How do I conquer my fear and just sit down and write?

I recently got an email from an aspiring screenwriter in the Ukraine:

Hello Dan!

I’m reading your book and would like to learn more about how to make a “great script.”

May I also ask you – how do you inspire authors not to be modest and blocked, but be brave and write write write? Do you have any tips? Thank you in advance!

Here was my answer:

Hmmm, writing tips…finding the courage to sit down and write…not overthinking it…well, firstly, know that EVERY WRITER has these issues so you’re not alone. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Some things off the top of my head…

1) Write to your favorite movie music. If you’re writing a horror script, listen to your favorite horror movie scores to put you in the mood.

2) Adopt the rule of YOU MUST FINISH THE SCENE YOU’RE WRITING BEFORE YOU CAN STOP FOR THE DAY! If you’re really tired and blocked, then just wrap it up quickly and you may just find that keeping that scene short and tight works better than if you spent another two hours and five pages on it. If your scene is only half of a page, hey, IT’S A SCENE. Pat yourself on the back, shut down and go watch some TV. Tomorrow’s scene may be 7 pages so rest up.

3) Don’t edit as you go and don’t judge your writing — KNOW THAT EVERY FIRST PASS WILL BE BAD. This one’s tough, especially if you’re analytical like me, but you must put your analysis side away and just bang out that first draft of a scene and push through until you’ve got a complete script. It’s going to be talky and flat and too long, but you can go in and edit later and polish it up. You will “find the scene” as you write — don’t worry about the quality on the first pass, it will come into focus for you. (Note: This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your Story Map and Scene List in front of you as you write, just don’t be so precious about following it to the letter that you don’t keep moving forward.)

4) Deadlines! This is probably the best reason to enter contests — it keeps you on a deadline. It may not be ideal to finish one minute before the midnight deadline, but hey you finished a draft that you otherwise might not have got through until six months later. Now, I wouldn’t advise paying a $90 entry fee for a script you just banged out and haven’t polished, but if it’s a free contest or relatively low fee, go for it just to go through the process and feel like you reached a milestone. Because you did. Have a latte or beer to celebrate. In fact, it’s on me. Just kidding, of course, drinks are on you. Do you think I give out these pearls o’ wisdom for free?!

5) Get a “notes buddy” and swap scripts when you’re done. Set a deadline with a friend. E.g., You’re both going to swap your next drafts in one month — then stick to it! And you know you’ll be getting feedback so you’ll get some objective opinion that will break you out of your writer’s vacuum. This also allows you to stop thinking about your script for that necessary brain rest period as you wait for your buddy’s notes.

Do those tips help? They work for me, maybe not for everyone but they’re generally good practices.

Thank you for buying my book, good luck and happy writing,

Dan Calvisi

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