Welcome to the Resistance
As a writer you’ve probably been asked one of the following questions at least once or twice: What exactly do you do all day? How hard could it possibly be to sit around and get paid to write? Or maybe, you’ve heard statements like: Anyone could do that. Or, I personally love to write, but unfortunately, I just don’t have the time. Maybe you’ve even said one of these discouraging phrases yourself.
While yes, technically speaking, most writers sit around and type for a large portion of their daily working life; however, it is rarely all-consuming, active writing time. Or as I like to imagine it golden nuggets of free-flowing prose handed down by an Old Testament God to Moses like the 10 Commandments.
And no, not just anyone could do this job. It’s part calling, part compulsion, and part suffering combined into one. No one who gets paid to write for a living will tell you that they unconditionally love their job. In fact, many writers will tell you they WISH they could do something else. They are compelled to write. They must write. Not writing is as painful, if not more painful, than that act of writing.
Which gets us to the topic at hand. How do you write when every fiber of your being would rather do something, anything else? How do you resist the resistance to sit down and get to work?
Writing is both an art and an act of self-discipline. Sometimes the biggest challenge to getting the work done is making the time and following through. Easy to say. Easy to type. Not so easy to practice.
Especially when it counts.
So how do you get started? For each writer I know the process looks a little different, but here are some proven ways to get over self-doubt and get going.
Just do it. Whatever it is that you do for work, your “Joe job,” even if it’s your dream job. It’s important to dive in. Rip off the bandage of self-restraint and get messy. It won’t get easier if you pre-think the entire project. If you let the part of your brain that wants to plan every detail in at this stage, it won’t happen. If you want to write a script, now is the time. If you haven’t already, read a book about other writers struggles. Start journaling. Resisting the urge to write is creative suicide. If you need to express yourself and you’re waiting for the perfect inspiration, or the right circumstances, trust me, it’ll never happen. Writing is editing. Writing is getting honest with yourself and with others. It’s not the best writers who finish. It’s the determined writers who continue to learn and hone themselves. It’s trial by fire. It’s if you don’t write it, someone else will. Or that great idea will die with you. Or the time will pass and what was once a great idea will now be outdated.
Learn how to master the art of the rewrite with this free guide.
Take a class.
Tell three people what you’re writing.
Set a deadline for your first draft.
Blame yourself if it’s not perfect.
Psych yourself out.
Set a Timer
It’s helpful to start by setting small goals each day. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Yes, you want to write that screenplay or pilot. You don’t have to do it in one go. Take your time. Think your story through. Plot out those scenes, create the characters. Get comfortable with the world you’re building. I find it particularly helpful to focus on small manageable goals for short bursts of intense focus. It could be by word count, pages, or broken down by what needs to be done first so that the rest may follow. If you’re trying to write an original television pilot free-write about your characters for 10 minutes at a time while you’re still trying to get a grasp of who they are or what they want. Create fictional job applications. Spend 25 minutes researching locations. Another 10 minutes writing your logline. Then 20 minutes creating a psychology profile of your lead character. 5 minutes for stretching. Then dive back in and work on the outline for another 45 minutes. Take your dog out. Eat lunch. Listen to music. Watch some YouTube videos related to your story world.
Read Other People
Sometimes the best inspiration is not related to the thing you are working on. I love reading news articles when I’m writing a narrative feature because it uses a part of my brain that I’m not overtaxing. However, if I’m outlining a commercial project, I need to escape, and short fiction is the pace at which I need to be writing. Read scripts by famous screenwriters, read recommended novels, read book reviews. Buy a literary magazine and get a taste for what other people are talking about that doesn’t exist online. We all live in our own bubbles, try to break out of yours.
Do Something Harder Than Writing
Do you like to exercise? No? Take a spin class.
Do you draw for fun? No? Try blind contour drawing.
Start a journal cataloging everything you eat in a day.
See a professional counselor.
Resistance is sneaky, it creeps into everything we do. Generally, we only feel it when we finally have the time to do the things we tell ourselves, and others, that we want to do and find out that we can’t actually do. It’s painful to face the fear that we might not be good at the very thing we want the most. Exposing ourselves to others is scary. Writing is an incredibly intimate act. Keep on keeping on.
Tiffany is a screenwriter. She freelances for commercial houses MPC LA, Logan.TV, LAB5 SYSTEMS, Pulse LA and more. She likes to defy expectations.