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We don't have any monkeys!


One of the greatest challenges a writer can face is Writer’s Block. The paralyzing inability to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard in order to move a story forward. It happens to every writer, the key is to identify the cause, pick a strategy to overcome the block and get back on track. The first step is simple – don’t panic.

There are two main reasons we succumb to writer’s block, fear and perfectionism. The act of writing is a vulnerable pursuit. Writers commit their thoughts and feelings to concrete form then send them out into the world to be discussed and critiqued. Fear of failing this critique often stops writers from starting their work.

Perfectionism is succumbing to our inner critic. We feel we can protect ourselves from criticism by making the work perfect and above reproach. We set our standards so high that we become caught in the search for the perfect word, the perfect sentence, the perfect plot point. It is a futile quest whose only outcome is keeping us stalled and afraid to move forward with our writing.
There are many ways to work through writer’s block. Every writer should have a toolbox ready with their favorite methods of breaking the block. Here are a few to try.

Change your environment.
If you usually write in your studio or living room try moving to a coffee shop or a library. A distraction in one environment may be gone in another. A new work space may provide fresh elements of inspiration that will spark your creativity and move you past your block.

Practice freewriting.
Pick something completely different to write about. Allow yourself to free associate and use stream of consciousness. Taking away the restraints you have placed on yourself will bring to light images and concepts stuck deep in your subconscious. This will bypass your inner editor and provide a path around your block.

Jumpstart your muse.
Don’t wait for inspiration. If you are stuck on a scene try writing about a character’s backstory. If you are having trouble with dialogue try writing about a character’s goals and the obstacles he or she has to overcome. Tackling the elements around the problem that has you blocked will often give you new insight into why you are having trouble at that point in your story.

Carry something to record your thoughts.
Carry a notebook, voice recorder or phone app to record your thoughts when you are away from you writing space. The pressure of performing is lessened when you are not at your desk. Your subconscious is always working to untangle the narrative knots that may have you stalled. The answers to your writing problems will come, but they may come at any time and you must be ready to record them for when you are back in your work space.

Use a different writing tool.
If you work on a keyboard switch to a pen. Change the interface you use to translate your ideas into words. Manipulating the method used to write can alter the way your ideas form or can combine ideas into new concepts. A new writing tool can lead to fresh inspiration through the simple act of changing the physical process of writing.

Commit to Rewriting.
Don’t try to make it perfect. Chasing that unattainable goal is a waste of time and effort. Rather commit to rewriting. Accept that your first draft will be bad, but also know that your second will be better and your third draft will be better still. It is easier to build work layer by layer that to create it perfectly in one draft. Writing is rewriting and accepting this as a plan of action will obliterate writer’s block.

Every writer suffers from writer’s block at some point in their career. Famous authors that have struggled with this problem include Maya Angelou, George R.R. Martin and F. Scott Fitzgerald. They all suffered from but ultimately conquered their writer’s block. Try these steps and find the ones that work for you.

by Kurt van Aswegen


This is a blog about story. In all its various forms and many different mediums. I will play to my strengths and have more to say on story in film and how narrative in video games have changed over the years. However, we will take a detour into graphic novels, books and a few songs.

And we’re back…

startrekbenedictThe identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character in the new Star Trek movie has been the subject of much debate. Is he Khan? Perhaps an old villain reborn? Someone from the original series back for revenge? The secret will likely hold until the film’s premiere, but one thing that is certain is that Benedict Cumberbatch will be playing the villain in a Star Trek movie.

“Of course he is,” I hear you say. “Who would turn that role down?”

Well, Benedict had a few concerns, until he ran into two Next Generation Trek alumni who set his mind at ease. As Brent Spiner, or Lt. Commander Data to his friends, tells it the meeting went something like this:

My family and I went to London, New Years, and we were eating in a restaurant with Patrick [Stewart]. Called The Ivy, which is an amazing place, it’s a theater restaurant that people have been coming to since Noel Coward and Olivier and all those people.

We saw Benedict Cumberbatch across the room. He was sitting with Eddie Redmayne, I don’t know if you know who Eddie is. Anyway, Benedict saw Patrick and myself and he came over to the table.

And he said, “I have to talk to you.”

And Patrick said, “All right, call me.”

He said, “No, no. I have to talk to you now.”

“What is it?”

And he says, “I’ve just agreed to do the new Star Trek movie.”

“No, really?”

“Well,  [dramatic pause] is it going to damage my career?”

And I said, “Let me tell you something Benedict, you’ll never work again after this.”


Benedict’s audition also turned out to be quite unconventional. According to Spiner:

“Javier Bardem was being courted to play the villain in the new Star Trek movie. And, apparently he asked for too much money, and they were haggling, and they couldn’t… And Benedict made a video on his iPhone and sent it to J.J. Abrams, and he was cast that day.”

Javier Bardem’s performance in Skyfall was brilliant and nuanced and surprising in all the best ways. But choosing between the two – Benedict Cumberbatch seems born to play a Star Trek villain.

Interview Source: Nerdist Podcast

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the americans1Felicity is a spy and she’s working for the Russians! This may be wishful thinking, but Keri Russel is a Russian spy working in America during the early ’80s in the new FX show “The Americans”. Along with Matthew Rhys, who plays her husband and sleeper KGB spy partner, they pose as a married couple living the suburban life at the beginning of the Reagan era.

Linking Russel back to her breakout character might be doing her a disservice. She has given excellent performances since then in films like Waitress and Mission: Impossible 3. Although the possibility of Felicity being a spy is not a new one. At a PaleyFest panel, Felicity’s creator J.J. Abrams explained that during the third year of the show the writers were having a hard time coming up with new stories. They began throwing out crazy ideas in order to find something to work with and get the ball rolling again. He knew there were CIA recruiters on college campuses and it would be great for the character because it was a big secret she would have to keep from everyone. However, the fact that there was no inkling of this in the Felicity pilot killed the idea in the room. Instead it led to the development of “Alias”, a show about a college girl living a double life as a CIA spy.

Russel may not have had the chance to learn any spycraft for Felicity but she certainly has the skills in “The Americans”. The pilot shows off the combat abilities of the two leads. At one point Russels’ character, Elizabeth Jennings, handily slams an opponents head through a wall. Rhys manages to play both the deadly and the mundane aspects of Philip Jennings, a balancing act that gives the character a surprising likeability. This contrasts with the icy nature of Elizabeth, who is fiercely loyal to the Russian homeland while Philip has come to appreciate his life in America and toys with the idea of defecting.

And the drama ratchets up a notch when a FBI agent moves in across the street.

The show has an interesting premise but a difficult mandate. It asks us to root for “the enemy”. Do we want the FBI agent to catch the Russian spies on American soil? Or do we want Elizabeth and Philip to save their family and find a place for themselves without being crushed under the weight of two warring superpowers? So far the show has managed to walk that fine line, keeping us invested in both perspectives. Eventually the show will have to commit to one side or the other, as Philip and Elizabeth will have to. It will be interesting to see where they land.

Watch the Pilot


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THEO: If you had a million monkeys, on a million typewriters for a million years, eventually you’d get the collected works of Shakespeare.

RUNT: But…we don’t have any monkeys.