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.
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.
Copyright 2021 by Mark Sanderson on blog My Blank Page.
“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
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