May 12 • 6M

Newsletter #138: Don't Overthink It!

When do you know it's time to just WRITE that story?

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Scott Snyder
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Hey guys, it's Scott.

It is Friday, May 12th, and first I just wanted to say thank you to everybody that showed up for that Ask Me Anything on Wednesday night, it was such a blast! We went way over, I think, like almost an hour and a half plus, because your questions were so good. I have to do more of those! And I'll try and invite on special guests too, like maybe Tony Daniel or other people that I've worked with, Francis Manapul, it'd be fun.

Our Best Jackett
5/10/23 Discord Q&A #4 Archive
Hey guys, it’s Scott. Thanks again for another super fun livestream! I know this was a bit spur-of-the-moment with the class delay, but I can’t think of a better way to make up for it than talking to all of you and answering your questions directly! For those that didn’t get a chance to ask anything, leave a comment here, and I’ll also be answering some …
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And man this week really flew by. I miss the writers room for Wytches so much. And the people in it—Marion and Jeff and Bornila and Harrison and Kevin Kolde. I miss the show, I miss the things that we were working on, but at the same time, there's a certain thrill to just being in comics again, having my whole mind, my whole imagination just focused in one place. I've been moving fast through stuff as well. It's almost like I have all this energy suddenly being only in one place again and not being split over two different medium entirely.

But I wanted to talk about something today because I do this all the time, and I got a lot of questions, not just in the AMA, but over the years I've gotten a lot of questions about writer's block. And so I thought I'd do a series where we talked about a couple of different aspects of it because writer's block is this really vague thing and I believe that deep down it really is just the fear of writing something awful. And we all have that. I have it all the time, I still have it. So writer's block manifests itself in different ways. It can just be a paralyzing terror when you sit down, it can take the form of a kind of anxiety about writing, but it can also take some forms of procrastination.

And I wanted to talk about one of those today, which is overthinking and overplanning. And I'm talking about it because I was just doing it. I was working on this book, Duck and Cover with Rafael Albuquerque. And I love the book, and it's loose and fun and really smart, based on ideas that he had as well (that's why it's smart). But it's just a blast. And yet, I think it's because I hadn't been just doing comics for a while and I had been sort of split, like I was saying, over the TV work, that I was really intimidated coming back to it. And so I started outlining and outlining and outlining these last two issues and wanting to just absolutely be perfect in its outlined form before I dove in. And I always outline things pretty thoroughly, but not to this degree where I really need to know every single scene. A lot of the time I'll leave myself room in the middle of an outline to play and to explore. But with this, it was just over and over, I need to figure out this panel and this and this, and I was drawing on it and trying to figure out if I do lettering over here, can I set something up later?

My Zodiac-esque placement notes on some killer art for Duck and Cover #1 by Rafael Albuquerque and Marcelo Maiolo

Again, none of this is bad stuff. But there's a point at which you cross over into a zone where you know you're doing it because you're avoiding the writing. And that's the sort of thesis of all writer's block stuff, whether it's succumbing to fears of sitting down and working, or research which can become this general procrastination, overthinking, over-outlining, all of it. There's a point that something productive, or even healthy, can tip over into a place where you know it's becoming the thing that's causing you to avoid writing, from healthy fear to healthy exercise to all of it. And for me, that's what was happening here. It was like I was outlining and outlining and outlining and I knew, finally, early this week, I needed to just sit down and explore and write it. And so as I sat and wrote, a lot of the questions that I had, or the things I was trying to figure out in outline were answered, and answered in surprising and more organic ways than I had in the outline itself—character beats and surprises about the mystery behind why this nuclear attack happened between Russia and the United States.

My point is, over and over I'm going to say to you that there's a point at which you in your gut will know that the thing that you've been doing that’s been productive, or that's been a healthy defense mechanism, or that can even just be healthy fear, turns into something that's just keeping you from writing in a way that you have to just say enough. And the biggest thing is to sit there in the discomfort of knowing that you're probably going to write something you hate that day. And you probably will. The first day I was sitting down to work on this book, after all the attempts at over-outlining that I was telling you about, I didn't like what I was writing and it was uncomfortable. But that's when you have to keep sitting there. If you keep sitting there in that moment and you keep writing through that, that's when the magic happens, honestly. That's when you start to find something that you like, some thread, some spark, something to cling to that leads you to a place that is exciting, that's inspiring, that's not where you thought you'd go.

So again, writer's block series, one form of it comes from over-outlining, overthinking, over planning. I remember when I was at the New Yorker Festival as a fan years ago, and Martin Amis was on a panel with Stephen King, who was wearing an American Vampire t-shirt at the time, by the way, because the series had just launched, which was one of the thrills of my life. But they asked them “why when do you know a story's over?” And Martin Amis, at this point, has been giving you these long, really beautiful intellectual answers for other questions. And he said, “you’ll know it in your tummy. Right, Steve?” And he was like, “exactly,” and he patted his belly. It was like, that was it. And that's what I'm trying to say, sometimes you have to get good at feeling it viscerally in your gut, almost, when you've tipped over into a place that's the world of procrastination, or that's unhealthy, or that has just become time to sit down at the desk and do it even though you feel as though what's going to come out is bad. It's okay for it to be bad. There's no harm in it. It's going to be bad sometimes and that's okay, because you're the bad you get to the good. Anyway, thanks, guys!


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