Sunday, 28 September 2014

Facebook Film Reviews - collected

All my Movie Reviews under One Roof

I haven't written a blog in a while. This is mostly down to winning the odd playwriting competition, going into rehearsals on a few sketches for the Spiegeltent, and generally taking life as easy as humanly possible.

I want to get back into it, so as a palette cleanser I thought I'd gather together all of the movie reviews I've done under my Facebook guise of Tazer McFictionzap. Some are angry, most are negative, but hopefully they're funny too. As ever if you disagree, want to start a fight, or just have something to say the comments box is right below. Come and have a go - if you think you're smart enough...

Covering 2013, from June onwards, these were my micro-reviews, before I really got interested in deconstructing movies through critique and piss-take. So mostly, these ones are just piss-take.

I've added the odd postscript, here and there, sometimes to add context, other times just to justify my tone.

Enjoy...

This is 40 - June 2013


Thank you "This is 40" for stealing nearly three hours of my life without offering me any comedic or dramatic dispensation within that time. You know what's worse, "This is 40?" I am now three hours closer to being able understand what being 40 feels like. Would I only had those three hours back, think of the things I could do with my now aged shell of a life.

I had been a big fan of Judd Apatow's style of comedy, mixing the coarse with the human in Forty Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. But with each new film he makes, he seems to become far more whimsical and far more indulgent. His sense of humour has disappeared, as has his empathy with reality - as evidenced by the above image of Paul Rudd spreading his legs over a mirror to check his rectum. His films are now completely cut off from reality, in favour of his moneyed and upper-middle class Schtick.


Collatoral - September 2013


Have just watched Michael Mann's Collateral - a film populated by the stupidest characters I have ever seen, taking the stupidest actions humanly possible, in the stupidest movie I've sat through since The Dark Knight Rises.

A hitman who dresses completely in Grey Armani ( topped off by an entirely grey head of hair ); police men who'd rather believe that a previously law-abiding cab driver is operating "on his own" than being coerced by a villain; a "hero" who tips his car upside down to prove he's in control of his own destiny and who then proceeds to handcuff the ONE police officer he could actually utilise to assist him ( even if it is at gunpoint ) and proceeds to try and tackle the hitman single handedly to rescue a woman he only met THIS MORNING ( and a hero who, rather than telephoning the police on his way to rescue same, actually waits until he is on the roof of the building opposite the one she works in and phones HER to tell her someone's coming to kill her. She should be all like, "what?" Instead she's all like, "oh no! It all makes sense!" ). Then there's the wolf scene where Tom Cruise comes to terms that he is a metaphorical wolf by seeing a real wolf and having a really flirtatious eye-contact scene with the real wolf and then thinks, hey that's me only instead of being a real wolf, I'm a metaphorical wolf. Played by Tom Cruise. The most conspicuous and obvious hitman since Leon. Stupid, stupid, stupid movie. Wasted, wasted, wasted morning.


Elysium - September 2013


Well, Elysium is the biggest pile of shite I've seen in a long, LONG time! If you thought District 9 had cartoon politics, wait til you get a load of THIS ridiculous wank. Dreadful, dreadful movie with hilariously childish politics clashing with embarrassingly awful writing and disgracefully stupid action. Just awful. No Spoilers but one question - why, if it's that easy for people to slap an exo-skeleton onto people, why aren't everyone on the planet walking around in one?

I forgot to mention Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copely's hideous performances, the stupidity of the Total Recall-esque Robocop robots, and the terrible, terrible christ allegory. Man of Steel eat your heart out.


Snow White and the Huntsman  -  September 2013


Dear Snow White and The Huntsman - I guess you've already guessed that I hate you. You remind me of a twelve year old's compilation tape of all the best bits from their favourite movies. You lack context. You're awful. Your favourite Lord of the Rings movie is The Two Towers, that's how misguided you are. However, you're lucky - this is the week I sat through Elysium, so you're NOT the worst movie I've seen since the weekend; and note to Peter Jackson - check out the dwarves in this movie. They are AWESOME!!!! No massively awful continuity shifts between real actors and midgets. No wibbly wobbly dwarfy walks in inappropriate moments ( see end of Return if the King when everyone's been crying and it's all sad and look how fat Samwise looks then we cut to a hilarious shot of Bilbo's double flibbling onto the boat ). Kudos Snow White and the Huntsman. Kudos. Still hate you though.

I was forced to sit through this gargoyle of a movie by two women. They received a perverse joy not only from this film, but from my increasing anger at it.


Iron Man 3 - September 2013


Dear Iron Man 3 - just wanted to let you know that, whilst I enjoyed your company, I'm afraid Iron Man 2 is better than you. Let me qualify this, Iron Man 3, if you please. It doesn't have a really stupid ending, like you do Iron Man 3. It also doesn't spend almost the entire running time proving how clever it is by continually "confounding" it's audience with easy-to-spot twists to the point that there actually doesn't appear to BE a plot. And even though Iron Man 2 asks us to believe that Mickey Rourke can create laser/electrical whips ( where do the lasers start and end Rourke? WHERE? Laser is just light, so unless it has a very definite point to reflect, refract, or absorb it, it's just going to keep on going ), it doesn't have your ridiculous flambe-people conceit - the questions that brings up Iron Man 3, the questions. You also wasted the following actors - Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley ( sir ), Jon Favreau, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer and Don Cheadle. In favour of a child-actor. And Guy Pearce. Also - you had a pointless and stupid narration. Like I say, I enjoyed your company Iron Man 3 - you just outstayed your welcome. After the first twenty minutes.

Spoiler alert - Rebecca Hall gives a sassy, comic, dark, and ultimately emotive performance in Iron Man 3. She's awesome. The last performance Paltrow gave like that was in Shakespeare in Love. Why kill off Rebecca Hall in favour of that gimlet eyed coldplay groupie?


Gangster Squad – September 2013


Dear Gangster Squad - I enjoyed you. I really did! Honest, I'm not lying. I know you think everyone hates you and underneath that glossy well-made--up surface you're just a bundle of self-loathing nerves and as such when someone compliments you, you think it's a veiled attack. This is what happens when you test the waters of fame with more than just a big toe and I understand that people have been unnecessarily cruel about you. But I really did enjoy you. Honest. It's just - and I say this as a friend - most remakes at least have the bald tenacity to call themselves what they are. Total Recall, Robocop, Elm Street, Fright Night, - all anemic and painful remakes trading on a brand name for a quick buck while exercising contempt for the very audience it's aiming at. So when someone said hey, let's remake The Untouchables, they should have at least had the balls to call it that. Especially when this one's actually bloody good! Oh well.


Public Enemies - September 2013


Public Enemies - you're dull. How can you squander a cast that includes Depp, Bale, Batman's sort of french girlfriend, the weird villainy guy from History of Violence, Giobani Ribisi, that guy from Dazed and Confused who tried to avoid typecasting by joining CSI Miami only to end up typecast as that character ( except in right at your door which is awesome ), and Stephen Dorff? You look like shite, you creep along boringly until your dull ending, you just faff around wishing you were Lawless. But you're not. You're NOT Lawless, Public Enemies. You're that Indiana Jones movie those kids made on their camcorders.

Sometimes I can be quite cruel. In Michael Mann's case I'm never cruel enough. Like David Lynch, this was a director who was a master of visual form, creating lush and striking visuals for film such as "Heat," but who picked up greasy-looking digital cameras and turned amature. Shame.


Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - October 2013


Dear David Fincher's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - why do you dress the way you do? Are there deeper underlying psychological reasons for your overt slickness and by the numbers grim rainy visage? For your plinky plonky vacuous "creepy" NIN score? Do you dress the way you dress because you believe it makes you seem unique and unusual?That it allows you to stand out in the crowd and declare : "I AM ME! And if you have a problem with it, that's YOUR problem." Probably. But I think you just know how empty and shallow and pointless you are. It's sad really, and I would suggest you speak to someone about your deeper mysoginistic problems. If you had any depth. You may go now.

I love Fincher's style, he's one of my favourite film makers but there's just something terribly pompous about him, and especially in this movie. He's far more interested in Daniel Craig than anything else going on, and uses very quick editing techniques when shooting the otherwise excellent Rooney Mara either because he wants to emulate a person afraid to look at her ( which is dumb - look at her, she's fucking striking looking ) or is unsure of whether her look actually works. The film is glossy and pulls a lot of punches, afraid to hint at a sequel so trying to close it off without really succeeding. The rape scene is brutally unpleasant, and contextually unnecessarily so. It's a good movie but, not good enough to justify its own existence. And you kind of get the impression Fincher knows it.


World War Z - October 2013



Well. World War Z. So the book had a faux political satire of a skeleton on which to hang some gory muscle and splatter. The movie has neither; it just sort of floats along doing very little as inexplicitly as it can, while focussing on Brad Pitt doing that squinty lemon thing as hoards of CGI pixels run around a lot shrieking like raptors in heat. And yet - YET mind you - I still enjoyed it. Maybe it's friday, maybe it's wine. But I enjoyed it. One thing though - the whole point of zombies is to be a terrifying mirror image of "us" - so that every time we destroy one we feel it. When they're just swarms of featureless creatures you remove all humanity and emotion from the equation, and render the use of zombies as pointless. Crap plot, too, by the way - but that's the books fault. The book was crap, incidentally. Ooh, Transformers 2 is on!


Midnight in Paris – November 2013


Dear Woody Allen - just watched Midnight in Paris. Delightful. Just delightful, all those great characters from the past meeting Owen Wilson of Shanghai Knights fame and introducing themselves to him by their full names so we the audience can know who they are. Classic conceipt. Just like that sitcom starring Rodney from Only Fools and Horses, you know the one where he lives between modern days and World War 2. 

Couple of observations though, just a few bits and pieces - I know you probably see yourself as the Owen Wilson character, with the whole leaving his cunt-wife for a seventeen year old girl thing, but the truth is you are in fact the hateful know-all, lecture-spouting obnoxicator played by that David Frost impersonator ( did you know he was English? Is that why he's the bad guy ? ) Why are all the women in your films so bitchy and hateful? Why is EVERYONE in your films so hateful? Except the seventeen year old girls who end up with the aged protagonist at the end. Why have you made me hate every classic author of the twenties by making them all seem conceited, ugly, self-absorbed, and nasty. Is that because YOU are, and that's how you see everyone else? I guess you have to be a little on the defence given your history.

Anyway, great movie - just delightful. Except, you know, the characters. And the writing. And the awful jazz score. And your hate for everyone around you.


The World's End – November 2013


The World's End : what the hell was everyone complaining about? It's not Shaun of the Dead? A fitting end to the Cornetto trilogy, funny, sad, ridiculously silly and with an over-the-top, really, really utterly shite ending, what more do you want? Okay so it's sort of a best of Spaced, it completely squanders the talents of it's excellent male cast, let alone pootling the usually excellent Rosamind Pike in a disgracefully underwritten cypher-girl role, the self-referencing becomes a little smug, and Edgar Wright is still one of the worst directors on the planet - but even with all that against it, it's pretty god damn good. Certainly better than This is the End! Stop complaining and enjoy!


The Impossible – December 2013


So here I am watching Tsunami Titanic rip-off The Impossible - starring possibly the most uncomfortable Naomi Watts nipple reveal EVER. A strange movie - one of the most strikingly shot worst scripts ever written based on real events the film manages to make seem completely unbelievable and seemingly sponsored by Coca Cola - a company happy to sponsor a movie about white folks struck by a Tsunami, while seemingly unwilling to spend money on helping those poor foreign folk that actually lived through it. Yay Hollywood! Yay thirst quencher ( and nazi business partners - see Fanta's history for more ) Coca Cola. Still, at least they're using real water. And a real Naomi Watts nipple.


Breaking Bad - Dec 2013


Tazer's BREAKING BAD Diary - season 2. Okay, so I LOVE chowder. Aside from Lasagne, Chowder is my favourite meal. The best I ever had was in San Francisco, eaten from a sour dough bowl. Most chowders I taste I hope for the best, while expecting the worst, especially based on that one, perfect chowder I had.

Cully and Scully do a Chowder. It costs €2.59 in Tescos. It's cheap and bland and each packet contains basically the same dull, overcooked ingredients, package after package, most of which are what you expect, sometimes with a little more, sometimes a little less, but never enough to really satisfy until the last sip makes one think the next one might taste a little better. It's homogenised, created for a mass consumer who - having tasted most of Cully and Scully's other, similar soups - sort of want something new but essentially the same. There's an idea that Chowder is all about the fish, so Cully and Scully hint at the fish from time to time without really understanding what Fish is supposed to taste like; but that's not really what Cully and Scully's Chowder is about. That's just the hook, if you will.

It's about easy, inoffensive mass consumption. Even as one is eating Cully and Scully's Chowder, one is thinking about that Chowder in San Francisco, almost zoning out as the bland syrup slips past the taste buds almost un-noticed. It just reminds one of a better Chowder, appreciated in a different time, when Chowder wasn't so readily available or talked about.

Breaking Bad season two then. There's a shot in episode 5 that's pretty cool. It's of a stick insect. I kinda liked that bit.

till season three then

Tazer

Needless to say I detested Breaking Bad, partly for the hype surrounding it as the best thing since sliced bread, and partly because it was a genuinely terrible program that became distressingly popular amongst the TV hipsters. Not badly made, not badly acted, just really, really stupid, inconsistent, dull, and hilariously ignorant of reality. By the last season it was head-throbbingly thick, gave the impression that - like Lost - the showrunners had kind of forgotten the point they were trying to make, and were just making this shit up on the fly. Jessie was good though.



So that's it for now, I'm compiling part two - which will encompass some of the longer reviews from Jan 2014 onwards, and should be posting it in the next few days.

In the meantime, hope you've had a chuckle and or an angry response to the mini-reviews above.

From this point on, the bile flows slower and more freely!

Till part two...

Dominic

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Writers Block, Stage Fright and Performance Anxiety - three sides of the same coin...


Writers Block, Stage Fright and Performance Anxiety


Intro

So I am currently in the throes of a massive bout of writer's block. It's been going on for about five months now, and no matter how often I get a good idea, how many times I slap memos into my phone for things I need to write, no matter how frequently I sit at my laptop with a bunch of jumbled notes by my side, I can't seem to create a play.

It's gotten so bad that I've lost sleep, confidence, and any kind of will to work.

It's gotten so bad I've begun to hate anything to do with drama, writing, or anything even remotely involved in the theatrical process.

It's gotten so bad that I've even stopped using Facebook, because I honestly can't think of anything to say. That's no bad thing of course, Facebook is essentially a demon disguised as a social outlet and I essentially spend my time exploring the depths of negativity while I'm visiting, but that's beside the point.

I sit down at my laptop to write and actively hate what I'm doing. I can't get further than a few sentences before I feel the inevitable backlash inside my mind, followed by the shaking hands, the frustrated anger, the shattered teary sensation of uselessness.

I am living the writer's nightmare, the writer's version of erectile dysfunction, fear and loathing resulting in a complete lack of creativity; a terrible lethargy that is dragging me away from the thing I love doing above all else.

To get me through this block then, I thought I'd attempt to confront it logically – by studying it and writing about it from my own point of view. We achieve by doing, so let's try a little doing for a change.

Below I'm going to try and delve into where (my) writer's block comes from, how it has affected me, and perhaps see if I can come up with some ways to get through it.

So let's achieve by doing.

And let's get dirty.

( Incidentally, if you're here purely for possible ways to avoid or soothe your writer's block, skip to the section entitled “Block block block block block blo...” and the sections beyond!)

Performance Anxiety


I have just completed four days of street performance as a variety of comedy characters at a festival. Working in a small, talented group of Wexfordian performers, alongside several other professional and international circus performers, jugglers, and street artists, when I wasn't performing as an Austrian muscle man, an overbearing in-heat monkey, or a screaming paparazzi in front of hundreds of people, I sat quietly in a corner in the backstage area and watched as everyone else seemed to get along in an almost telepathic way.

Loud, funny, and fun, constantly japing, messing around in costume and always “on,” this gang of extremely pleasant miscreants spent these backstage moments enjoying each others company while I sat to one side with my combat shorts and generically bland tee-shirts, covering my eyes with my prescription sunglasses and hoping that the earth would suck me down soon, feeling like a particularly well- practiced goth glowering at a flower-juggling convention.


For four days I felt horribly out of place. Generally speaking I feel out of place anywhere that doesn't involve me, hidden away in my apartment. And even then I can't escape the nagging voices in my gleefully self-destructive mind.

That's why, incidentally, if you see me in the street, I'll often feign ignorance of your presence, or to avoid annoying you by tripping hurriedly past you with a tiny gay wave, I'll jump into the nearest shop until I'm sure you've gone away.

So this weekend was particularly difficult for me, as I watched these naturally effervescent people quickly gel with each other while I stood loudly out as “the quiet one.” Why did I feel this way? They weren't doing it, they were warm and welcoming, if a little weirded out by my almost autistic manner.

Why was I unable to open my mouth and speak?

I'm going to suggest performance anxiety. In other words, ladies and gentlemen of the audience : stage fright.


Performance anxiety occurs everywhere, obviously not just in the arts. It can happen to a cashier, to a wholesale banana seller, to new love. It also affects one in five men in their penis areas. Obviously that's never happened to ME you understand. Not whenever I've been dozing on a bus at least, or watching a chaste love-scene in an otherwise bland rom-com starring Drew Barrymore.

Performance anxiety in this instance manifested itself in my inability to speak to perfectly reasonable, if overly-confident, human beings in between bouts of street-performance.

But Dominicispalmerandyourenot, I hear you cry in the manner of someone who is deeply, even passionately involved in me and my life or has caught their trouser hair in their fingernails; how can you get up in front of people on stage and act if this is how you are in real life? How can you dress as a rampaging albeit sweaty monkey in front of hundreds of people at a festival and suddenly have an outpouring of courage? Yet here you are, five foot nine, devastatingly average looking, quite fat, with a moustache, and claiming that you suffer from “stage fright?” That seems, you continue, possibly licking your lips, quite the bold and if I may say so, ironic claim you claim right there!

What? You don't think people suffer from stage fright in real life, just because it's name explicitly references the theatre? You're a giantly smelly spa and I hope your face boils off in lonely misery, aided by fire ants, you idiot. God I hate you.

Sorry.

I'm being defensive.

But it's only because you're being stupid, you moron. God I hate you.


I'm a paradox.
Stage Fright


So a general definition of stage fright would be : focussing on your anxiety, on your fear, to the detriment of your performance. As a rule of course, the term is only really applied theatrically, or in cases where a person must deliver some kind of presentation in front of other people, at college, or some kind of lame-ass board meeting no one wants to be at but is afraid to say it for fear of being fisted.

Stage Fright occurs when a person becomes so aware that they are performing, or about to perform, that they become almost irrationally anxious. They are so aware of the things, people, and expectations around them, that they begin to instantaneously play out every single negative scenario in their heads and it paralyses them. They then start to believe those negative scenarios. At it's worst, it results in that terrible moment we've all experienced at least once in our lives : freezing up.

Heightened self-awareness to the point of paranoia, a complete focus on your anxiety, of a desire not to seem stupid whilst simultaneously projecting idiocy, to the point that one can barely move or speak; this has occurred to me on numerous occasions and these days I try to avoid it happening by only leaving my apartment when I have to and only talking to people when they're pre-recorded on the telly.

In fact, I have spent much of my life practicing the art of avoidance, with the beneficial side-effect of allowing me to develop the skill of observation, both interior and exterior.

Yet I don't suffer from stage fright when I'm performing professionally, not generally at least. Sure, I get nervous, what performer doesn't? And certainly if I fuck up, if I drop a line or say cunt in front of a group of small children ( or as I refer to them, “cunts” ) then of course, I'm self-critical. I want to do the best job I can, whatever I'm doing, and like everyone, I beat myself up when I fuck up, but I see it as a learning curve, a natural way of grading myself for the next round. Next time I won't call the little cunts “cunts,” for example.

On stage I do okay. Partly because I mask myself through character, and partly because I can reveal myself to people without ever having to justify it, other than to say “well I'm on stage now. It's not real...” This is particularly true in the improvisational style of the street theatre I have generally practiced, where I can speak my mind from the veiled mask of a cartoonesque character, but do so in-character, ie with preset limitations.

In what Paul Greengrass would call "real world situations" however, I am naked. I stammer, my mouth dries up, I can't hold eye-contact with people ( and if I do I assume they think I'm coming on to them, or alternatively that they fancy me, which is generally confusing and not true. ) I shuffle, I wear a slap-happy grin that gives me the strangely plastic sheen of a slightly guilty, stoned handicap.

Over the years I've learned how to hide these traits with a sequence of practiced personality tics so that only those who know me, or are tuned into such psychological attributes can spot them. Often it involves nakedly and honestly portraying myself as a self-aware loser so that you both take pity on me, and understand that I am relatively intelligent.

Effectively, I have created a character for myself, a confident yet self-deprecating, self indulgent extension of who I am that I can hide behind in those awkward real world moments I mostly try to avoid.

In-character


Generally speaking, I think whether we admit it or not, we spend much of our life in performance, in-character. Whether we're trying to impress a potential mate ( as I've begun referring to most people these days on the off-chance my partner finally comes to her senses and dumps my lardy hole for someone a little more prodigious, ) a workmate, a pal, someone in authority, or our parents, whether we're trying to talk our way out of a situation, or lie our way into one, it's all performance. We're trying to project something about ourselves and are doing so by acting to a preconceived type, trying to cover who we are with who we want to be.

The alpha male. The in-control supervisor. The regretful child. The stud. Tazer McFictionzap. Etc etc etc.

I find it very easy, if nerve-wracking, to get up on stage and perform, yet I find it inordinately difficult to speak to friends and strangers unless I am working in-character, something which takes a great deal of preparation to achieve. I need to know where I'm going, who I'm seeing, and what I'm doing a day or so in advance in order to get myself into the mindset of that character I hide behind.

I've often been told that I project great confidence when I'm talking to people, to the point where I seem almost obnoxious. This is probably true. I learned how to do it, to hide the bubbling insecurity as best I can by becoming something of a parody, because I understand that to show any sign of weakness is to allow people in. When they know you, they can hurt you. And in my experience, most likely will.

Those who know me know I am cripplingly shy, almost to the point of obnoxiousness, as I avoid contact with even those who would consider me a friend.

Bottom line : I am clearly obnoxious.


I wish I could tell you I'm not, but I am. I suffer from a terrible self-loathing, yet I'm self-aware enough to tell you this so that you can sympathise with me. In fact, did you notice I already started leaning towards a needy desperation for your sympathy a few paragraphs back?


Even when writing what seems like a nakedly honest portrayal of myself, I am in-character, omitting things I don't want you to know in favour of representing myself in a cathartically self-deprecating manner. Something I learned a long time ago when dealing with real world situations is to be the first to put myself down; that way someone else has to work a lot harder to get to me.

I would suggest I am not alone in doing this. And I would suggest that the reason I suffered so painfully during this weekend was because I was beset by performance anxiety whenever I was not performing; when I simply had to interact with other people. The character was not working for me.


So this is all very good and self-obsessed kids, but how does this pertain to writer's block? This has just been a weird deconstruction of yourself by way of justifying how you act around people. What's the point you tool? You pointy pointy tool?

Fuck off, mister and missus instant gratification, this is my blog, not a quick blowjob in the back of a grimy Dallas-themed bi-sexual dungeon-bar.

Though that sounds like the best blowjob you could ever wish for.

Writing and Performance Anxiety


Though I have tried to create this obnoxiously confident character for myself in normal situations, I am not a natural performer. By nature, like many writers, I am introspective, insular. I have not the ability to stand up in front of a group of friends and recite Shakespeare, sing a song from that bit in Bambi when Bambi's mum gets her head blown off ( spoiler alert, ) nor can I twerk or dance in a bar no matter how much I like the song or how many Fischer's I have had to drink. I'm far too self-conscious. I can barely tell a knock-knock joke without turning puce with terrible embarrassment and rushing through the punchline.

And this is where writer's block begins to rear it's ugly head, certainly for me. Performance anxiety often occurs when I realise that someone is going to see what I'm doing, in this case read my play. Despite my obvious bitterness towards those idiots who think they know what they're talking about, I still want to please them. Some of them do know their stuff after all ( someone has to, right? )

As I do when confronted with a person or group of people I need to deal with on any kind of human level, I begin to interact with them in my mind, these “readers” - whoever they may be. I begin to hear them criticise me, I hear them snickering at my attempts at humanising people on page, I hear them whispering that my work is “just too clever for it's own good” ( a common criticism of my work ) or that “all the characters sound the same” ( a somewhat common and generally erroneous criticism of most new writer's works! ) 

Paranoia takes over.

That's where it often starts for me. The thought of someone reading it paralyses me and instead of simply writing what I want to write, I begin to try and mould it in a direction that feels un-natural. If I'm writing a comedy ( which I usually am ) I start to lose faith in the humour. If I'm writing a drama ( which I do, from time to time ) I second guess myself, tie myself in knots, make assumptions about these – at this point, entirely theoretical – readers and the way they'll take my piece. In turn, I start to disbelieve what I am writing. That, too, paralyses me.

In a very real sense, it's that same insecurity I feel in real world situations that creates my own writer's block and which then feeds back into my real world circumstances. I start to question my abilities, I compare myself to other, better, or at least more well-known playwrights. I use it as an excuse not to write. I shut down. The more I worry about these things, the more I start to present myself with these things. It's a self-perpetuated loop.



Which creates another set of frustrations, another reason to beat myself up and play to my insecurities. Like many an artist I am hugely self-destructive. I will go to great lengths to sabotage myself, to hurt myself and even those around me, often just to prove what a fuck up I am and justify my feelings of inadequacy.

I don't think this is only inherent in artists, by the way, I think it's a very human trait. Think of the person whose husband or wife or partner has cheated on them, desperately drilling them on every detail of the infidelity to hurt themselves.

And just as muscle memory often leads to actors learning their lines alongside their movements, I learn to tie my insecurities to my block. So each time I sit down to write, damned if they don't come swimming back like over-eager sperm from a hastily removed condom you're squeezing to make sure it hasn't split.

Block block block block block blo...



There are, of course, many other reasons we encounter the dreaded block, though almost all of them are psychological, and link back in some way to self-doubt.

We may not fully believe we are capable of creating a piece despite the incredible idea it is growing from. We believe that we're not good enough. This leads to great frustrations in trying to realise something to the high standards we are desperate to obtain, with each step forward somehow feeling like a thousand steps back. We look at our epic and we think – why did I EVER think I could do this? It resembles a mountain and you're at the bottom, naked except for knee-pads.

We might run out of inspiration halfway through, lose interest yet still feel we need to finish our piece. It's a horrible sensation, akin I imagine to realising you're drunkenly shagging the wrong person just as they start the deed. Of shagging. You. Wrongly.

Deadlines often create a sense of tension and anxiety for writers. Though it's true that Douglas Adams wittily described himself as never failing to meet a deadline as he loved the sound of it whizzing past, he did in fact suffer from crippling self doubt. Most of his books have the feel of a terribly rushed work, never quite finished satisfyingly, and it's often because he was beset with stress by an impending deadline. The closer they get, the less work you appear to have done. The closer they get, the more you realise you want to write. The closer they get, the more you doubt your abilities. The closer they get, the less polished your work seems.

The closer it gets, the more you realise someone is going to read your piece.

Sometimes you're just overwhelmed by it all. Too much going on in the real world, too little going on, too much to think about or not enough. Our brains are constantly firing off, left, right, right, left, and sometimes there's just no room left amongst the shooty neurons for sitting down and creating a silly little play from your overworked brain-mind.

Our fear of exiting the world we've created is another reason we can suffer block. Strange as it might seem to outsiders, we do become attached to our characters, to the stories they are telling. It's not unreasonable then, to want to stay in their world and not say goodbye. This can result in a terrible, almost schizophrenic block – the desire to finish a piece of work clashing with the desire to continue writing it.

If you have a writing routine you adhere to and find yourself unable to do so, that can affect your ability to concentrate. You begin to become aware of the changes around you, the noises, the little things that suddenly become hugely abnormal. And conversely, there are those occasions where you have become so bored by the everyday routine that you need the stimulus of a massive change.

Sometimes block occurs because you suddenly realise you're re-inventing the wheel. You become terrified that what you're doing is not original, and often seek out confirmation of this very thing.

For me, writer's block generally comes about because of self-doubt and a crippling fear that someone has to read it. My own insecurities scupper my sense of creativity and replace them, ironically, with hugely imaginative reasons why everyone hates me.

We all labour under the illusion that people spend more time thinking about us than they really do. Remember this though – most people spend most of their time in a frozen moment of self-obsession. They are not thinking about you. They are not talking about you. And in the rare occasions that they are it is to make themselves look better, either by association, or by creating negativity to make themselves appear less insecure. In either case, take the compliment for what it is, and move on. They already have.

Affected by effects

What happened to me last weekend was a result of how I have been feeling in the last few months, and is directly related to my writer's block.

When a person can't do the one thing they set out to do, which in some cases feels like the one thing they were put on this earth to do, it has catastrophic repercussions on their emotions and confidence.

I relate it in this instance only to writing but of course it stretches into every walk of life.

I write, therefore I am. I can't write, therefore what am I? This leads to a terrible lack of self-confidence, a draining of self that leaves one questioning one's own worth, and at it's worse – as has been occurring to me – leaves one downbeat, depressed, even despondent. It becomes the thing you can't stop thinking about, becomes the reason why you are a lesser being, it perpetuates itself in ever-grander variants of performance anxiety, and results in the assumption that you are worthless, and worse - everyone knows how worthless you are.

It can lead to self-destruction, a hovering feeling of rain-cloud darkness that simply won't leave, touching everything in your life and leaving you with a consistent, just out of earshot anxiety, something lurking over your shoulder whispering bad bad things you can never quite hear, but know instinctively are about you. It's exhausting and it takes it's physical and emotional toll.

I was sitting with some of the most fun people I have ever encountered, performing with a welcoming, and tremendously talented group of people at one of the best gigs of the year, and instead of enjoying that, I drifted into the background and beat myself up for it. I simply didn't have the confidence to step forward, in-character, and dig in. Five months of writer's block have stripped me of my sense of self-worth and left me tearing mental strips from myself at every opportunity.

It doesn't help. Obvious? Ah, it's worth saying anyway.

So how do we break beyond this writer's block, this performance anxiety? What ways can we attempt, to hump us out of the slump?

Fucked if I know.

Ha. That was humour. Self-deprecating humour.

Love me.

Just as you can't just tell a cripplingly shy person to speak up, it's not so easy to tell a writer who is suffering from block to just sit down and write, or alternatively take a step back and do something else for a while. But sometimes that's what it takes; other times, of course, what's required is a protracted set of jigsaw molly-coddles.

Ideas to help with your block




Look, we both know ( I'm assuming it's just you and me who's reading this, right? ) that like curing hiccups, there are plenty of old-wives tales out there about curing writer's block ( am I allowed to say old wives, by the way? Am I being sexist or racist or something when I use that term? Is a little person rolling down a hill because I said it? Answers please, I need to be as PC as an oiled baby's bottom. )

Nothing cures it. It's not a disease, or a virus, it's simply a form of anxiety that you perpetuate. Knowing that may not help, but knowing that it's not about curing it but salving it, balming it until the anxiety reduces, might.

Here is a truism for you – you're your own worst enemy. You are putting blocks in your own path and you don't even know it. It's not the outside world, dear child, who is causing your block, but you. Unless you live next to fat, loud, obnoxious neighbours whose idea of fun is listening to drill n' bass while hammering their dog and talking loudly about mince.

Call the police and quietly explain to them why your neighbours might be a danger to themselves and those around them.

Other than that possibly made-up scenario, very often when it comes to anxiety ( no matter how justified it might seem ) you are your own worst enemy, especially when it comes to writing and performance.

Let me elucidate by using a large word people don't normally use, in this sentence, and then going on to give you an example.

By sitting in that backstage corner hiding from talking to people, I continued to perpetuate the idea that no one wanted to speak to me. By essentially assuming something about myself and other people, I was creating the circumstance where it felt true even though it wasn't. Guess what? Bit by bit through observation I was able to pinpoint things in each person I could appeal to in conversation. I got chatting. It felt stupid not to.

Did I ever feel comfortable in my own skin? Nah. I died a little inside every time I had to make the leap of faith and open my mouth. But that's not the point here, is it? I was able to project a certain level of humanity and got beyond the blocks I was putting in my own way. I got a few new Facebook friends to ignore, and I enjoyed their company enough to help me feel a little more comfortable about my situation. Did they think I was anything special? Of course not. Why should they? But we had a giggle.

Hooray for me. When I was ready, I presented myself.

A couple of things, then, that you can try, to soothe the aching blue-ball sweat that is writer's block.

Don't panic, don't beat yourself up, don't forget that until it's ready no one has to see it. If you're stuck in that awful loop of sitting down to write, struggling, screaming and swearing ( cunt, fuck, shit, bugger-top, wank valve, helmet slurper, anal ouch, etc ) and then doing it over and over again and again, stop. Stop doing it. It's not helping.

It's driving you nuts. So stop.

You are not performing life-saving surgery here. Leave that and the stress it requires to the men and women who are. Trust me, they're probably far more calm about saving someone's life than you are about your writing. That should tell you something.

Calm down, don't panic, don't beat yourself up. As best as you can, try not to turn your stress back on yourself. It'll only make it worse. No one ever has to see what you've written if you're not entirely happy with it. There's nothing wrong with you – you're suffering from stress. That's it. The best way to soothe stress is to recognise it, and understand what's causing it. Get to the root of the problem.

If you're not happy with your piece, change it. Mix it up. Cut and paste. Don't delete anything, keep different copies, clearly marked, and learn to chop and change. As an exercise alone, it's worth doing, and as a way of taking your mind off the anxiety about a piece, it's invaluable.



If you have a deadline to complete your piece to, micro-manage it. Break EVERYTHING down. Characters, motivations, structure, everything. Keep breaking it down into smaller pieces. Not only is it soothing to do this ( your brain naturally gravitates towards patterns, repetition, and lists – it likes to structure things so do it ) but it will help you keep yourself and your piece defined. It takes time to do this, but let it. The more you have it broken down the easier it will be to put it back together.

Incidentally, if you do have a deadline remember this – what you're handing in will require changes, editing, restructuring and cosmetic work. You do not need to submit perfection, you simply need to submit a finished piece. Yes, you don't want to hand up shit-water; you want your piece to reach a standard. Reach that standard, and if you can, go beyond it. But remember it will be changed so finish it and perfect it later.

When it comes to plays, I tend to try and retain control over my pieces as much as possible ( and it isn't always possible, something I have to learn to appreciate without throwing a wobbly in the nearest bystander's face; I've lost count of how often I've alienated myself by doing this ( eleven ) ) so that I can edit as I go. If I am in rehearsals, and something isn't working, I can move towards bettering it. I try and work with the director ( if I am not directing ) so that they understand what I'm going for, and if there are edits to be done, I can do so in such a way as it is not detrimental to the piece.

If you're the type of person who needs to work to a routine, work that routine out and adhere to it. If you prefer to mix that routine up - hey guess what? Go for it. Whatever works. Try both.

Talk to someone about your piece, even let them read it if you're comfortable doing so. Don't ask for opinions on style etc, just ask for ways in which the reader might find the piece difficult to understand. Ask them what didn't work for them, but just as importantly what did. Find positives for every negative. Talking to someone about it will naturally allow you to air your frustrations, and will give you the opportunity to sound things out objectively. Most of the time you'll find you already knew the answer, but didn't know how to describe it. The rest of the time, the person you are talking to will give you the clues you're looking for.

Don't go overboard, most people will indulge you only so far.


Don't do what I do - get frustrated and angry when someone gives you their opinion. It's defensive behaviour because you know they're right; they're right, so thank them and accept it.

And try not to bother other writers, if they're not suffering writer's block they're probably working. If they are they don't want to hear your problems. ( That said, there's something disquietingly pleasant as a writer to hear that other people are suffering block. )

If you have no one who is willing to speak to you, understand that not everyone is as obsessed as you about your writing, so go look online for forums. Air your frustrations there. Just don't whine. No one likes a whiner. Not even your ma. Look for constructive assistance.

If you don't like using forums ( which isn't possible, everyone likes using forums, it's a way of expressing your most extreme opinions from behind a digital mask ) then ask yourself a couple of FAQs. What is my piece about? What am I struggling with? Don't ask yourself why, you know why, be logical, work it through. Wrestle with it for a while.

If you're stuck writing one piece, try working on another. DJ mix between the two ( or however many you can muster ); you'll find that ideas start coming to you that may even end up in the troublesome piece ( which will naturally, even subconsciously, be the guiding light in your mind anyway. ) You might find it easier to tackle two completely different types, or even genres, so that you're naturally relaxing while writing. 

Don't do what I've recently done, which is essentially attempt two pieces approaching the same subject from different angles ( ironically, writer's block ). What you want is a new piece that takes your mind off the difficult one. Try writing just for the sake of writing, you'll be surprised how many ideas will start flowing. If you're struggling with comedy, write a drama. You might find you create absurd situations that, in context, strike you as funny, or you may end up creating something completely new.

I once ended up writing a self-reflexive porno while creating notes for a bank exam I was shortly sitting, and struggling against.

Watch films. Watch Youtube. Watch online critics. Read plays. Research. Study. Immerse yourself in the world in which you are involved. Seek out inspiration, you never know where and when it might come.

As to the originality factor – blah blah blah, only seven stories, blah blah blah, everything's already been done, blah blah blah simpsons did it.

Get over it. Seriously, get over it. Unless you are wilfully plagiarising something, you'll find an original spin on your subject. That's why you were writing it in the first place, right?

Speaking of which – understand why you are writing this piece. You may have lost your way and that's why you're feeling stressed. Go back to the original idea that started it, and make a point of referencing it throughout your piece, even in separated notes. How does each scene, or each moment, relate to that idea. Get it back on track and you'll find your path again.

If you're not feeling it, don't do it. If you don't need to shit, why force it? 


What you want is that little spark of desire that drives you. Remember, however, that like any long-term relationship, you do have to do some of the hard work yourself. You can't always expect the spark. But, just like a good, loving long-term relationship you should still want to spend time writing. If you don't, then maybe it's time to move on for now. Unlike women, your piece will not cut your balls off and stick them up your bottom and then bend you over and tell you to fart so that you propel your testicles across the room, and then film it and upload it to Dino Tube as some weird form of fetish porn.


Take a step back and try to find a different angle.

The main thing to remember is this – relax. It's so easy to say and so hard to achieve sometimes. All performance anxiety comes down to the thought that other people are going to see what you're doing and judge it.

They are.

So? At least you'll have reached the stage where you have completed you piece. At least then, you'll have done it. And they don't have to see if until you are ready. ( When it comes to deadlines, accept the fact that someone else is going to have an opinion. Listen to this opinion and try not to take it personally, especially if you're not fully happy with the piece yourself. You don't have to agree with it, but maybe you will and maybe it will help to do so. )

Remember this, too – performance anxiety, stage fright, it happens to everyone. They may tell you it doesn't, but it most certainly does.

We live in a world of bravado, of fake courage masking terror. Everyone does it. Recognise this.

Just as all men experience a lack of morning glory from time to time, especially in times of great anxiety, and just as all men stress out in these moments because it means they can't “perform” for someone else, all writers experience moments where they simply cannot write, no matter how hard they try.

Rest. Relax. It happens to us all.

Oh, and always wear sunscreen. I can't stress this enough.