Not feeling up to some writing today?
That’s alright, you can get started tomorrow. And then tomorrow becomes the day after that and so on. Tomorrow never comes. If you find yourself constantly having excuses to not write, you’re a victim of procrastination.
A writer’s worst hindrance, procrastination is the enemy of progress. It is easy to fall prey to its comfortable ways because it takes a lot to step out of its shadow and get some work done. A screenplay you could have written in weeks takes months.
Many first time writers fall prey to procrastination and never finish their first movie script.
Sometimes, writers even abandon their project altogether because there simply never is a “right time.” Thus, selling the script with a million dollar logline becomes a dream forever deferred.
You’re not alone in the fight against procrastination. Many great writers have fallen prey, including world-renowned author J.R.R Tolkien. The creative genius worked to beat his stalling tendencies to create incredible series such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Furthermore, many Game of Thrones fans have been waiting for over a decade for George Martin to finish his beloved fantasy series. Human nature loves to dally in the comfort zone. Screenwriting challenges you to get up and out of this space.
Your default wiring opposes this change. That’s why you find it hard to get up for work in the morning. That’s why it’s difficult to get past that first blank page.
If you’re here right now, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step in slaying the monster that is procrastination. You’ve acknowledged the problem, and that’s always half the solution.
We’ve got a few pointers bound to get you in the zone and flipping those pages. Procrastination is the thief of time. Don’t let it steal yours!
Your screenwriting target maybe 100 pages. Every time you sit down to write, you’re overwhelmed by the enormous work that stands between start and finish.
What are you supposed to write for the entirety of 100 pages?
And therein lies the problem: you’re thinking way too far ahead. That crippling burden to get your work over and done with is the reason you keeping pushing the task forward.
🧠 When the human mind feels overwhelmed, the typical response is to get rid of the stressing factor. In this case, to stop writing ✋
… and keep postponing.
Have short goals and deadlines to guide you. Perhaps, you could target to complete one page per day. Keep the timeline short and the objective clear and distinct. If the deadline is vague, it’s easy to fall into the trap of procrastination.
Try the Pomodoro technique:
⏰ You can set alarms on your phone reminding you when to write.
Preferably, set notifications throughout the day to keep you on your toes. Create a timetable and stick to it. Routine is always a nice way to turn yourself into a punctuality master. After all, practice makes perfect.
Break down your storyline into a couple of chapters, and work within the subsections to make things easier. There are several writing formulas you can depend on as a guide to structure your screenplay.
Consider Save the cat and the USC sequence method. With a structure to your writing, you’ll beat your goals and finish your screenplay in no time!
Take out your pen or laptop and begin working away. Don’t think about it. Don’t even stop to assess what you’ve written so far. Don’t mind the missing full stops or misspelled words.
Throw out all the rules on proper screenplay format.
Forget about the grammar. Jot down every idea that creeps to mind without censoring anything. Just write until you’re done. Then probably keep writing some more after that too. That’s basically what freewriting is. It is the practice of writing without prior planning. It’s a nice way to get past a case of writer’s block, which may be playing a part in your stalling.
You’re probably thinking too much about everything having meaning in the screenplay. You’re spending too much time making a scene as perfect as can be. Free writing is an excellent way to get past these issues.
You can get into the zone in seconds, and tap into that rich vein of creativity pulsating inside. Free writing is not only faster than traditional methods but also brings good ideas to the fore that you may have otherwise ruled out.
Write and keep writing. The success of free writing is to never stop. Don’t give your hands a moment’s pause unless you’re done. When ideas become elusive, repeat the ones before until something comes to mind. The concept is to never let up.
Maintain this stream of consciousness that’ll push you beyond your limits. You’ll find yourself going over your short-time targets more often than not. If you’re not sure what your screenplay is going to be about, think of a word that excites you. Start from there.
The internet can offer inspiration, but also be your biggest distraction. Every time you want to get some work done you stray to Facebook or YouTube. One last video turns into hours. One last comment ends up in a daylong back and forth.
And this happens day after day. Technology can be painfully time-consuming. If your phone or computer is always in the way, lock it up in a drawer. Head out to the park for some longhand writing or some other space that favors clear thinking. Your backyard could work too if you don’t favor regular travels.
According to this TEDx talk, unplugging from social media can improve productivity:
Aside from eliminating distractions, time in the outdoors can ignite creativity. The warm sun on your skin, fresh air filling your lungs, swaying leaves whispering encouragement, nature’s elements have a way of calming us and unlocking our best.
In fact, according to researchers, you’re 15% more creative when writing in an environment that has ample natural light. If you prefer to do your writing indoors, keep it longhand and find some space by the window.
Longhand writing offers other immense benefits over typing. It improves our ability to recollect. If your screenplay requires a ton of regular research work, you’ll find great value in longhand writing as it is more memorable.
Additionally, it gives the brain a proper workout and is a more involved process compared to typing. That’s actually a good thing because we tend to think more intensely as a result. The quality of work, therefore, improves as well.
At the end of the day, you didn’t magically lose your ability to write prose. If you’re a serious screenwriter, then you understand all the basics.
✅ The screenplay formatting
✅ The Save the Cat formula
✅ The 3-Act structure
… the logline, the inciting incident, the midpoint, the break to Second Act…
As a serious screenwriter, you understand all these things – sometimes to a fault. You have all of these rules and list of to-do’s that end up fueling your writer’s block.
When you get to that point called procrastination, it’s time to slow down and assess where you are in the writing process. To help you get over this hump, try some of the tips mentioned in this article.
Then you’ll be on your way to stop procrastination from writing the next Hollywood blockbuster. Good luck and keep writing!
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