Creativity and the myth of waiting to find your "muse."
August 18th, 2019
If you’re new to this screenwriting adventure, you’ll soon discover that many times when you go back to your creative well, it doesn’t always deliver a wealth of ideas as expected. As a result, many writers feel blocked and wait for inspiration as they constantly look for their “muse.” It’s that person or situation they believe will help spark their writing to flow. This practice can breed excuses for not writing and lead to procrastination. If writers only waited around for inspiration, nothing would get written. Inspiration comes from living an authentic life full of adventures outside of your comfort zone and having something to say with your writing. It’s not the romanticized image of waiting around to write only when you're inspired. Writing is work, it's daily work, and if you want screenwriting to be your career, you’ll need the ability to write on demand and under a deadline.
That’s why it’s important now train yourself now to carve out a writing schedule and stick to it so you can actually finish a project. As writers, we spend so much time working in this mysterious mental realm called “creativity” and it can sap our energy and leave us feeling empty if we allow it. Yes, creativity ebbs and flows, but you have to be writing and actually doing the necessary work to find those breakthroughs. Picasso is quoted as saying, "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working."
When the writing gets difficult, some call it writer’s block, but I’ve found it’s from a lack of a solid vision. If you start with an outline, and work out the story and structure before you start pages, you won’t ever find yourself blocked. You will have a roadmap to follow that allows inspiration and creativity but with a story safety net. In private correspondence the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler once confessed, “Even if I didn’t write anything, I made sure I sat down at my desk every single day and concentrated.” Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his willpower for the process. This sort of daily training was indispensable to him. It’s vital for a writer to go through the ups and downs of the creative process as it's the basic training necessary to gain precious experience to prepare you for the professional arena.
The more you write, the faster you’ll be able to finish a first draft, but don’t let experience fool you. I’ve written thirty-nine feature length screenplays, and I’m still humbled every time I sit down to start a new project. Even with experience, a writer isn’t immune to the anxiety of the creative process. I was filled with anxiety during the start of a recent screenwriting assignment because I couldn’t get my creative process going every morning the way I had planned. I woke up early and lingered on the Internet, took a late lunch, became distracted by phone calls, and suddenly it was 3:00 P.M. with no new pages. This horror show went on for about three days until I realized that maybe on this project my writing schedule didn’t start in the morning, but later in the afternoon. I made a conscious decision to let go of my preconceived daily structure, and my creativity thrived. I started my writing day at 3 P.M. without guilt and worked until about 11 P.M. Yes, I was blessed to have the luxury of shifting my screenwriting writing schedule because it's my job, but I realized as long as I sat with the material, the daily creative process was moving forward.
The creative process has no secret formula for success. It’s the daily reality of writers staring down the work, no matter how difficult, and getting those pages done. You will eventually discover your own method that works best for your productivity. If you spend quality time with your material, free from distractions and interruptions, you will eventually power through the walls that block your creativity. Don’t stress about today’s page count because it will always vary over the course of any project. Focus on sticking to your writing daily schedule and being “one” with your material. The consistency of a daily schedule will keep you close to your material as you’re working on your creative process regardless if it bears pages today or not. And stick to your self-imposed deadlines too because this is training for when you do score a screenwriting assignment and work for pay under a contract. Creativity is a mysterious process and writers must respect it by working at it daily on their long haul journey to finishing a new project.
About the Author
Mark Sanderson (aka Scriptcat) is a Los Angeles based screenwriter, author, script consultant, and sometimes actor blessed to be living his childhood dream of making movies with forty feature screenplays written in a wide range of genres. His work includes sketch comedy writing and performing as a founding member of The Amazing Onionheads sketch troupe, writing for MTV, his spec sale, two TV pilots, and twenty-three screenwriting assignments that have produced television premieres and worldwide distribution of his fifteen films.
Mark's films have also been recognized at festivals including a premiere and opening the Palm Springs Int. Film Festival, premieres at the Hawaii Int. Film Festival, St. Louis Int. Film Festival, The Rainbow Festival in Hawaii, Newport Beach Int. Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale Int. Festival, and nominated for the Starboy Award at the Oulu Int. Children's Film Festival in Finland.
Mark’s long association with award winning Hollywood filmmakers dates back to his first produced screenplay and has since worked with Academy Award® winning producers, veteran directors, and has written films starring Academy Award®, Emmy®, and Golden Globe® acting nominees. His book, "A Screenwriter's Journey to Success" is available on Amazon, and he offers screenplay consultation services, workshops, and webinars on his website: www.fiveoclockblue.net