any clothes, food or money. Anandji replied, “We can earn money, gather food, buy clothes, but from where will we get mother’s last photograph, once lost?” Anandji used to miss his mother and motherland when he moved to Mumbai, which is why he wrote a number of songs about his mother and his native land.

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Vijay Akela perfectly captured the extent of Anandji’s great work spanning generations in the following lines: “Anandji wrote songs for Rajesh Khanna, his wife Dimple Khanna, his daughter Twinkle Khanna, his son-in-law Akshay Kumar. He wrote songs for Raj Kapoor, Shashi Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor, he even wrote songs for Raj Kapoor’s grand daughter Kareena Kapoor for the movie Yaadein.”

Rakesh once asked his father as to when he realized for the first time that he had made it big. To this, Anandji replied, “I was once travelling by train. The train stopped in the middle of the night at some small town. I looked out of the window and it was pitch dark. In that darkness, I saw a beggar singing a song and begging for alms. He came close to me and I realized he is singing a song that’s written by me. When I heard my song being sung by a beggar who doesn’t even own a radio, in a village that doesn’t even have electricity, I realized my songs are now famous. The beggar didn’t know me, but he knew my songs.”

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Anandji’s brilliance doesn’t lie in what we say or think about him, but in his words, his lyrics and his songs which speak for his genius . Such is the greatness of this man, that even after his passing away, his words will always be with us in our hearts and on our lips, for generations to come.

Passion, To Dream Bigger

Don’t let anything stand in your way, be the first”; words that may not sound very inspired, but they come from a real life hero, Jeff Arch, the critically acclaimed screenplay writer of the 1993 Oscar nominated hit ‘Sleepless In Seattle’ starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. And these words rang true in Jeff’s own life, and his relentless struggle in recognizing his passion for writing.

Jeff Arch had struggled with writing in his early years. He had written many screenplays. They would take him, on occasion, up to three whole years to finish, and never ended up being considered for production. Disillusioned, Jeff set up a karate school. But while his life as a martial arts school owner seemed on course commercially, within him, the passionate beast of writing lurked.

Perhaps under the guidance of his mentor, Hollywood cameraman Conrad Hall, Jeff decided that he could no longer ignore his Screenwriting passion; but he had to give up everything else and focus singularly on writing. Make a firm and unshakable commitment. He surrendered his karate school, and inspired by an infomercial that he credits for breaking his ‘mental crunch’ when it said, ‘You’ve got to think bigger than you ever thought you could think’; Jeff ordered a series of instructional tapes on writing. And unlike his earlier attempts, this time he sat dedicated, listened, learned, and began writing in earnest.

The result? A Cold War script that was well thought out, but not commercially viable. The kind of ‘setback’ that would earlier have dissuaded him; this time only served to fuel Jeff’s fire further. And he persevered with an unquenchable thirst until his passion finally gave the world, the much sought after ‘Sleepless In Seattle’. He was nominated for an Oscar as well as several other prestigious Screenplay category awards, and the Film has become an iconic landmark in popular culture.

Despite Jeff Arch’s success; it is undeniable that it came to him rather late in life. Why? Perhaps because he did not act strongly enough on his passion, as early in his life, as he could have. But today, passionate young people striving to be Writers and Film-makers have a tremendous opportunity to really fast-track their dreams. By attending a Film academy and receiving a formal education in the medium; young creative minds can skip the unsavory aspect of Films, the lingering doubt, the constant struggle. Because being armed with a comprehensive Film education, you are already prepared. All you then have to do is, work. You don’t have to go through several years writing or trying to Direct without full knowledge, and neither do you have to be self-taught. A good Film academy can give you all that & more, in a controlled, professional, and time-restricted manner; so that you emerge a confident, aware individual, who is ready to take on the Film world.

It’s now or never. Don’t let your passion stagnate. Let a great Film education be the fuel to your Film passion!

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