You Don’t Need a Sabbatical to Write Your Screenplay

You Don’t Need a Sabbatical to Write Your Screenplay: Busting 5 Myths that Stand in the Way of Writing Your Script

Guest Post by Michelle Vandepol

I facilitate workshops on writing and publishing for university, non-profit, and community groups. I often hear people express excitement about both their idea’s potential as well as a day off in the future when they have more time and energy to get to their dream project. Often, it has a bit of a far-off flavor (sabbatical or retirement) or is of the daydreaming variety (winning the lottery).

What I want these writers and visionaries to know is that they do not have to wait for the perfect circumstances to arrive. Even if your day of the situations listed is coming, there is no need to miss out on the opportunity to practice your craft and start momentum going now, while you feel the hunger and are motivated to hustle and make connections in your field.

The Sabbatical Time Myth

It is easy to look at our schedules and think that if we were freed from our usual work obligations (both the get-your-name-out-there and bill-paying variety), we would write. Is it any wonder we are tempted to throw up our hands and say “not at this stage of my life?”

The fact remains that we have never had more experience than we do right now, so we do have material to draw on. And we are the youngest we will ever be again, so it makes sense to put that energy to work. Even in the most demanding of schedules, something ten minutes long can give. In ten minutes, we can write 137 words, which repeated 365 days gives us approximately 50,000.

The Sabbatical Inspiration Myth

Especially if we pay our bills with our writing, there can be the mistaken belief that we have used up our creative energy in that work. The opposite is true. Each human experience and interaction gives us more material to work with. Sure, it may not all be suitable for our current project; however, if we keep a notebook of every article, book, social media post, blog post, poem, character, or scene idea, then we have we will have material to riff on when tackling morning pages or on the backs of envelopes at stop lights or on transit.

Every minute is a possibility. Every situation is material. By sketching it down and then discussing our observations with our writing peers, either the next time we are out with friends and looking for a laugh or if someone asks what we’ve been working on lately, we are prepared. Walking around with ideas in our brains breeds other ideas. That can’t help but excite us which will help us find the time and space in which to write.

The Sabbatical Credibility Myth

Sometimes we buy the lie that our project needs to come out well the first draft around. Writing a line, reading it, and then deleting. This is being unreasonably demanding of ourselves. Or we believe the lie that people have to think we’re “really something” to listen to our ideas or read our projects. If we are waiting for the ability or the applause to arrive before we start, we are not thinking logically.

Let’s say that our worst fears are true and we really are crap writers. In that case, we should be fighting procrastination and getting the words to the page even faster so that we have more time ahead of us to practice and polish until it’s the level at which it has a fighting chance in front of agents, editors, and movie makers.

The Sabbatical Recharging Myth

Oftentimes, we picture our challenges and imagine easier execution with a time to recharge while getting paid to do it. Or we think, if someone would just invest in this project or hand me an advance, I could get to it and not have to spend energy on draining things that are taking away from my project.

The truth is that creative pursuits are recharging, discussing ideas is recharging, visualizing what could be is recharging, and moving forward on the project is recharging. We have everything we need right now.

The Sabbatical in the Future Myth

Part of the reason why a sabbatical is touted as the ideal time to get to writing your screenplay is this idea is safely off in the future. Tackling our dreams in a serious way risks, and in some senses, almost guarantees failure—if you think of failure as making a misstep and learning from it.

As we move forward with our project, we will identify our weaknesses, make novice mistakes, overhaul drafts that we’ve already spent more time on than we are willing to admit, learn from trying strategies that produced little in the way of results, and otherwise have dings to our egos. But if we embrace our journey, envisioning the finished project now and being fueled by the possibilities of it and not the impossibilities of it, we will be much closer to its reality.

Michelle Vandepol is a writer, editor, and bookish Canadian who loves connecting with other readers and writers on Instagram at @michellevandepol.

For more articles on the writing life, visit her website