People are always telling you what you need to write a screenplay. Even I will tell you what’s required or demanded or unavoidable in writing screenplays. But I want to remind myself, and you, what you don’t need, specifically what you absolutely will never need to write a screenplay and become a professional screenwriter. I believe there’s too many things I think I need to do to accomplish my dreams. Here are a few of those:
Sometimes we believe we have to think it’s going to all work out for our story, our screenwriting, our hopes and dreams. People think they have to believe in themselves to write screenplays. I’ve found that you don’t even have to do that. You can laugh at your lack of faith that anything will come of your writing today, and go ahead and write anyway. Don’t wait around to believe it will work out for you to write a scene today.
2. A book
Books about screenwriting can be very helpful, blog posts, essays, articles, podcasts, you know how much you’ve gained from listening to others, but in the end, you absolutely do not need any more information about how to write a screenplay, or how to be a screenwriter, or what you should never do as a screenwriter, nothing. The stories came before the books about making the stories, not the other way around.
3. A plan
I spend so much time thinking about how I’m going to get started writing, what I should do to get ready, what my process is, that the path to actually writing becomes an obstacle course. I need to remember that I am the one telling myself I need to do this to prepare, or that to organize, or one more thing and then I will be ready. Surrendering is the crucial action, not preparation, when it comes to writing honest stories.
I use software, most everyone does, but if you’re waiting around for that when you have a pen within 5 miles, you might not be that interested in writing movies.
Sometimes we think we need to focus on practical things, and we do have to be practical, but there is always room to write in any waking day, and if you’re telling yourself that your responsibilities are keeping you from writing, then you might have a different way already to provide for yourself other than writing, and more importantly, you might not be interested in writing.
6. A class
I love teaching, I love my students and I believe in education and film schools and can bear witness to how writers do change and develop in the classroom, but do you need to take a class or go get your MFA or receive a piece of paper declaring you did it? Well, maybe, you might need it for some reason, but you absolutely do not need to take a screenwriting class to be an incredible screenwriter.
7. An ending
If you don’t know how your screenplay will end, and that’s keeping you from writing any other part of the story, you’re making an excuse to get out of working hard. Writers that won’t write until they know how it’s going to end are trying to avoid wasting time, but writing is never a waste of time, and its really more about not wanting to write any more than you have to, and didn’t I want to be a professional writer? You don’t need an ending to write.
Some writers like to work with a partner. You might want to collaborate, and that’s fantastic, but you absolutely don’t need one to start writing, unless you absolutely need someone else to do the writing. Remember, poems have never been written by partners.
Please don’t wait around for your heart to be in the right place. Your heart will find its way into your story and provide everything that your audience will love it, but you don’t have to feel a certain way to write, which leads me to
Don’t let joy get in the way of getting some writing done. Or the lack of it. If you’re miserable or completely happy, try to set it aside and not let it ruin another day of writing stories. I think I should feel a certain sense of happiness or unhappiness to do anything as a writer, when in reality, I can write in the eye of a storm or sitting on the edge of a sleepy country field. It doesn’t matter. I’m a writer, it’s already happened, and I need to let myself do my job today.
What else isn’t necessary to write a screenplay? Plenty, but I sure will find something if I look for it. Instead, let me forget about thinking about the action of writing, and write today.