As a video editor, there are times when it just isn’t there. Whatever it even is.
There are more times than I can count, and certainly more than I’d like to admit, that I’ve spent as far too much time staring at an empty editing timeline. The same thing happens to writers and just about anyone else tasked with doing something creative.
In those moments, staring at what amounts to a blank page, it can feel like you will never get past being stuck.
For a long time when I was starting my career, I thought this was something unique to me. In talking to more and more video editors over time, I’ve realized that video editor’s block – getting stuck as a project looms – is just as common as writer’s block.
When this happens to me, it can be completely paralyzing, and it can extend well beyond that pesky, awful, gloating, empty timeline sitting open in Premiere in the background, quietly mocking my inability to just go. I find that when I get stuck, the project I can’t tackle takes up such prominent residence in my brain that I start getting stuck on other tasks as well.
Getting unstuck can be a monumental challenge. There’s plenty of advice out there for conquering writer’s (and video editor’s) block. Take a walk, tackle a completely unrelated project, read a book, strike up a conversation.
All of these things can certainly help, but when I find myself in the absolute depths of editing hell, the truth of the matter is usually the thing you want to hear least; the only way out is through.
Robert Frost may have said it first, but my first acquaintance with that advice came from Jack Falla, an all-time great sportswriter, professor, and person. Jack’s advice holds true in most things, and it’s especially prescient for me in the case of editor’s block. The only way for me to get out of the hole is to go directly through it.
For me, this means starting a sequence and getting something, anything at all, resembling the roughest of rough edits, down into a timeline. Sometimes, the only way I can even force myself to do this is to acknowledge – hell, even say it out loud – that this cut is going into the trash. Digital editing gives you this freedom, and in reality this should always be your saving grace. Cobble together a timeline that you know you can throw in the trash.
Of course what usually ends up happening is that this “trash” timeline ends up being the not terrible first draft that I can build on. The walks and the reading and the working out may all help process the information and plant seeds for the ideas that become the final project. But at least for me, the only way to get unstuck is to lean into it, and go directly through.