I’ve always wondered if there is a shelf life for writing ability.  I’m not talking about physical or mental obstacles, but a specific emptying of the creative tank that sees a once prolific and talented writer suddenly, inexplicably, exhausted of ideas.  The thought creeps up every so often, usually on days like today when I struggle to make inroads on the rewrite of that YA military sci-fi pilot I’ve been sloooowly revising the past week.  In this business, you’re only as good as your last script and, really, that only applies if the decision-makers have taken the time to read that last script…which is almost never.

It happens more times than I’d care to admit.  I’ll spin my wheels on a project and think “This is it.  I’m tapped out!  What else can I do for a living?” and then reflect back and marvel on the countless times I turned things around and got shit done.  It always seems like a lifetime ago.  And then suddenly it’s eight months later and I’ve written some really great stuff.  How did it happen?  I have no idea.  Was I possessed by the ghost of Christopher Marlowe for that period between pitching the pilot and delivering the finale?  Maybe?

I console myself by remembering I was productive not all that long ago, recently enough to receive an encouraging  email this morning about the series overview for Project F, and scheduled reminders for calls about two different sci-fi projects we’re about to take out.

What I may need is a deadline…

A reminder to join us later today (5:30 p.m. ET) when I’ll be getting together with the gang at Orville Nation to talk about Dark Matter Episode 4…

12 thoughts on “October 26, 2020: I may need to swing by the idea store!

  1. I went to the Idea Store once, but they were completely out of stock and I left disappointed. I had to go make my own, which was a bother.

    Seriously though, like you said, you’ve been there a bunch of times and gotten through it. I find that a good long walk (or a hike! I did a 13km one yesterday!) can clear the head.

      1. And that was over some fairly rough terrain too! I was helping get a new connector trail opened up which will connect two of the Nature Conservancy’s local trails. All together the trail network will allow about a 20 km one way hike along the Bay of Fundy and the Musquash Estuary near Saint John.

        A DFO video about the area:

  2. I think everyone is experiencing some form of this during this interminable year.

    I’m really enjoying the Dark Matter rewatch. It was nice to see the crew finally get to a space station. And I’m watching Orville Nation live right now for the first time!!! Hi Joe!

  3. Joseph, thanks for sharing!

    The whole ‘brain drain’ is something I can TOTALLY relate to. Like you, I make my living as a writer. Albeit, not at the level of coolness and success that you’ve achieved. Even still, I’ve hit those creative dead zones every now and then, and I’ve hit them HARD.

    Like today, for example.

    Come to think of it, I think it’s it’s International Writer’s Block Day.

    Okay, maybe it isn’t. But I feel your struggle.

    There have been times when I’ve been in full-on freak out mode about it.

    “Omg, I’m creatively spent. That’s it. Fuck. What am I going to do for the rest of my life?!?!?!”

    Then out of nowhere, it hits me. Inspiration. Or was it my partner trying to smack me out of my creative daze/doldrums?

    Regardless of how it happens, when I’m hit with that creative spark, there is NO other way I’d want to make a living.

    And then days like today happen and the whole cycle starts all over again.

    But as writers, it’s the kind of life we sign up for I guess… and I’m totally okay with that. For now at least haha.

    Keep at it JM, you got this!

  4. You seem to have an amazing creative process Joe, and you don’t seem to let grass grow under your feet either. Having a shelf life seems to happen with other things in other places too. Your posts, tweets etc make me think about things – a reminder you can always be creative and innovative and have fun along the way. I take my hat off to you.

  5. Also remind yourself the business you are in isn’t exactly a walk in the park. So many others control your fate.

  6. Hang in there Joe – you’re a super talented writer, and show runner with a terrific body of work behind you. Any production would be lucky to have you!

  7. My father is fond of pointing out that when Haydn wrote his last symphonies, he thought he had already exhausted all his inspiration, and that he was just going through the motions, but we now think of these as some of his finest.

  8. I think actually the opposite, you just have to look at your body of work and all the ideas you have pending going back to childhood (thanks for sharing those first stories many blogs ago!) that prove you are a prolific writer with an uber creative brain.

    Stepping away to do other fun things gives that creative brain a rest to fill back up with wonderful creations. I pulled out my old middle school diaries to get inspiration on how to write in that voice of youth, back then my diaries were filled with fretting about the shockingly uncool state of my wardrobe, some Samuel L. Jackson level diatribes cursing my brother and rapturous descriptions of John Travolta musicals.

    Maybe chat with your friends and sis about those times to get back in the headspace of those turbulent teen years!

  9. I find that clearing one idea and project, or just throwing it away and taking a long walk or a few days’ break, leaves room for new ideas.

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