Writer’s Block?

A brief response. In one Act.

Jon Allen
03rd Mar 2016

camstage.com

 

INT. DAY. The kitchen of a house in Somerset. There’s a funeral reception, but the mood is far from gloomy. Two men, one a decade and a half older, stand at an island, centre stage. A new bottle of red wine is opened; it’s clear from an empty bottle and glances from other mourners that it is not their first. They are alternately deep and shallow in conversation.

A week and a bit ago, following my mother’s cremation, I had a long chat with a playwright over quite a lot of red wine. My cousin’s bloke and I reached the ‘what do you do?’ exchange quite early.

I explained as best I could the many things I’m involved with, but fell back on “Basically, I’m a copywriter”.

As still happens with surprising regularity, I had to explain what that involved. Paul commented on the restrictions of being told – or asked – what to write. It’s not a problem, I said. In fact, constraints can be helpful. There’s the appropriate language for the product or service; the legal, decent, honest and true regulations; client preferences; and even budget restraints. They all serve to concentrate the wandering mind.

He asked about how I deal with writer’s block. (Googling Paul afterwards, I saw he’d had plays on at The Royal Court and similarly impressive venues and stuff on the BBC and Channel 4 earlier in his career…)

For me, Writer's Block is never really a problem; having that brief helps. You can always re-read it to get going again; look at the research; google some rivals’ work... Even if the brief is nothing more than “You know the sort of thing” – as is sometimes the case – it still helps, because Mike and I will only accept that as a brief if we DO actually know. Then, previous experience comes to the rescue. And there's working with an art director. If I’m ever lost for words, Mike is only too happy to help out. (And should he ever struggle, I'm there with visual suggestions.)

An award-winning short story writer I know has some simple advice for wannabes asking about becoming a “creative writer”: “Write something. Anything.” And if I’m procrastinating when I begin a job, stream of consciousness typing works. Screen after screen of thoughts, half sentences, single words.... For instant Big Ideas (you know the sort that old Ad Guys bang on about), a dog-dick (ancient studio slang for big Pentel marker) on a layout pad is a great stimulus.

Copywriter and playwright both manipulate feelings, but I’m lucky because I can always start by writing instructions telling the reader, listener or viewer what I want them to do next, before writing the reason. Not an option the playwright has. He’d be in danger of being as annoying as those waiters who, as they leave your food, say: “Enjoy”.

EXT. NIGHT. Two men, one leaning on the other, walk towards a hotel. One has a clear sense of purpose, to steer the other to the sanctuary of his room. The younger tries to steer the older one towards noises coming from a pub off. The older one hesitates for a moment, then sticks to the brief.

 

 

 

 

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