Writer’s block is something all creators have faced at some point and will undoubtedly face again when the next project comes along.
And as frustrating as it might be to admit, there is some intrinsic value in the struggle to produce a satisfying screenplay.
This article isn’t intended to cure the kind of paralysis normally associated with the blank page as I’ve found no real workarounds for this found freewriting.
Instead, what I’ll try to do is identify some of the best methods for managing an overly analytical thought process, procrastination and self-sabotage.
So if your trouble isn’t in getting started but getting your screenplay to a stage where you feel like it’s finished, read on for my top three personal remedies for screenwriting anxiety.
1. Focus on the Dialogue Between Characters
This could be a throwback to one of my previous approaches as a writer and illustrator of comic books and graphic novels, but I believe that the ebb and flow of a conversation should dictate the order and sequence of visuals.
I find it most helpful to write down what the audience will hear as opposed to what they will see when I begin laying the foundations for each new scene.
This allows me to avoid the tediousness of world building that I might not be ready for and have my characters interact in a vacuum.
While doing so, it’s quite common for me to churn out pages and pages of quality dialogue before I even feel the urge to revisit or tweak a scene.
Once the dialogue’s in place, I’ll have a pretty good idea of where the scene is going and more importantly, what role it serves in the context of the story.
Then I go back and fill in the details about what will be in each shot.
Separating the audio from the visual and tackling these two components as individual pieces of the puzzle is something I highly recommend you do.
Whether you consider yourself a verbal or visual thinker, give it a go and see how it impacts your process!
2. Continue Down the Rabbit Hole When Researching
If the anxiety caused by screenwriting is a symptom of our unconscious fear of failure and/or rejection, the best way to insulate yourself is to make sure you know what you’re writing about.
Therefore, it’s important you research your character’s backstories and any relevant environmental or historical factors that impact your story arcs.
Fact check what you find online and never mind the articles or forum comments that contradict the premise of your story. You’ll find just as many to support it.
Of course, some may tell you to quit while you’re ahead but it’s been my experience that the more checking I do the more complete my script will be.
Plus, I’ll have the answers I need to justify its direction to any stakeholders.
3. Keep Coming Back to What You’ve Already Written
Being open to new ideas and the opinions of others is critical, even after you’re sure you have all the components just the way you want them in your script.
It’s natural to be defensive of something you’ve poured months of your time into but if a good idea does presents itself, do not dismiss it out of hand and out of laziness.
Yes, you’ll probably be forced to wade through a few additional scene revisions and perhaps even a couple of more significant rewrites but don’t be put off.
That’s a large part of the job and a big point of difference between the casual and professional screenwriter.
And while we’re on the topic of revisions, resist the urge to abandon your original thoughts and artistic vision.
They are, after all, what gave you the inspiration to start writing in the first place and you won’t want to lose that — especially if the screenplay is one you hope to produce yourself.
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Struggling with overbearing doubts about your own level of commitment, motivation, talent and creativity are natural fears that effect everybody with something valuable to say.
The irony is that all these doubts actually say about you is that you are, in fact, a writer.
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And with that, we’ll let you get back to writing.