It’s hard enough to focus on anything during this pandemic. Writing, and especially screenwriting, has to be one of the most difficult things anybody ever tried to accomplish. So when the news is driving you crazy, and you’re so sick of being isolated for months on end, how can you possibly sit down, center yourself and write a screenplay. These “mind hacks” can help. Good luck.
1. The Pomodoro Technique(TM)
This method is named after the tomato shaped timer that inspired it. (Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato). As a student, Francesco Cirillo struggled with time management. He found the perfect time for a “work sprint” or “pomodoro” to be 25 minutes. He set his timer and worked straight for 25 minutes, then took a five minute break.
During the short break, he allowed himself to check texts, emails, play a videogame, make calls or whatever. Every three to four pomodori, he would give himself a 25 minute break. Francesco would set out to finish a small, manageable goal, as if there was a deadline looming. This way, he felt the urgency required to get things done quickly, but had time to breathe, as it were, and play during breaks, which kept his mind sharp.
He experimented with different time periods, but found 25 minutes to be the most effective time period for him to work at a “deadline pace” Of course, you can modify the method, say, so you work 40 minutes and take a 20 minute break if you like, or whatever works best for you.
2. A positive attitude is essential to the creative process.
Some writers insist the more they suffer in real life, the more conflict and depth they’ll be able to write into their screenplays. Screenwriter David Lynch feels that one only has to understand suffering, not live it, to write with depth.
Lynch stated that the notion of the “suffering artist” is a romantic concept. If you think about it, though, it’s romantic for everyone but the artist. He posits that if an artist is really suffering, his ideas won’t come easily.
It’s only with a positive attitude that writers can access the ideas that make for a great screenplay.
3. You need to be accountable.
When you work for a studio, your reputation is on the line. Money is riding on the finished script. It has to be great. It has to get done on time. When it’s all on the line, you get it done. Most screenwriters are working on spec. So, there’s nobody setting deadlines. No monetary goal. Who’s going to hold you accountable? I suggest getting a writing buddy.
It could be another writer in your class, in your writer’s group, or someone you met networking. You help each other. Keep each other accountable. Set deadlines for each other.
When your buddy misses a deadline, talk him through it. Remind him why he moved to LA, turned down that lucrative job offer, and broke up with his girlfriend. All to write screenplays. So tell him to stop whining and get to work. He’ll do the same for you.
4. Set realist goals. Don’t just sit down and start writing.
It’s overwhelming. If you try it, you’ll just shut down. It’s too difficult. Break your overall goal into small, doable (preferably one day) projects. Start with a character description. What is the protagonist like? Then, day two, what is the antagonist like? Write a brief plot summary, with a beginning, middle and an end.
When you’ve thought out the story’s overall structure, then flesh out act one. Give act one it’s own beginning, middle and an end. Make sure it sets up the major characters, and that they have character arcs. Remember characters change through conflict. Don’t rewrite randomly, stick to the plan. Allow the characters to grow.
5. Listen to science.
Cool down your writing space. Seventy to seventy two degrees is best. Exercise early. Eat brain foods. The best are fish, nuts, seed and dark chocolate. You want a steady stream of glucose going to your brain. Not sugar. It leads to peaks and crashes. Drink water with coffee. It keeps you from dehydrating.
6. Use the “two-minute rule.”
If it’s on your “to do” list and you can do something in two minutes, don’t wait. Just do it. Get it out of the way. It will be over before you know it and you can get right back to writing with almost no delay.