Every December I take a bit of time to look back on the past year and look forward to the next one. It’s usually mostly good (I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl) and the things that didn’t go so well I vow to change. I also identify the things that I’ve really enjoyed doing and try to figure out how I can spend more time doing that next year. For lots of us, screenwriting falls into that camp; when you’re actually doing it, it’s exhilarating and joyous. It’s the thing that makes you most happy. But if you look back on last year and wish you’d spent more time writing, now’s the time to commit to writing every day this year.
Of course, saying we’ll do it and actually doing it are very different things. We say we want to change, we say we’re willing to do whatever it takes, but are we, really? You might feel discouraged that it takes most screenwriters years of writing specs before they’re producing work good enough to get them placed in a contest or get representation. But those three, five, ten years are going to pass anyway. If you were writing, even if only a little bit, every day of those next few years, you could really make that progress.
The excuse I hear most often is that it takes so long to get ‘into the zone’ that by the time you are, your allocated time is up already. But that’s because it’s weeks or months since you last opened Final Draft. If you’d spent twenty minutes on it yesterday, you’d probably have been thinking about it subconsciously since then and it’ll only take a few minutes to get going on it again today. We’d all love a huge chunk of time to just write but for most of us that’s not possible. What is possible is to write a little bit every day. You make time to clean your teeth every morning so try thinking about writing in the same way – as part of your daily routine.
I know life gets in the way. You might have a 9-5 job that pays the bills, elderly relatives or young children to care for, friends to socialise with and hobbies you love doing. But if you really want to write, there are no excuses and you do have a choice. The question is; are you prepared to do what it takes to make it happen? You could sit in every evening watching TV or you could sit and write. You could get up just in time to get to work or you could get up early enough to write for half an hour every day before you go to work. What choice will you make every day?
Even if you only managed half an hour every day for the next 365 days, you’ll have clocked up over 180 hours of writing time. That’s an awesome amount of time, without even adding in a couple of extra hours every weekend. It’s amazing what lots of little bits can add up to. With those kinds of writing hours under your belt, you’ll not only develop your screenwriting skills a LOT but you should also have a couple of polished specs to show for it as well. Will you commit to writing every day this year?
- More articles by Hayley McKenzie
- Script Angel: Developing Screenwriting Habits for Career Success
- Writers on the Verge: Choosing Your Next Screenwriting Project
Get more advice in Lee Jessup’s book
Getting It Write: An Insider’s Guide to a Screenwriting Career