Writing in Fiction: The Cleaner’s Writer

I’ve started watching The Cleaner, about a crime scene cleaner written and played by Greg Davies.  These are lovely character studies and episode 2 was no exception.  David Mitchell plays the eponymous writer in question.  He’s the archetypal blocked writer desperately trying to get enough peace and quiet to recapture the muse.  Of course, it’s cleaner Wicky who comes up with the word that the writer is stuck on.  “Stumbled.”

I’m reminded of the marvellous Throw Momma from the Train, the Danny DeVito film starring Billy Crystal as a writer similarly stuck on a word.

I’ve only had – touch wood – that sort of writer’s block once.

I did a trial script for Doctors once.  You could do your own idea or one of half-a-dozen of their pitches.  I decided to do one of their pitches.  I thought it would demonstrate my ability to write to order.

“How long do I have?” I asked.

“As long as you like, but most of our writers produce something in a week.”

So, I’ve a week then.

I thought I’d have lunch, watch that day’s episode live and then, having got in the zone, I’d write my script.  The theme tune starts and… oh no!  The episode was the one outlined in the pitch!  Very quickly, I got a tape and hit record… and turned the telly off.

There followed days of angst.

Should I watch it and then write my episode?  Was that cheating?

In the end, I didn’t watch it, promising myself that I would once I’d submitted my script.  I’d lost a few days, so it was a rush.  It passed; they liked it – woo hoo!  (Though they never picked up any of my pitches.)

So, torture over, I went to watch the episode with a certain relish and reluctance.  However, due to my writer’s block, I’d written on the VHS cassette’s label and I’d taped something else over it.


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