Writing is a funny thing because it’s never as simple as simply writing. Your hangups can come in the form of an evil inner monologue (“You suck. Stop trying.”), feeling overwhelmed (work + chores + significant other + writing your screenplay = stress) or an inexplicable force of nature preventing you from typing words onto a page (for which there is usually an explanation other than the paranormal).
You’re not alone. Everyone wrestles with something, assuming they aren’t a sociopathic narcissist. Sometimes those struggles are tangible obstacles, and sometimes it’s a mental thing. Both are valid. What can you do to do the work anyway?
These four approaches fight procrastination on a personal level. A great place to start controlling your motivation, accountability and work ethic is with yourself. The worst, I know.
How To Take Action
Writing is full of rejection. People aren’t going to love everything that you do. Your script might suck. You might not land the job you wanted to get. You might make something you love and critics puke all over it.
Gratitude is important because it’s easy to spiral into a “everything is shit” mentality, which is not really a great motivator to write. So while you may struggle to create a list of thing that you are grateful for, once you do, your problems get thrown into some perspective.
And, yes, maybe you have the world’s worst problems – other problems pale in comparison – but at the end of the day, your artistic misery may eat you alive. A hoard of my favorite writers were also self-medicating alcoholics and drug addicts, something history likes to romanticize even after their bitter ends. There are other ways to deal with your insecurities.
So, if you suffer from anxiety, fear of failure, or lack of motivation, do yourself a favor and focus some of your energy on a couple cool things in your life (just a couple…we’ll work up to more). Write out at least one thing a day that you are grateful for. You’ll start creating a habit. One that’s going to pull you out of days where the sky is falling.
Make Positive Affirmations
Change negative thoughts into corresponding positive and active ones. It will feel funny and weird at first. Eventually, you’ll have a whole slew of really awesome stuff to say about yourself and what you’re doing. AND these things are true. You’re just creating and acknowledging the truths around you, rather than stewing in a hovel of self-loathing – which can totally be fun too.
[I’m a terrible writer] I am a good writer. I am writing everyday.
[I don’t think I can do this] I am confident. I am doing it.
[This script is a failure] I’m still working on my script. It’s getting better with every rewrite.
[I don’t have time to write] I can make time to write. I’ll write tonight after dinner.
“Making time.” People are always talking about “making time.” Like they’re in their time machines, just multiplying it or something. I used to want to punch those people in the face.
It is possible.
I was fortunate enough to see someone do this first hand. He worked a 9-7 industry job, networked after hours about 4 to 5 times a week, successfully dated a girl, and wrote more than 4 scripts in one year. Two of those scripts found traction. He got represented and started shopping scripts around town.
You can make time for every single thing that is important to you. Anything else is really an excuse. Instead of fighting procrastination, put that fight towards being proactive. I know it sounds like a lot.
“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”
– Carlos Castaneda
You might be thinking, “Well, I’m not that person.” You are that person. We should be pushing ourselves. This is the time to do it. You’re making shit happen.
Doing the Work
It’s the work that we love. Writing can be grueling. I don’t know anyone who thinks it’s easy. If you do, you should give a seminar or something. But, writing is also incredibly rewarding.
Deal with your demons, get them on the page, do whatever you have to in order to follow through. Taking action is something only you can do. It doesn’t matter how you write, just that you are writing.
Set aside a time to write today. If it’s 11:30pm and you’re like, “naw,” then open a doc and type one full page of all the ideas that you want to write about. Tomorrow, follow through.
Related Posts: 3 Reasons You Haven’t Finished Your Screenplay