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A break away

Writing wisdom from Stanley Kubrick

Every time you set out to write, you never know how it’s going to be. 

Maybe you start with a rigid plan you intend to follow, only to lose your way when you get into the minutiae of the task. Maybe you tell yourself you’ll try writing freeform, but find yourself lacking structure and direction, making it difficult to continue. This sort of thing has happened to me many times and led to countless hours of procrastination.

This is when I find it useful to turn to Stanley Kubrick. Aside from being one of the greatest film directors of all time, he also wrote or co-wrote most of his movies, such as The Shining (with Diane Johnson), 2001: A Space Odyssey (with Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the novel) and A Clockwork Orange (which he adapted from Anthony Burgess’ novel). 

Kubrick’s writing talents have stood the test of time yet he too faced challenges. 

‘It’s crazy how you can get yourself in a mess sometimes and not even be able to think about it with any sense and yet not be able to think about anything else.’

Stanley Kubrick

When you become invested in what you’re writing, you’ll identify with how Kubrick felt. Maybe you’re obsessed with a character but can’t decide what they will do next. Maybe you worry your story will never have a satisfying ending because there are too many pieces in play. Perhaps you’re intrigued by a concept or a theme but aren’t sure how to get it to work when you start writing.

It’s reassuring to know that even renowned writers like Kubrick have faced challenges and had doubts. When you are in these situations, therefore, it doesn’t mean you are not talented but rather human.

When, like Kubrick, you are equally invested in a project yet confused, it can be because you’re so caught up in your own ideas, you cannot extricate yourself.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution: Take a break. 

Put your project away for a while. Focus on another activity or a hobby that is separate from your writing. Allow yourself distance from your work. In time, you’ll find ideas and solutions gathering in your mind. Eventually, you should see the way forward. 

That’s when you should return to your project. 

You should find yourself looking at it differently because you can now be objective. It should seem less complicated and the way forward should feel workable.

A break worked for Stanley Kubrick, and it could be just what you need too.

About Joseph Sullivan

Joseph Sullivan is a writer and filmmaker from Melbourne, Australia, currently studying Film and Television at Swinburne University for his bachelor’s degree with honours.


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