So this week, John August had a cold, so we were treated to a rerun of the podcast which originally aired on July 27, 2013. This was actually the second time they reran it. It was originally rebroadcast on August 5, 2014.
Anyway, this episode features John and Craig’s interview/conversation with screenwriter/psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo. That’s right. He’s a real licensed psychotherapist. Not only that, he wrote for Welcome Back Kotter on the teevee; and, he wrote My Favorite Year (Richard Benjamin, 1982).
So, the title of this blog, is a great reminder for me: “No One Lives In Complete Isolation.” That is Palumbo’s opening salvo when discussing writer’s block. Personally, I’ve never suffered from writer’s block. I have a different problem. I have so many ideas, I have difficulty choosing what to actually sit down and write next. Whether it’s “What script should I write next?” or “What scene for this script should I write next?” — there’s always too many ideas for the time slot I must use. It’s almost like the opposite of writer’s block. Writer’s rushing rapids? Writer’s waterfall? Ironically, Palumbo’s advice applies equally well to either extreme, He says:
And the thing that’s important to remember, too, is no one lives in absolute isolation. And so if you’re struggling with writer’s block and then you’re telling yourself, you know, you’re assigning certain meanings to being blocked, it’s not like a day at the beach for your mate either, or your children, or your friends.
And you feel like, you know, if you have this idea that everything is depending on you, and every time you stumble or get stuck the whole ball of wax could collapse, then it becomes harder and harder to navigate the block.
And the thing that I think is most unique — most people think writer’s block is bad. I think it’s good news for a writer. Because, if you look at the kind of biographical narratives of some of the greatest artists you’ve ever known, they all have like five or six periods in their lives where the work is repetitive, where they feel stuck, where they seem to be going backwards.
And then all of a sudden there is this burst of inspiration. And so, for me, I think writer’s block is very similar to the developmental steps we all go through as people. You know, like a toddler who gets up, falls down, gets up. He has to navigate walking. And I think that’s true for a writer. I think when you’re blocked, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re about to make a growth spurt in your work.
I’ve discovered the same is true with my writer’s running rapids. Once I do settle in on the next idea, to tackle, it flows so smoothly — as if I’m not even the one writing it. So be it block or waterfall, you have this initial delay period, followed by a burst of output. It’s good to know that we are not alone in that. In fact, I really like how Palumbo talks about that very realization, that we writers don’t exist in isolation: “…it’s not like a day at the beach for your mate either…”