10 Steps to Take When You’re in a Writing Rut

When writers dream, they go big or go home. And that’s fantastic! Ambition and persistence go a long way towards making a career work. Taking that dream from the intangible to a real responsibility requires action. There are steps in between you thinking up the next best blockbuster and selling the script for millions. So what if you’re in a writing rut? You don’t know what to do or what the next step is? Set realistic, actionable screenwriting goals.

Ask yourself: Where do I start? How can I get better? What should I focus on?  

Instead of feeling like you have to do 20 things at once, begin with the writing and add on new career targets where you can. Don’t have a solid script? You’re not going to get representation. Have a solid script? In many cases, you’re going to need more than one. It’ll all come back down to your skill level, material, and network. These screenwriting goals will get you started.

Implement a routine

Regularly exercise your creativity. Consistency is a skill that will service you at any level from beginner to professional.

Remember, you are your boss. Show up for work. Choose your hours. You want to work on the weekends, mornings or nights? That’s okay. Know that if you don’t show up, you don’t get the final product.

Work on a specific segment of your story

Pick a part of your story you want to focus on now – outline, first act, second act, third act, rewrite, etc… Get specific, and you take away distractions.

By saying, this week I’m going to work on XYZ, you know exactly what you need to do to make progress on your script. Give yourself realistic deadlines. It’s harder to be in a writing rut when you have something to work towards.

Read the industry trades

Know your industry, what’s buying, selling, being made, dying, being resurrected… Reading the industry news daily will help you start to recognize names, companies, and power players in the business. I recommend doing this daily rather than memorizing a list of names because it’s way more effective.

Sign up for a screenwriting course

Whether you need motivation, instruction, or accountability, screenwriting courses can come in handy. Shop around for classes that fit your needs. Both free and paid courses are abundant. There are always webinars and workshops as well. Don’t forget books!

Read more scripts

Don’t feel like writing today? Pick up a script instead. It’ll take you the same amount of time as watching a show or movie, but you’ll be educating yourself.

Reading scripts gets you used to standard writing etiquette, the flow of story, structure, character journeys, and so much more. This is so essential.

Join an industry organization

Get involved. Stop resting on your writerly laurels, and engage with other industry creatives.

Think of this as a networking opportunity. Instead of going in with the mindset of… I’m going to meet all the people and they will give me all the things, just get to know individuals. See who clicks with you. Get inspired. Relationship building takes time. Start now.

Join a writers group

Writers groups offer weekly or biweekly accountability. People bring in pages of their work to talk about with others. You can validate ideas, pitch stuff, and utilize the group however you want. Sometimes it’s enough to have people around you who are working towards the same goal.

Get notes

Notes are a crucial part of the writing process. Trusted, well-intentioned, and constructive criticism can get your script into the best shape possible.

You can use 3 good readers/friends or hire a service if need be.

Submit to a contest

Is your script ready for the next step? Get your story in front of new eyes. Contests can open up career paths for people by giving them recognition. Placing in a high-profile contest is a big deal.

Get an accountability buddy

Set your goals, and find your support system. An accountability buddy is someone for you to talk to and check in with on your progress and vice versa. They’re on your side. This can come in super handy when you need some motivation, a pep talk, or deadlines.

End Your Writing Rut

This is all entirely up to you. Chose something to get yourself into gear. Just remember to keep writing and writing and writing. You got this.

2 Replies to “10 Steps to Take When You’re in a Writing Rut”

  1. Jan Donaldson says:

    Sam, in your “read more scripts” category, I’d like to suggest reading, period. I just finished David Sedaris’ new book, “Theft by Finding,” a compilation of 25 years of his diary entries.The items he notices and comments on are fresh/absurd/original/ridiculous. For me, it opened whole new categories of events to include in my writing; in a way, it cleared the air and made it easier for me to get back to writing. Just a thought.

    • Samantha says:

      You’re totally right! And Sedaris is fantastic. You’re inspiring me to go pick up this book 🙂

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