Meet Avery. She has 8 years experience as a comedian and 7 years experience as a teenager—and she is here to A your toughest Qs about comedy, family, romance, school, and the meaning of life (maybe). Got a problem you can’t solve or a goal you need help meeting? Ask Avery by DMing @GOLDComedy or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you get over creative/writer’s block? I’m so stuck on everything I could barely write this note. Please help, or all my jokes and ideas will shrivel inside me like raisins, and I hate raisins.
Jenny from the Blocked
Hey! First of all thank you for being my first question. My agent (my mom) thanks you.
Writer’s block is a tough one. I get it a lot while texting. One time a guy wrote to me “Avery, please never contact me again or I’ll call the cops.” Like how am I supposed to respond to that?? UGH. Something that helps me is writing down every single thought I’ve ever had in alphabetical order with my eyes closed. Or, an easier way, just give up.
KIDDING! Don’t give up. You’ve got this. In moments where my creativity is lost, I’ll go for a walk around the block and observe people (though my friends call it “judging,” whatever that means). A fun game to play is “Where are they walking to based on their outfit and speed?” Is the man in the trench coat going to sell protein powder baby formula to a pregnant bodybuilder? Probably. Is the elderly woman pushing a grocery cart actually the world’s oldest stripper heading to her final gig? Most definitely. Make sure to stare at them extra long, or, bonus points, ask them if your assumptions are correct.
If you STILL have writer’s block, it’s time to create some chaos. One time, I was struggling for weeks to come up with new stand-up material for an upcoming show. I decided to invite 10 gentlemen from Tinder over to my house (pre-pandemic! I’m not crazy) and put on a fake The Bachelor complete with roses. They all canceled on me, but the sentiment was there. I just had to pay $600 for the Chris Harrison impersonator. Oh well, at least I got material out of it! And the impersonator and I just celebrated our anniversary.
The moral of the story is, writer’s block is just the tiny robots in your brain taking a lunch break. But never forget: YOU’RE their boss. Tell them to get off their robot asses and get to work. You’re not paying them to sit around and drink robot coffee, are you?
But seriously, and stay with me for a second: What if “writer’s block” is not a “BLOCK” at all? What if it could be…part of the process? What if it’s just your brain telling you it wants to come at something from a new angle?
Here’s one new angle to try: List writing. It will be your BFF here.
- Think of something that’s been on your mind, doesn’t have to be funny at all. Could be tea, could be gum, could be the limbic system.
- Write or type a list of associations. Literally ANYTHING that thing makes you think of.
- Don’t edit or think too hard or stop yourself. Just write. Scribble or type-scribble, full of typos, all over the page. Now cover another page. Random stuff is fine too. Just write.
Let’s take astrology, for example, as I have recently been blaming all my bad traits on my sun sign. I could then start writing: Mercury in retrograde, horoscope, Aries, CoStar dos and don’ts, blaming bad traits on sign, and so on. The key is NO JUDGMENT. Just write and see what comes up!
When you feel done, or really just want some gum, stop. You might have churned up some ideas, or you might not. Doesn’t matter. THE POINT IS THIS: Often we feel pressure to produce something insanely funny and perfect and finished, instead of just letting the mind flow.
This exercise will remind you that you still got it, even when you think you’ve lost it. And you do! I mean, the raisin thing was funny!
I hope this helps!
Avery Lender (@averylender) is a 19-year-old comedian based in Boston (but born and raised in NYC). She started performing standup when she was 12 at Gotham Comedy Club and has since been seen in clubs and now Zoom screens across the U.S. She writes for her school’s satire paper, The Bunion, and also animates and makes stop motion films. She hopes to work in TV and make comedy more accessible for women everywhere!