Scriptcat’s Top 10 Daily Screenwriting Disciplines

Okay, when you start a new screenplay it’s a new shot at success both personally and professionally. You’ll need a few solid disciplines to help with the daily grind of filling your blank pages. Here are my Top 10 Daily Disciplines of a Screenwriter… (drum roll)…

1.  Each day, act like a professional in all action and manner. This includes taking the craft seriously and respecting the mountain writers climb daily.

2. Learn your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and continually work on both daily to become an excellent screenwriter.

3.  Detach from the work and the outcome for daily survival. It’s going to be a long haul to reach any level of success.

4. Carve out a schedule and protect your precious writing time. Beware! The forces of distraction and procrastination lurk everywhere to derail your splendid screenwriting plans. “Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail.”—Ernest Hemingway.

5. Empower yourself daily by doing your homework. Information and knowledge is powerful currency in Hollywood. Stay up to date on the film business, read scripts, watch current and old movies, and study film history and the artists who came before you.

6. Do not dread the rewrite. That’s when your script starts getting good. Writing is rewriting so get used to the process.

7. Take responsibility for your career and don’t blame others for your lack of  success. Do something every day to plant a flag on the playing field and push your career forward.

8. Take chances. Be brave and don’t be afraid to fail miserably. Fear and insecurity love to scare off screenwriters—these destructive emotions hate those who get knocked down but get up before the “ten count” and start screenwriting again. Take your lumps, but always fight back by continually learning, getting better, and doing the work. It’s all part of the process on your journey to becoming an excellent screenwriter.

9. Practice humility. Accept the reality it will take more than one screenplay to make some noise. In fact, it may take ten to sell the first one — or maybe never. If you are not humble now, the longer you pursue a career this business will humble you. The craft is bigger than you’ll ever be. Check your ego at the door. Become a sponge to soak up knowledge from mentors so you can expand your writer’s toolbox.

10. Be patient. An overnight success is usually ten years or 10,000 hours in the making. I hope you’re in this for the long haul because it’s going to be a marathon. Don’t forget to enjoy the little successes along the way. They add up to that one “big success”.

Keep the faith and keep filling your blank pages. If you stop writing you’ll never have any shot at success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2021 by Mark Sanderson on blog My Blank Page.

See you on Twitter: @scriptcat and Instagram: marksanderson_scriptcat

Need help while you navigate Hollywood’s trenches as you pursue a screenwriting career? Check out my book on Amazon with 42 five star reviews. CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO AMAZON.

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fear

“Do you have the patience to wait until your mud settles and the water is clear?”― Lao Tzu

“The professional also “dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“… the payoff of playing-the-game-for-money is not the money (which you may never see anyway, even after you turn pro).  The payoff is that playing the game for money produces the proper professional attitude.  It inculcates the lunch-pail mentality, the hard-core, hard-head, hard-hat state of mind that shows up for work despite rain or snow or dark of night and slugs it out day after day.”—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

“There’s a certain pride among people who’re good—a race car driver, a flier, a baseball player, a hockey player, anything like that—the primary thing is to do a really good job. They forget everything else in order to do it right—it’s their job; they’re supposed to do it. You get a stunt team in air acrobatics—if one of them is no good, they’re all in trouble.”—director Howard Hawks, interview with Peter Bogdanovich in “Who the Devil Made It”

Momentum is vital to your writing success…

It happens to all screenwriters eventually. You’re working along on at a good clip, maybe writing five or more pages a day on a new script, and then a giant barrier drops in your way. Your writing comes to a crashing halt and you’ve lost that precious momentum. Welcome to the pitfalls of a writer’s life.

You know the positive feeling momentum can bring. It’s when you have to shut down your writing for the day, but you can’t wait until the next morning to get back to work. It feels like your characters are waiting for you to get them into the next scene and they are frozen until you do. You feel like you’re doing your best work to date and that is fueling a creative explosion. This day-to-day schedule and working in the zone to finish is momentum — the force that propels your writing forward and enables you to complete your screenplay on a schedule. Never underestimate the energy that comes with screenwriting momentum. Working from a solid outline, you can reconnect with the material the next day and the next, and this is how you stay on target to finsih.

time warp in Hollywood

Once you start working professionally, you can also lose momentum on a project when the producer or production company takes longer with their notes than you expect. This can derail your splendid career plans but also your creative process. If you want to work as a professional screenwriter and keep your sanity, you have to accept that Hollywood runs on its own schedule. Yes, your contract will have provisions about when your script is due and the producer’s reading period for notes, but the process can take longer than you’re used with your specs. Don’t allow this shift in momentum to throw you off your game. Your ability to jump back onto a project and execute notes will show producers that you are a professional who can deal with any screenwriting situation. Meet the challenge head on and go with it.

When writing your specs, this is your training to keep up your writing momentum. After your first few screenplays, you will gain precious experience and be more confident with your writing abilities. You’ll know if you can write for eight hours a day or not, and how long it might take you to write a full feature screenplay. I have gained that precious experience over the years, and after 41 feature length scripts written, I know exactly how long it would take me to finish a screenplay because I’ve done it — time and time again. This momentum also is vital for the pursuit of your career. Every day, do something that contributes to moving farther down the field where you can plant your flag. Sure, you will face rejection and set backs. It’s part of the journey, but you will also experience successes. All forward momentum is about gaining new ground with your writing. That includes your continual learning, writing new projects, facing criticism and rejection and coming back stronger, building new relationships, and of course writing new projects.

After all, you are human and subject to imperfection. If you allow any barrier to derail your momentum or your scheduled writing time, procrastination and distractions will keep you from completing your pages. You want to see concrete results and feel like you’re constantly moving forward toward your end goal — becoming a working screenwriter and having the world see your projects. Momentum is too precious of an energy to be wasted. Be aware when you are losing it and redirect your course before you lose too much time.

Keep writing and keep the faith.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2021 by Mark Sanderson on blog My Blank Page.

See you on Twitter: @scriptcat and Instagram: marksanderson_scriptcat

“Hollywood is Hollywood. There’s nothing you can say about it that isn’t true, good or bad. And if you get into it, you have no right to be bitter—you’re the one who sat down, and joined the game.” —Orson Welles

Need help while you navigate Hollywood’s trenches as you pursue a screenwriting career? Check out my book on Amazon with 42 five star reviews. CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO AMAZON.

LINK TO CONSULTING PAGE ON MY WEBSITE