Whether you’re holding down a full-time job, pulling pints in the evening, or going to university, you need to allocate time to write. For a lot of new writers, this can be the hardest part of the process: trying to combine the ideas and inspiration that encourage us to write in the first place with the actual discipline of sitting down and getting a script done regardless of whether you feel up to it or not.
The most common advice is ‘write every day’. Ideas, notes, 5 pages, 10 pages, whatever you can manage. In the morning, during your lunch break, when the kids have been put to bed, or in the midnight hours with a glass of scotch. Still, no matter how accessible and practical you make ‘writing every day’ sound, it’s not always possible or beneficial to fit it into your schedule.
‘Write every day’ is the ideal but it’s not the only answer. The key is to allocate a certain routine so that you’re definitely still writing, and not just saying that you are. Two or three times per week should be possible, even with a heavy workload and other distractions in your life. More than this, you should WANT to write two or three times per week, rather than feel weary or unmotivated to do so. The difference between those who ‘write’ and those who say ‘they want to write’ is fairly obvious but it’s a common trap for most who dip their toes into the screenwriting pool to see how warm the water is.
You either write, or you don’t, that’s the bottom line. One or two scripts won’t see you through a career. You should be burning with ideas and itching with the desire to get more work done. If you’re still finding it difficult, then there are ways to help keep you motivated. Join a writers’ group. Get a friend to impose a deadline. Enter script competitions. Adapt a book or a story that’s out of copyright. Keep reading and watching TV/films. Stay inspired or enthused; keep your energy and ambition going.
I took the ‘all or nothing’ approach when I first started. That is, I gave up the day job and threw everything at becoming a screenwriter. But I had no discipline or routine. I would watch DVDs (videos, back then) and thumb PlayStation, and call it research. My girlfriend would come home from work to find me in my dressing gown. I would hurriedly plonk myself in front of the computer, thinking that I could convince her I was working all day but didn’t have time to dress properly. Shyeah.
After a while, the DVDs and PlayStation were ignored, and I plonked myself in front of the computer all day, surfing and emailing until I got bored, and there was no other option but to write something. Script reading was also helpful in terms of generating the right routine. Read a script, write a report. Repeat. That kind of mindset complimented the attitude required to write, and so, finally, I was churning out scripts on a regular basis.
Find the time. Develop a routine. Teach yourself the discipline. Stick to it.