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Balls of Steel™: Spark Creativity by Changing Your Writing Routine

Establishing a writing routine is important, but so is changing it up with location, people, writing retreats and more. Change brings inspiration.

Location, location, location. It’s important in real estate, in a script’s budget and also in sparking creativity for a writer’s mind. But for me, location isn’t the only thing – it’s the combination of location, people, and inspiration that puts words on the page.


Finding the best location to write is just as important as finding the time to write. I’m fortunate to be disciplined enough to work from home. I have an office set up in our guest room, but I recently turned my desk around to face the windows. Simply switching it up from time to time not only rearranges the furniture but also the creative spaces in my mind. If you don’t have a dedicated spot for writing in your house, try taking your laptop to a different room. Sometimes that simple shift can help. I even have one room in my house where I never write, but it’s where I read scripts. No idea why I started doing that, but when I sit in that space, I immediately close off the world and get absorbed in whatever I’m reading.

Now that the warmer months are here, I’ll start taking my laptop on the porch or even into a field. Yes, I’m a country girl. We live on 45 acres of nothing, so there’s plenty of quiet, nature spots to find inspiration.


But if nature isn’t your thing, do the writer cliché routine – hunker down in a coffee shop.

Many of my Twitter followers are familiar with my #paneraoffice live tweeting, as I sit at my table, spying on the customers and staff to find inspiration for my stories. What a gold mine for a voyeur. It’s where my short film, Impasse, was born.

But simply observing isn’t enough. Take your findings to the next level. Watch people and imagine their story. What is their day like? What is the biggest problem they have? What does their clothing and food choices say about their life? For example, you might have noticed that cops usually won’t get coffee in a mug. It’s always a paper cup. Easy to take with them, if an emergency strikes. Paying attention to those small details is important because they are precisely what will help your scripts feel more authentic.


Speaking of people, they are inspirational not just as objects of voyeurism, but also as whom you choose to bring into your writing community. Even if you live in a remote place, you can find writers to connect with. But let’s say you live 100 miles from the nearest person. Then what? Get a Twitter account. Seriously. It will change everything! I’ve written about it before, and will again, but until then, check out Balls of Steel: Tweet to Success.

With that Twitter account, you can make a call out for writers in your area and connect. Make the time to meet them in person at a coffee shop. Be dueling voyeurs. But the biggest benefit of having another writer in your regular routine is to share your thoughts on craft and help each other grow. Often times our own families roll their eyes at our passion, but another writer will help keep you sane in this crazy pursuit. Your sanity will in turn help your creativity and keep you inspired.


It can take years to fine-tune a script. Believe me, I worked on Slavery by Another Name for four years before finding producers, and I'm still rewriting! How do I keep my sanity? By writing blog posts, articles, personal essays, short film scripts, and anything I can complete in a brief period of time and get out into the world. Knowing people will actually read my words, instead of those stories being stuck in a file on my Mac, helps me feel validated as a writer and gives me the stamina to stay in the game.

Writers write.

Start a blog, if only for a different outlet. Sometimes those short, personal essays lead to bigger script ideas. The most important reason to have a website is to have a place to showcase your voice. It’s a great way for producers to learn more about your writing, who you are as a person, and for you to gain a following. Should you ever decide you want to write a novel, publishers want to see you have an online presence. It doesn’t have to be anything intensely time consuming. Blogs are quick to set up. Just poke around the WordPress site and play. In a couple of hours, you’ll be up and running.

Ultimate Inspiration – Get out of Dodge Entirely

There’s one way to have it all though – location, people, and inspiration. Take a vacation from your life and only focus on your writing by going on a writing retreat. You’ll get a gorgeous location, dozens of writers to inspire you for days, as well as incredible instruction from teachers. It’s something that should be on every writer’s bucket list. Award-winning screenwriter Jacob Krueger has an upcoming one in Costa Rica. If you had a chance to meet Jacob at Screenwriter World Conference last April, you already know how motivating he is. Imagine the rejuvenation of waking up to yoga on a beach, taking classes and sneaking off to write in a tropical paradise. That’s my kind of "working" vacation.

We not only don’t nurture ourselves enough, we also tend to put our writing off until we have all our other responsibilities done, especially those of us who have day jobs. We need to honor our writing, if only because our writing is what feeds our souls. I don’t know about you, but I’d die if I couldn’t write. Give yourselves the gift of putting your writing and sanity first sometimes – even if only for a week in a tropical spot. You deserve that.

Even my Panera office days are like a weekly writing retreat, albeit more filled with the aroma of carbs than the salt air. If nothing else, getting out of the house ensures my family I’ll shower. Come on, you know we writers who work in our pajamas are guilty of hygiene neglect.

The additional beauty of trips and conferences is, after they are over, the inspiration will carry into your work for months. Meeting other writers who share your passion and love for craft is the ultimate in inspiration.

If you cant afford a retreat or conference, consider a screenwriting class or working one-on-one with a story consultant. I’ve taken many classes over the years, and it’s always inspirational to get a new perspective on the craft.

What Do You Do?

I asked writers on Twitter what they do to switch up their routines and get inspired. Below are a few of their answer. Share your thoughts in the comments below so we can all learn and get our writing groove on. My readers’ generosity is one of the many things I love about our community of screenwriters. So go ahead and pass out the advice.

TSNN_Rachel11:34am via Web
@jeannevb Get out of the house, write at different times of day, set different goals (ie. focus only on dialogue, etc.

susannelantero11:39am via Twitter for iPhone
@jeannevb I write essays when I want to take a break from my screenplay. Some are humorous, some serious. I like to mix it up.

lmcnelly11:33am via Twitter for Mac
I switch from scotch to whiskey

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