As a coach who mentors, nudges, and inspires writers world-wide to build solid, daily writing habits, the single biggest challenge I see writers struggling with is resistance.
They are full of ideas, enthusiasm, and passion, but when it comes to sitting down and doing the work, there’s often a little too much talking and not enough writing.
I get it. I used to fall into the same trap. Not anymore.
One of the ways to bust through resistance — and its ugly step sister, procrastination — is to challenge the myths you hold about writing, starting with this doozy: “I have to have big blocks of time to write.”
Cousins of this particular writing myth are, “I have to quit my day job before I’ll have enough time to write,” and “I need to make more money before I can spend time writing.” Perhaps “I don’t have enough time to write” is the parent of all of these myths.
Are they true?
Consider this: From the article, “Work Habits of the Pros” by John Buchanan, professional screenwriter Pamela Gray says, “It’s more important for me to write for 15 minutes a day, six days a week, than to write for five hours on Monday and not work again until the following Monday.”
Sure, it’s nice to have longer stretches of time to write, but is it truly necessary?
And when you think about it, if coming up with big blocks of time is virtually impossible for you, and if you insist on believing that you have to have them in order to write, you’ll never do any writing. Ever.
Are you okay with that idea?
In my own experience, I struggled for literally years to carve out big blocks of time to write once a week — or even once a month. And even when I made that schedule a reality by radically overhauling my coaching business, I still found myself stalling and procrastinating when the day actually arrived.
Finally I made a commitment to write on a daily basis, six days a week. I started with writing for just a few minutes at a time, and I was shocked to discover that I was able to write 25 pages of a script in an average of 20 to 25 minutes a day over approximately 25 days. I’ve seen other writers conquer dreaded rewrites in just 15 minute increments as well.
It’s astonishing what can be accomplished with a regular, firm commitment to writing.
What procrastination really says
Procrastination and resistance originate in fear. When you’re procrastinating or just plain old not writing, what you’re really saying is, “I’m afraid.”
(Don’t believe me? Next time you’re stalling, check in with yourself and see what’s going on deep down. You might be surprised.)
Many people are amazed to realize how much fear can come up around writing, but it can run the gamut from overwhelm (“I’ll never finish, it’s too big”) to self-doubt (“I’ll never be good enough”) to fears of success and failure (“What will people say?”).
Writing a screenplay is an elephant-sized project — it’s no wonder we can lose faith along the way.
How to antidote the fear
Writing in small chunks of time is the way to antidote the fear.
When you commit to writing for even just 15 minutes (less if you’re feeling particularly stuck or blocked), your subconscious mind says, “Okay, I can do that. I can write for 15 minutes even if I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
Then do it again the next day.
Or as Seth Godin says, “Set a goal, and in small, consistent steps, work to reach it.”
Bonus #1: More frequent creative thoughts
As a side effect of writing in small, daily increments, the more frequently you write, the more often you’ll have creative insights.
In a study by Robert Boice of academic writers, he found that writers who committed to writing daily were twice as likely to have a creative thought as writers who wrote when they “felt like it.”
How’s that for a nudge toward writing more regularly?
Bonus #2: Cut down on gearing up
Writers who write on a daily basis, even for short spans of time, report how much easier it is to reengage with their work when they sit down to write — cutting out all the “gearing up” we like to think is necessary to the writing process (another writing myth worth challenging).
Bonus #3: Writing daily is the path to professionalism
We’re told in the screenwriting world to learn the craft, but we aren’t told as often to practice the craft.
Screenwriter and novelist Steven Pressfield says, in his book Turning Pro, “When we do the work for itself alone, our pursuit of a career turns into something else, …. It becomes a practice.”
A daily writing habit will move you toward building a library of scripts and completed work faster than waiting around for the right mood and the right time.
And it will also make you a pro.
Stop looking for big blocks of time and just do the writing. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
Get help from The ScriptXperts on every angle of your work
from structure to logline to pitching!