Whether you’re beginning a new screenplay or book, the task can be daunting. All those miles of blank screen. All those ideas you need to actually articulate and commit to paper. All the things you don’t yet know about your characters or your story line or your theme.
It’s enough to stop you cold.
I get it. I’m starting a new project, and speak from the trenches.
Here are some tips that can help you move forward.
Take a Class—I’m always taking new classes with great teachers. I learn so much about my craft from different facilitators, and also, in the beginning, need the structure and deadlines. Once I get started, I’m disciplined. But I’ve learned I need a kick in the butt to begin. Take a class.
Small steps—I make myself NOT think about the huge task ahead. Instead, I think in terms of pages per day, or hours per day, or scenes. The more micro I make it, the better. Anne Lamott’s adage, “Bird by Bird” figures hugely here. Think about it. If you wrote 1500 words a day for 5 days a week, in 8 weeks, you could have a first draft of your novel.
Make a Plan—If you don’t want to take a class, make a plan for yourself. How many pages per day will you write? How many per week/month? Which craft books can you read to inspire you? Give yourself some deadlines to finish ACT I, ACT II, ACT III, or specific chapters in your book.
Commit to a schedule—Figure out the best time to write, then stick to it. Schedule your writing time on your calendar, just as you would a business lunch or meeting. Write for the same amount of time, at the same time, each day. Establishing this kind of regular schedule creates structure. If you can do it for 18 days straight, according to the experts, you will have formed a habit!
Create Social Accountability—Find a writing buddy you respect. Work out a deal with them. Agree to send each other your pages each week at a certain time. The fear of not sending them (external motivation) will sometimes force you to get your work done.
Know your first draft is going to stink— When I understand that it’s ok for my first draft to be crappy, I write like a demon. If I believe every page has to be perfect, I’m stuck. Also, just from having written so much, I now understand the process. I know that I will be making many revisions—keeping some stuff, but throwing out whole sections. Allow yourself to be terrible.
Finally, know that your fear will be at its WORST right before you begin. And that once you take the tiny steps forward—signing up for a class, or beginning to write an outline, or creating a schedule and starting to draft pages, much of your fear will dissipate. Action is the enemy of terror.
In many ways, a yet-to-be started project feels like the boogie man. It lurks under your bed, in the closet, haunting your thoughts. It’s so much tinier and less frightening when you turn on the light.
Take Action! Flick the switch. Open that file on your computer. Shine light on that baby.