“Ugh, I should write.”
I say that to myself all the time, and as someone who writes in marketing for a living then comes home and has screenplays, a blog, and other projects to work on… I really should be writing. Like, all the time.
But sometimes it feels like work. And not just the work stuff, but the stuff that’s supposed to be fun. The script I’m so excited about or an idea I have for a funny article or even just a simple blog about how writing feels like work — it all starts to become a slog.
A lot of people will try to make you feel bad about that. As if truly great writers have some endless spring of passion flowing out of them at all times and they never get frustrated or fed up or even just bored. And if you do, then you must not love it enough.
But I think it’s normal to have to fight to keep the joy alive. I don’t know that you can do the same thing every day, sometimes without getting positive results for weeks or months at a time, and not have it wear on you.
I wrote before about how it’s easy to get sucked into obsessing over the glamour and the glory of life as a successful writer, and how if you want to be good, you need to learn to stay focused on the work. But I think swinging too far in the other direction can be just as bad. Getting so lost in your story that you never come up for air to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place is an awful feeling.
You have to find ways to get inspired. Some of my favorite ways:
Consume great work – This one is easy. The best way to remind yourself why you love writing is to go consume a finished product that accomplishes everything you want to some day accomplish. I love reading great op-ed pieces and learning from their structure or the writer’s voice. And I love watching a great movie and letting it launch me into making progress on my scripts.
Listen to podcasts – For some reason, listening to other writers talk about writing gets me more pumped up than anything. I love hearing war stories from writers that have produced their own films, sold scripts, been published, or what have you. I’d highly recommend the On the Page podcast and, of course, Scriptnotes for screenwriters. More often than not, I come away from listening to these really itching to dive back into my work.
Feel the Music – This is a new one to me, but I’ve really been noticing the way music affects me lately. Now, I don’t like to write with music on — maybe some instrumental background, if anything. I find I’ll start singing along or paying attention to the lyrics and I won’t get anything done. But I’ve found that sometimes a song will come on in the car or when I’m listening to Pandora at work and, in my head, I’ll instantly pair it with a certain scene from my script. It helps me picture the scene in maybe a new way — dialogue or certain shots will start popping up because of the tone the song has set.