Developing Writing Habits 101
Screenwriting Workshop Lesson: Adapt to a lifestyle that enables creativity.
By Jen B.
Are you struggling to become a productive and successful writer that doesn’t miss deadlines and has great writing habits? Do you focus too much on proper screenplay formats and what others say rather than what you think works for you?
Probably. A lot of newbies fresh out of college are used to the safety net of working under their mentors and professors so they’re spoilt for their writing habits.
It’s important as an aspiring professional to have better writing habits that fit your schedule and help you become as efficient and productive as can be.
1.What works for you?
There is no manual or secret ingredient to the “perfect” screenplay. If you talk to different Hollywood filmmakers, it’s likely they’ll have two completely different points of views about how to write a screenplay outline etc. I mean, it’s great to learn and take inspiration from books, seminars and industry leaders, but it’s never set in stone. You need to search for and define your philosophy.
Decide on what your process should be to write the perfect screenplay- and embrace it. It can be great to get some screenwriting feedback from people you trust and look up to, but the process is yours. You can use the philosophy you create as a base for your writing habits- you can determine on your own whether you need an outline and when it would be necessary. You decide how long your development process should be. When you start writing, you’ll know what works for you and what doesn’t.
2 Figure Out Your Schedule
Keep in mind that not every writing habit will apply to you- every writer is different. Some writers have made a full-time commitment to write all day-every day. You might not have that time to invest, you might have a few hours daily to work, you might be a student and are at the mercy of your classes and studying time to figure out what your writing schedule will be. You could also have a full-time job and a family and only have a couple of hours a day or only on the weekends to hone your craft.
Take a step back and relax. You don’t have to write every hour of every day. Yes, the practice is important. Building a portfolio and making a network is also important. But take comfort in the thought that you are also a filmmaker. As a screenwriter, you are still working with visual mediums and can think of the movie in your head before even having to type anything.
You still must develop some good writing habits that work within your schedule, though. Look through what time you have after your commitments, where you can physically sit down and write.
Instead of breaking it down in which days are free, focus on developing the timeframes which are available to you and book those “sessions” for yourself.
3 Where are you?
Writing habits are not limited to the “how” and “when”, it’s also where you are writing. If you don’t have consistency in your writing habits, it can become difficult to focus.
Going to different cafes, parks, even rooms in the house will take you that extra 20 minutes to get your bearings and begin writing. Maintaining a writing habit is maintaining consistency in the place you are writing too. When you are in a familiar place, your mind goes into the same productive zone it has grown accustomed to. That doesn’t mean you need to have only one place that is your designated writing space, you can have multiple.
It’s always refreshing to go somewhere different and be in a new environment to get out of a writer’s block. But the focus is always necessary to give yourself that peace of mind that you won’t be distracted by something unfamiliar. Some people prefer being at home in their rooms or in their studies, others prefer going to parks or quiet coffee places to get their creative juices flowing. When you know what works for you, stick to it. Get into the habit of writing in the same location- think about where you feel the most comfortable and go for it!
Now that you’ve figured out a schedule, location and your writing process/philosophy, it’s time to solidify your writing habits.
Set goals for yourself.
With each session, you should keep a milestone in mind (like five or ten pages, for example). It could be working on a plot twist or a character introduction in the screenplay. Whatever your writing process is, keep the goals accordingly. Small victories will keep you motivated and on track.
Don’t let the distractions in! Get everything out of the way- calls, emails, texts and other social media notifications. You need to put the phone away and block yourself off external contact for that little bit of time you’re actually free. This is your time to write and be a writer. Get in the zone, think and write in screenwriting language.
Visualize what you want to see. Think about it in your head before putting it on paper. You can’t just sit down and start writing away, that’s not how the process works. Think about how you want to move forward and then begin typing. To develop healthy and consistent writing habits, you need to look at your life and schedule from a wholistic point of view before moving ahead. Don’t be distracted by other people’s opinions and their writing processes. You got this!