10 Movies That Will Get You Over Writer’s Block

By Jillian Richardson September 15th, 2014

As your summer full of barbecues, pool parties, vacations, and prancercise sessions winds down, it’s time to get back to focusing on your writing. Luckily, I have a solution for you. Even better, it involves Netflix.

Here are some of the best films to watch when you feel like procrastinating with a movie rather than completing that assignment. Really short on time? I’ve already included the most motivation-packed clip from each film. Watch, learn, and get to work.

1. Dead Poet’s Society

We all have days when we question why anyone wants to read what we have to write. As a result, getting yourself to even start work seems impossible. Luckily, we have Robin Williams. What better way to pull yourself out of an artistic rut than to have the genie himself give you a pep talk? In under three minutes, he’ll put the writing process in perfect context. Put simply, expressing yourself is just a barbaric yawp. You might as well have some fun with it.

2. Freedom Writers

If you ever lose sight of the power of the written word, this clip should put everything into sentimental perspective. Nothing is more inspirational than an old lady assuring you your writing has the power to “turn on a small light in a dark room.” I’m not crying; it’s just allergy season.

3. Midnight in Paris

If you really have a problem with your writing, take a note from Owen Wilson—pretend you’re having the ultimate brainstorm with some of the most famous writers of all time. This might sound insane, but sometimes I’ll imagine a famous author is sitting in the room with me, dishing out perfect phrases like shots of absinthe. From one crazy writer to another, this is definitely a technique worth trying if you’re okay talking to yourself for a while.

4. Harriet the Spy

I included the intro to Harriet the Spy for nostalgia’s sake, but the real movie starts at 3:04. I love Harriet because it reminds me of how much I loved writing when I was a kid. If you’re a professional scribe now, I’m betting you were the same way. You may not find brilliant ideas right away, but if you write things down with a black colored pencil, it should make you appreciate your job a little more.

5. Howl

Howl is a great movie to watch if you need two hours of uninterrupted artistic inspiration. The film details the works of beat poet Allen Ginsberg, played by James Franco. In my opinion, the animations like the one above are what truly make Howl unique and motivating. If there’s one way to start writing a piece that subverts The Man, it’s listening to this poem.

6. Music and Lyrics

Feeling the pressure of a deadline? Well once upon a time, so did Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. Yet somehow, in under an hour, they managed to take that anxiety and produce a chart-topping hit single in an otherwise forgettable rom-com. Hollywood magic aside, if they can accomplish that, then you can definitely finish that paragraph.

7. Stranger Than Fiction

I once had a writing teacher who told his students writing was the closest you can get to becoming God. Stranger Than Fiction is the perfect cinematic illustration of his point. In the film, an author realizes that her words have the power to control the life of an actual person. And when that actual (fictional) person is Will Ferrell, you better write those words. After all, it’s as close as you’re going to get to being the mighty smiter.

8. Adaptation

Do you feel like you can’t possibly think of another pitch? You’re wrong, and this character from Adaptation will tell you why. Imagine presenting your ideas to the guy on stage—if you think he’ll say that he “doesn’t have any bloody use for it,” you should probably can that concept and start from scratch.

9. P.S. I Love You

Okay, I might have thrown this in the mix because middle school Jillian was absolutely in love with Gerard Butler. Yet P.S. I Love You also conveniently illustrates the power of the written word. In the film, Gerard Butler’s character sends his widowed wife letters from the grave that propel her to go on various adventures. The lesson? Your writing has the power to alter the course of someone’s life. Aim to create work like that and you can’t go wrong.

10. Finding Forrester

This scene offers some of the best writing advice you’ll ever get: “You write your first draft with your heart. You write your second draft with your head.” Every author should make that their mantra. The next time you’re stuck on the second sentence of your article, remember to just keep going. The editing will come eventually—for now, you simply have to get your guts out on paper.

For further advice, find a way to become friends with reclusive Pulitzer Prize-winning authors who own lots of typewriters. That’s what I did, and it got me here.

Image by Associated Press
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