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A Good Rule for Screenwriters: Always Be Writing

| published January 20, 2016 |

By John Montana, Thursday Review guest contributor

Many times I hear writers say they are stuck or are in a writer’s slump, because no ideas are coming or they don’t know what to write. Often, they want an original idea for a film that nobody has ever seen before. Or, they want nothing less than the next great original idea that rocks the film world. Some of them will wait for years for that inspiration for the next great film.

Now, you might get angry with me for saying this, or you may vehemently disagree, but I don’t think this should be your goal. Of course it can be a long term dream that this happens (and it might!), but most likely the story you have in mind has, in some form, already been told before. So don’t sweat it! Really, don’t let it prevent you from writing. Just write…let the words just flow out of you. Edit it all later.

Write gobble-dee-gook, write crap, write anything. Just! Write! You can worry about judging it after you are finished. When you are done you can go in and create a story that will inspire you to begin filming.

Think of it this way: a sculptor starts with a huge block of stone. This is your “gobble-dee-gook” phase. Then the sculptor, like the writer, begins to slowly carve away the stuff that isn’t necessary. With care, you can and will reveal the story you want to tell. In the end you will have something that you will be excited about putting on film. So don’t be obsessed with telling an original story or incubating and hatching an idea that nobody has thought of before. Because 99 times out of 100, it’s been done before.

I make short films. I enjoy shooting them and making them. But I am not under any illusion that these short films will make my career. I have two full feature scripts waiting to be done. I use my shorts films to open doors and to gain experience on the set. Period.

99.9 percent of short films will never make money or achieve commercial success. They are often a means to an end. A road to get someone to ask you this: "Do you have any feature scripts that I can read?" To generate interest in you and what you have written. So here is a saying that I have come across many times, always be writing.

Treat your writing, or other creative work with the same kind of respect you have for your family doctor or dentist. Doctors, dentists...these people have studied hard for years and as a result generally treat their work with respect and care. So should you. If you treat your writing with disdain and laziness, or as a lah-dee-dah creative artist that will get to it "when inspiration strikes,” then shame on you. Because all you are doing is confirming to society that artists are all flaky and emotionally high-strung...and that we are ultimately disposable as paper in an outhouse.

Exercise: For the next three weeks, set your alarm clock early in the morning and spend only 15 minutes each day writing. Something...anything...just write! Don't look at it and judge it as being either good or bad. That is not the point of the exercise. The exercise is to try and create a HABIT of writing. Like you go to your job. It is an attempt on your part to train your body and mind for just 15 minutes each day to take your writing seriously and just write. And for those of you with the excuse "I don't have time"... then here is another saying that I really love. Time is made, not found. You make the time by prioritizing it and writing. Simple as that!

About The Author:

John Montana is an actor living with his wife in Los Angeles and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short films at No Title Production Films

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A Man Came Out of the Door in the Mountain; Adrianne Harun; book review by Krity Webster; Thursday Review; December 7, 2015.

Bridge Of Spies: Best Film of the Year; film review by R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; October 14, 2015.