I have a number of ideas for screenplays. My main obstacle is me. I become periodically immobilized by writer’s block. I am wondering if perhaps I would be better off writing with a partner or a team of folks instead of struggling on alone. Any thoughts on this?

–Kathryn Featherston

Whenever I see "writer’s block" in a movie, I’m baffled, because I’ve never suffered from the ailment shown. You know the symptoms: the writer sits down at an empty sheet of paper (or computer screen) and can’t think of anything to write. He shuffles; he paces; he crumples paper which overflows from his wire wastepaper basket. Then the writer inevitably gets involved in some sort of affair or caper that revitalizes his creativity.

More often than I care to admit, I suffer work stoppages. But I’d hestitate to call them Writer’s Block. Rather, I think they’re subtly different conditions, such as Pure Damn Laziness, Brain Lock and Perfection Paralysis.

Pure Damn Laziness is the most pervasive of these ailments, and the easiest to diagnose. Writing is really hard work – much harder than playing Diablo II, or reading US Weekly – and sometimes you just don’t want to do it. The more you try to force yourself, the more you rebel, and your id ends up dragging your ego around like a grumpy four-year old at a shopping mall.

Brain Lock usually occurs from overwork or exhaustion, and is characterized by the inability to put an entire sentence together. The only cure is usually to go to bed. (Or, get a really mindless day job, so that your brain is completely rested when you get home from work.)

Perfection Paralysis is when I avoid writing a certain scene because I know it will be a disaster unless it’s done just right, and what if I do it wrong? Of all these disorders, this is the hardest to treat, although deadlines seem to help.

Would you be better off writing with a partner or in a group? Maybe. The advantage to having other people around is that you can’t fall into the same traps that keep you from writing (though you’re likely to devise some new ones). My other advice would be to ease off on the self-flagellation. There are times when you’ll get a lot written, and times when you won’t. But don’t make a career of torturing yourself over it.