Lee Jessup is a seasoned career coach for screenwriters, with an exclusive focus on guiding and supporting screenwriters as they parlay their screenwriting prowess into a focused and dynamic screenwriting career. Follow Lee on Twitter @leezjessup
The wonderful author Douglas Adams once said: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” As a writer trying to survive the marathon that will lead you to your screenwriting career, you have to remain productive, utilizing different methodologies. Some of these methodologies were explored in Part 1 of this blog post, published on my website, leejessup.com.
First, let’s define what I talk about when I say “writing”: writing can be applied to any sort of creative work aimed at creating a screenplay or teleplay. This can mean brainstorming, outlining, character bios, world building, or writing actual pages. The important thing is that you write, consistently and productively, on an ongoing basis. Treating your writing as a job means that you produce work on an ongoing basis.
So, back to our friend Adams: how do you make sure to meet your goals and deadlines?
- Make a point to under-promise and over-deliver
Ambition is great. I love ambition. But at the end of the day, you do have to deliver. Set goals, deadlines and milestones that are ambitious but very much achievable. Once you are able to meet and exceed them on a regular basis, your confidence will build which will in turn increase your productivity and velocity.
- Create accountability
Recently, my very talented client Katie, who emails me daily to share with me her output, emailed me and said: “I feel a bit dicky (read unprofessional) that I have to keep telling you (what I achieved) so I am accountable…” I reminded her that the professional thing that she did was put me in place to make sure that she is meeting her writing goals consistently. Let’s face it: Writing alone is hard. And you should NOT take on a writing partner just to have someone hold you accountable. Trust me when I tell you that this ends in disaster EVERY TIME. However, you do have to make sure there is someone or some thing there holding your hand to the fire, and not allowing you to let deadlines go by without much notice. Whether it’s a writing buddy, a writer’s group or a coach, be sure to make commitments that don’t just evaporate as the deadline is missed.
Sometimes accountability is not enough to motivate. Distractions are everywhere, and incentive is hard to find. What do you do then?
- Join a class
When in doubt, introduce yourself into an environment that will force you to buckle down and write those pages. Writing classes, whether in-person or online, are the perfect prescription for many a writer in a rut. To put it quite simply, classes force you to engage, whether or not you feel motivated or, for that matter, inspired. Once you sign up and shell over the big bucks, your brain simply relents and accepts that you’re gonna have to show up.
- Make friends with productivity apps
Whether using Google apps to track your productivity or Mac Freedom to shut social networking off and keep the internet out, utilize these powerful tools to make the most of your writing time.
- Don’t forget the fun
Engaging in one fun activity every week that serves no purpose other than that of FUN, be it rock climbing, salsa dancing or relaxing on the beach for an hour, can go a long way when it comes to filling up your creative tank. Whatever your thing is, be sure to indulge in it at least once a week. It just may provide the motivation you’ve been looking for!
- Make a task list - and check off completed tasks
There is something gratifying about checking off completed tasks, right? So start making lists, if only so that you could regularly check off completed items. As more and more items get checked off your list, you will find your sense of accomplishment growing which is something that can be quite motivating in its own right!
Remember, your productivity is key to building a lasting screenwriting career. Like a marathon runner, you have to plan for it, and then pace yourself thoughtfully and methodically in order to reach the finish line. It’s not about getting there first, or clocking the best time. It’s about getting there, with still a little gas left in the tank. So be sure to adopt thoughtful plans that will ensure lasting productivity, so that you may utilize it and rely on it as your screenwriting career gains speed down the runway in years to come.
- More articles by Lee Jessup
- Writers on the Verge: Know Thy Screenwriting Career Path
- Balls of Steel: Lessons in Outlining, First Draft & Fear, Oh My!
Get more advice in Lee's book
Getting It Write: An Insider's Guide to a Screenwriting Career