Don’t Be Perfect: The Get It Done Guide to Screenwriting

A popular question from people interested in screenwriting usually goes something like, “I haven’t written much, if anything. What do I do? Where do I begin?” It’s actually a great question – the answer being something that is way too easy to ignore. Write. Write all the time. And write complete and utter crap. It’s a starting point, not an end point. Don’t be perfect. Get it done.

I wish I could say that this is just a problem for new writers, but it can even be a problem for technically intermediate writers.

I don’t know if it’s the millennial mindset, where we desire immediate satisfaction, or the compelling idea in our heads that the first thing we write is going to be a gold mine of genius, but chances are, your first couple of scripts are going to range between not so good and maybe average. Not A average – like someone is going to hand you a trophy for trying – C average – like real average.

Here’s the point where everyone gets discouraged and stops trying. But not you, you’re going to embrace that you aren’t a child prodigy and put in the kind of hard work that makes you better. [bctt tweet=”Terrible writing is part of a process, not a final judgment.”]

The reason I stress the need to let go of being perfect is that the best learning experience you will have is through doing. You can read a million books on theory, but application is what matters. You will get better with every new script you write – learning things about structure, dialogue, pacing, characters. You’ll find out what’s working for you, what isn’t, and try new things.

[bctt tweet=”Always work on being better, but don’t strive to be perfect.”]

Like a bad screenplay, the goal “to be perfect” is so vague that it’s unattainable. Break down your goals into manageable segments. Strive to learn and to create with specificity. Choose actionable goals. I’ll give you some examples for people who may be just starting out:

  • Read “Save the Cat”
  • Download one of the free scripts from Go Into the Story and read it this week
  • Outline a story using the seven sequence structure
  • Use Saturday morning to write 2 pages in Final Draft. Don’t stop until 2 pages are typed.

So don’t be perfect. Set your mini-goals and have at it with fervor. I’m not saying you shouldn’t endeavor to be great, but being great is the result of hard work. Work for it. Know that perfection is an opinion, not a truth. And know that good writing comes from an understanding of craft and execution, which takes time. Your time table isn’t the same as everyone else. Give yourself some room to breath by taking away unrealistic pressure and, rather, adding focus to your goals. You can do this. And you are doing it.

Write without fear. Screenwriting isn't easy, but you can do it.