Many screenwriters will tell you that being “in the flow” is one of the greatest – and most elusive – feelings. But what do you do when you just can’t get there? When you feel stuck and blocked? Here are four strategies to stay focused when your mind is acting like a rebellious teenager.
1) Trick yourself.
Sometimes you have to get sneaky. Make a deal with yourself that you’ll only write one scene and then move on to another activity. Or, set a timer for 30 minutes and promise to stop writing for the day once it goes off.
I believe in the magic of timed 30-minute work. I wrote my book, Hollywood Game Plan, in 30-minute increments. Honest. Sometimes it was just one 30-minute segment for the day, and sometimes I was able to write for six hours, broken into twelve 30-minute increments. I often gave myself a little 2 or 3 minute break in between, or got up to walk around the house. I never checked my email or FB, though… I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole when I was in the flow. More on this below…
The point is to give yourself a shot at getting into a productive groove. Chances are that when the timer goes off you’ll want to continue. And if not, you can feel good that you at least got something done.
2) Minimize distractions.
Turn off the internet. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb. Delete the Facebook app on your phone. Minimize distractions so you’re not tempted to go down an Instagram rabbit hole when you could be putting words on the page. If you’re like some writers I know, your best chance at a productive day might be to switch locations. This can help eliminate excuses that writers lean on to check out of actually doing the work. If you write from home and find yourself deep-cleaning your closets or doing five loads of laundry instead of actually writing, switch locations to a place that eliminates these page-killing behaviors. Try a library, café, college campus, rooftop, or friend’s house. Bonus points if you can find a location that actually inspires you to write.
3) Create accountability.
Schedule a “work date” with a friend. This peer pressure can help you get more done than you would alone. If you can’t meet in person, make a deal to send each other the pages you’ve written that day. When you know someone else will be reading what you writing, you’re less likely to slack off.
4) Reward yourself.
Commit to a reward when you’ve hit a goal. You can structure these rewards to be daily (did you hit your page count?), weekly (did you write five days a week for threehours?) or even project-based (like treating yourself to a massage when you’ve finished a draft). Although it can feel a little ridiculous to dangle a carrot in front of your own face, this kind of positive reinforcement can be exactly the motivation you need to finish.
How do you stay focused when you’re writing? Tweet me @CaroleKirsch. I’d love to hear from you!