As writers we starve for motivation, but she’s an unreliable beach. I’m censoring myself, but you get the picture. Motivation comes and goes on a whim, so it’s important to have tools in place for when she fails you.
Taking the power away from divine inspiration and placing it into your own hands gives you more control over your writing goals. Rather than waiting for a muse, you’re taking the reins to write any time you want.
Here are three tools that I use to put myself in the right mentality. Mindset is half the battle – actually using your screenwriting software may be the other. To boost your productivity, give these a try:
1. Morning Pages
My favorite writing tool, created by the fantastic Julia Cameron, is Morning Pages. Before you start your day, before you check your email, before you interact with anyone, dedicate yourself to writing three pages in a stream of consciousness style.
It can be any kind of writing: journaling, jotting out a to-do list, outlining an idea, or even scribbling out part of a story that’s stuck in your head. Morning Pages help clear your mind before the day adds more to your plate. Personally, it helps me deal with my thoughts, set them aside and start the day fresh. It’s also a brilliant way to segue into opening Final Draft. Nudge, nudge.
2. Rough Outline
Outlines are my lifeline. Anytime I’m writing and come to a stand still, before writer’s block whispers sweet nothings into my ear, I check back in with my outline. It helps to see what point I’m trying to write towards and rethink how to get there.
Some people detest outlining. Because there’s no “one solution fits all” in writing, I’ll put it this way: know where your story is going before you start. Map it out in whatever way works for you. It’s okay to let the details change as you write, but know the big plot points and emotional beats.
As a script reader, I come across a lot of screenplays with great characters and world building but poor structure. There is nothing for the characters to do, nothing to challenge the status quo, and nothing that they’re working towards. Essentially, there’s no story to carry the character journey, so all these great ideas stop short of their potential. You can probably eliminate several rewrites if you have an outline.
A support system is essential. Building a community of likeminded people helps mold a sense of accountability, but it also provides a forum for talking out ideas. Surrounding yourself with people that you trust makes it easier to flesh out and revise work. Also, when you get stuck, you can reach out to those friends.
Find good listeners. Look for people who will help you fine-tune your thoughts and ask the right questions. And then, when they share their work with you, give them the same courtesy – listen, ask smart questions, encourage good ideas, and point out where you’re confused.