Perhaps inadvisably, I often watch movies about blocked writers as I search for new and effective strategies for helping writers write. The archetype of the blocked writer must be universally compelling because there are literally scads of these movies in circulation.
Screenplays are created by writers, so it doesn’t surprise me that they inject writing issues into their plots, but the solutions presented are sometimes too far out of my comfort zone to actually recommend them to clients.
Case in point: The Dog Problem. Giovanni Ribisi stars as Solo, a neurotic, broken, broke writer who had great success with his first novel The Naked Abyss, but now feels the book was bad and is afraid to try to write another. This struggle leads him into 5-day a week psychoanalysis with Don Cheadle that he pays for by borrowing lots of money from a mobster loan-shark. It could happen.
Struggling with a second novel is not a novel struggle. It happens, and especially if there is early success. Usually the worry is “OMG, will I be able match my initial, undeserved, success?” Here, Solo is worried about writing another novel he hates. Fair enough up to here.
His shrink tells him to get a dog, and this leads to stressful encounters with the mobsters, a rich dog-loving woman, and a stripper with a heart of gold who likes to read literature.
There is an inviolable rule in Hollywood that, in a movie, a failed writer must learn to love before s/he can write again. Solo starts his quest by first learning to love his dog, then progresses up the evolutionary ladder until he is eventually capable of loving a human stripper. This accomplished, he moves to New Mexico and his words flow like a river once again.
I must be therapeutically blocked because though I might recommend getting a shrink, and maybe even a dog, but I’m not yet prepared to go full “Dog Problem” with my blocked writer clients.