The other night I went to the Todd Barry – Final Crowd Work Tour. I was super pumped when I heard about it, cause I’m a big fan, but I hadn’t been able to find anyone to go with me (my Girlfriend had to go out-of-town that night) so I ended up messaging a comedy acquaintance in DC that I’d remembered posting about it, to see if I could tag along with her and her people.
I’ll skip some details here, but it all led up to her and me driving from Baltimore to DC together. Along the way we discussed what we’d been doing since we last spoke (about 2 years ago probably) and how our respective comedy journeys were going.
In a nutshell, I’m quite happy with where I am and where I’m going, but she seemed a little frustrated. I’ve been there before and will surely be there again so it got me to thinking about what could be done to get those creative juices squirting again. I’m no expert at conquering writers block, but I’ve found some things that help and I’d like to offer my thoughts on the topic. I’ll write from the perspective of and using the terminology of comedy, but I think you could apply these ideas to any art form.
She, like I, had tons of ideas when first starting out, but now the well is running dry. I experienced this about a year ago, and it still relapses from month to month. I think it’s a common problem for all creatives. When you start comedy, you’ve got material and inspiration you’ve been collecting since birth so you might have anywhere from 15 to 30 years worth of “great” ideas, just waiting to burst forth from a Setup-Punchline-Tag Situation. But after you explore that stuff with youthful exuberance, and figure out what works and what doesn’t, where do you go from there?
JUST KEEP GOING…
Don’t feel bad that the ideas aren’t coming so rapidly. As I said, you had your whole life to come up with those first chunks of material, but now you’re trying to generate just as much from one or two months of life? It’s not going to be easy, but here are some ideas for getting on track again. Some of them I actually use, and some of them are just brainstorms, and I”m not sure if they’ll yield anything. They all boil down to fall under one, two or all of three of the following concepts:
1) Take a Break
Take a night or a week off to go do something as unrelated to your comedy or the project you’re working on, as possible. Some might call this a “Vacation.”
This will give your brain a chance to reset and recharge, just make sure you get back to the project after you’re rested up.
2) Try Something New
Anything New, or done in a different way can get your juices flowing. It’s all about exposing yourself to new sensations that could spawn jokes, but it will also make you use different parts of your brain than you’re used to. The more things you experience and write about, the more likely you are to find that golden egg bit that shines a new light on something, and that’s what comedy is all about.
3) Reconnect With Something Old
It’s easy to overlook some aspects of your life and childhood, but there is a well-spring of stuff there. Everyone has a had a childhood and no matter how weird you think yours was, I bet there are people who can relate to some part of it and that’s what you want from your comedy. John Hefron, winner of last comic standing and __ year comedy veteran says he only really has three joke premises: Relationships, Childhood and “You know you’re getting old when…” When you reconnect with an old friend or relative you also reconnect with all the old times you had with them and that can yield great material.
Just in case those three concepts are too vague…
Here’s a list of more specific examples that fall under those categories:
– Try a different open mic than your usual one
– Take a different route home
– Make an intentional wrong turn (be careful though, avoid the blue light cop phones in the city and stay on the paved roads if you’re rural… unless you’re comfortable with those situations.)
– Wear your underwear inside out (Or go commando)
– Call your Mom, or some other beloved family member
– Call your mom, or some other family member you can’t stand (notice the difference between capitalized Mom, and uncapitalized mom)
– Listen to AM radio for a week (or just some other station outside of your comfort zone… but AM radio is the funniest)
– Randomly tune the TV to a station and then have someone hide the remote, so you have to watch it or actually go do something else. QVC, C-Span, Telemundo, PBS and TCM are great for this
– Look though your old HS yearbooks
– Go visit some family and look at old photo albums with them
– Go to a different bar or coffee-house than usual
– Go to a gay bar (with someone who knows that scene)
– If you’re not a dance club person, then go to a dance club for a night (also with someone who knows that scene, or at least with some friends)
– If you do drugs then stop for a little while, if you can’t,… then go to rehab
– If you used to smoke weed and haven’t in a while, then take another hit for old times sake (if you can do so responsibly and live in a place where it is legal)
* If you’ve never done drugs before, then don’t start now. You’re not missing anything.
– Watch your favorite movie with subtitles (either in English with English Subtitles or dubbed in another language with english subtitles)
– Watch TV or your favorite movie with the sound off
– Watch some Telemundo or equivalent
– Gor for a walk in the park
– Try some weird food
– Watch a documentary on Netflix
– Go to a comedy club just to watch or cue up a good standup special (or even a bad one) on Netflix or Hulu
– Go for a drive as a passenger in your own car (get a trusted friend to drive you)
– If you usually drive, then take the bus or a cab for a night
– Go on a visionquest
– Go to a different church than you’re used to (if that’s your thing)
– Put your wallet in a different pocket
– Change the ringtone and/or wallpaper on your phone.
– Trade shoes with someone
– sleep on the other side of the bed
These are just a few ideas I came up with to jolt your brain a little so you can get those jokey juices flowing again, let me know how they work for you in the comment section. I’m sure you can come up with hundreds more yourself, so please also share them in the comments section.