Hitting the Wall Blocking And Unblocking

When Rex Harrison was on the stage, he timed it so he barely had enough time to rush into his dressing room, throw on his costume, put on his makeup, and race out onto the stage just moments before the curtain went up.

When Laurence Olivier was on the stage, he got there early like most actors and got into costume with some time to spare. Then, when the house was full, but the curtain was still down, he would go out onto the stage and stand behind the curtain facing the audience on the other side and say to them, but so only he could hear, "Not one of you lousy bastards can do what I'm going to do here on this stage tonight."

Harrison and Olivier, two great actors—what were they up to? Why all the antics? What were they struggling with? Performance anxiety. Fear. Stage fright. Harrison was trying to distract himself by making himself frantic about something else—something he could manage easily (costume and makeup). Olivier was trying to psyche himself up, trying to overcome his fear by turning it into something else.

Do writers have stage fright? Yes, they have a kind of performance anxiety that can be just as terrifying. They have page fright. Unlike stage fright, where you must go on when the curtain goes up, ready or not, writers can sneak out, put off the performance again and again. Because of that, page fright often lasts longer and grows more disabling the longer the writer puts off writing. Some writers have been blocked for years.

Blocking is the writer's affliction, so we're going to treat it like one. We're going to look at the nature of the disease, determine the causes, and then put together a treatment plan. Diagnosing the disease and its causes helps, but diagnosis is not a cure. Understanding alone will not solve the problem. Understanding is not mastery. You have to know how to treat the ailment (what to do) if you're going to cure it. That's where we'll wind up—with an aggressive plan of action to get you onto the page and back up to full strength.

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