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.

Subscribe to my new YOUTUBE CHANNEL for weekly screenwriting video tips.

Did you just finish your first or third draft? Is it time for in-depth and professional script consultation/editing? Check out my services and click the link below to my website and more information. You never get a second change to make a first great impression with your screenplay. Take the time to get it right.

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”

How to survive the emotional highs and lows of your screenwriting journey…

It always happens toward the end of writing a new script.  It’s a steamroller downhill toward the last scene and a powerful feeling of accomplishment rises up as it’s been my privilege to tell another story to the world.  My characters guide me through, the ending comes and it’s over — FADE OUT — THE END.  We must part ways until actors inhabit the characters and a director brings his or her vision. Well, first someone with money invests in the project, they hire the director… blah, blah, blah.  You know the drill.

At least we hope and pray it gets to that level of being produced or even into development.

The creative high gets me through and it’s sad to bid farewell to these characters, the ones I’ve known so intimately for the past 100 pages.  Once I finish a script, the very next day I print it out, go to a coffee shop with a pen and start the polish.  I agonize over every word, punctuation, sentence, and line of dialogue… over again and again through the first pass.  I look for typos and those pesky “widow words.”

My creative high is still keeping me going as I read my script and discover it’s usually pretty good.  Many times, I’m shocked at how good for a first draft and then figure ways to make it better.  Screenwriting is rewriting and don’t you forget it!

This of course is before the producers receive the draft and make their notes: “I had a few ideas on the plane back from Cannes.  Could you make it funnier?” “Uh, you told me to write a drama.” “Okay, but somebody has to die in the story.”  “Die?”  “Yeah, these guys are really old and it feels like somebody should die.”  “Well, it’s not that kind of movie.  If somebody died it would change the entire dynamic of the relationships at the end.” “Okay, how about a serious illness?”  “Does he recover?”  “Yeah.”  “I can do an illness.”

Did I just dream that?  No, sadly enough this conversation actually happened with a producer. It’s wasn’t funny at the time in his office either.

Once I turn in the script, my creative high begins to crash and I notice myself coming down from the previous month of creative energy and focus to a scary silence. My noisy mind gets louder and I need to fill it with stories and writing. I need my next project or I need to go out for a run and do some road work. Something. Even writing a new blog article helps. I need my writing fix to keep my creative fires burning.

I really notice the void when I’m not writing. In some ways writing for me is like a drug.  The creative highs are addictive and I love watching the story unfold in my mind as if it was already a movie. I need to tell these stories and the way to release them is through writing. If I don’t immediately jump onto a new project, I find myself needing to do something creative so I’ll draw or sketch. I’ll catch up on movies or TV shows that I’ve always wanted to see and study, I’ll listen to new music or go to an art exhibit to keep my creative mind fresh.

Writers need to recharge their batteries. Don’t have too much down time either.  If you’re like me, I will quickly begin circling an idea as I need the creative juices to flow.  It’s my life’s blood and I never feel as good as when I’m writing a new project.  If you are watching a film, a play, or enjoying a painting, you are like an athlete who keeps up their training. You’ll be ready to jump back in the game with your skills at their highest levels.

Complete your script, take a few days off, and then get back to writing — something.  Your journal, a blog post, a Tweet, something.  Lather, rinse and repeat.

So, find a way to stay upbeat if you experience the creative highs and lows, and always get back to writing sooner than later.  You’ll thank yourself—and you’ll be on your way to finishing your next magnum opus.

Keep filling your blank pages on your road to screenwriting success.

Scriptcat out!

Copyright 2020 by Mark Sanderson on MY BLANK PAGE. All rights reserved. No portion of this article can be republished without written permission.

Need help navigating Hollywood’s trenches as you pursue your screenwriting career? Check out my book on Amazon with 36 five star reviews… click on the book cover for the link to Amazon.

“I have learned, on my journeys, that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy.  Two days and I am in tremor.  Three and I suspect lunacy.  Four and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow.  An hour’s writing is tonic.  I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.”  ~ Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing.

“The professional prepares mentally to absorb blows and to deliver them.  His aim is to take what the day gives him.  He is prepared to be prudent and prepared to be reckless, to take a beating when he has to, and to go for the throat when he can.  He understands the field alters every day.  His goal is not victory (success will come by itself when it wants to) but to handle himself, his insides, as sturdily as he can.“—Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”