Staring down the barrel of a treatment

I've been struggling to get back into writing after a few weeks off.

I've got a solid draft of the proof-of-concept short, and a one-page synopsis of the feature. I'm at the point now where I need to dive into the feature development and work on writing an extended story document—whether that be a beat sheet or a more detailed treatment. 

After a few weeks off from the project, though, and staring down the barrel of this next stage, it all feels quite daunting. And I've spent the better part of this weekend grappling with that. I've been trying to sit with this feeling—anyone who's read even one or two of my posts will know that this is a pretty recurring theme. But all too often it's easy to just keep procrastinating with the hope that things will eventually drop into place and the writing will flow.

And I don't think it can—not without some concerted effort. Maybe if I had a year, and could choose to write only when the mood strikes, I could wait. But I work full-time and I don't have a year. So I've been thinking about tools and strategies for dealing with this struggle as soon as it arises.

This blog is one such tool. It's usually when I'm struggling to write that I open the browser, log into my website, and just start typing. For me, it's like a warm-up exercise. The words may not be great, they may not be all that relevant to the project—but they're there. And I'm writing. And I can feel good about that.

I was listening to an episode of Scriptnotes while I was out walking this afternoon (another strategy—when I start to feel my brain turning to mush, I have to get out and move). Fittingly, the episode I chose was 'Psychotherapy for Screenwriters', in which they talk with screenwriter-turned-psychotherapist, Dennis Palumbo, about these very issues.

It was great, and Dennis offered some fantastic tools—things I'll definitely think about in my own practice. One was to write a scene interviewing yourself, where you basically interrogate why you're struggling to write (very much my own approach with this blog). He also talked about taking the perfectionism out of writing—instead, assume that you'll throw your first 20 pages out as soon as you get to the end of a draft.

Another interesting point that all three writers made is never feeling like you should write for eight hours. For each of them as professional writers, a day's writing is only 3–4 solid hours.

And the final one, which I think is really important, is disabusing yourself of the idea that you need any 'special' working conditions to be able to write. Forget the special pen. Forget the special paper. You'll only achieve 'flow' if you're prepared to push through that uncomfortable feeling at the start—the uneasy procrastination that I've let define my weekend.

But all is not lost. I've written a blog post. It's 6.21pm on a Sunday night, and I've got a few hours left yet. Now all I have to do is write...