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Getting that story unstuck

Sometimes, writer's block results from someone blocking you, not blocking yourself!

Case in point: I've been working a story on the making of The Darkest Minds movie for the International Cinematographers Guild Magazine. I interviewed the director and most of the camera department, but the director of photography and I just could not get our schedules to sync.

This is when being a good interviewer and a confident writer combine to save your butt. I had loads of good content from the other sources so I knew I could write the story without the DP, adding placeholders for where his comments would make the piece better. This was important to reducing my stress, reducing my editor's stress and honing the long list of questions down to a few crucial ones.

I wrote the story to the minimum word count required and was ready for my interview with the DP. I told him these were the crucial questions, but since it was one-third as many as the original list, he could know his time was being well spent.

Again, though, our schedules and commitments conspired against us. Time for Plan B. I sent him the questions and he recorded the answers in a voice memo. While this wasn't ideal -- I couldn't ask follow-up or clarifying questions -- it did give me what I needed most, which was his insight on the look of the film, how crucial scenes were shot and what it was like working with a first-time live-action director. His answers were definitely worth the wait.

Why should you care? Because every writer who has to involve other people hits this kind of wall. It's easy as deadline pressure mounts to get paralyzed or super stressed. The first keeps you from writing at all and the second keeps you from writing well.

Having a set of strategies you can fall back on, and the confidence to use them, keeps your head in the game and the project moving forward.

Worst case: You've got a something to talk to your editor or higher-ups about: I've gotten the piece as far as I can. Here's where we are, and what we need to do to get the rest of the way there. How can you help? 

Best case: You get the information you need most and have a good shot at making the original deadline because you'd worked out the logic and the identified places to insert the best stuff ahead of time.

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