The Startup
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The Startup

Quotes From Screenwriters That Make Me Feel Better

Writing (and life) lessons from the gurus

Photo by Pereanu Sebastian on Unsplash

Learning that it takes Aaron Sorkin, acclaimed screenwriter of The Social Network and The West Wing, between 18 and 24 months to complete a feature screenplay made me feel immeasurably better about my writing life — and specifically my inability to do the same in the last month.

So with that in mind, I rounded up a few other screenwriterly quotes to brighten my day and hopefully yours!

“One of the mentally challenging parts of being a writer is that most days, you don’t write.“ — Aaron Sorkin

It can be demoralising to spend days and weeks staring at a blank page without any actual output to show for it. I recently took a month off my day job to write a first draft of a new screenplay. The fact that I did this at my own expense placed a lot of pressure on being ‘productive’ during that time. Every day that went by without me actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), I made myself feel guilty by working out how much income I had NOT earned in those hours. Reminder: thinking is a huge part of the creative process and this time is never wasted.

“The easiest thing to do on earth is not write.” — William Goldman

I do lots of things that aren’t writing: in fact, I’ve literally packed every evening of the week plus Saturday mornings with non-writing-related hobbies. While part of me thinks it’s probably healthy to force myself out of my house (and track pants) and focus on something other than my creative work, the other part of me wonders whether these are just elaborate tools of procrastination. Good to know that the screenwriting legend who was responsible for The Princess Bride and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had the same problem.

“Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” — Lawrence Kasdan

To be honest, writing — and all the self-doubt and rejection that goes along with it — is exhausting. When I was making my film Zelos, I remember riding my scooter to night shoots where we would start filming at 10pm and finish the following morning. As I passed houses with the flickering lights of their television screens, I wondered why I put myself through this. These days, I often ask myself: what do other people do on the weekends when I’m sitting at my laptop in despair? But even the co-writer of the Indiana Jones and Star Wars films felt like writing was hard work. So that’s something.

“Anyone can write a first draft but few will keep at it after the euphoria of writing FADE OUT for the first time.” — Anna Klassen

Netflix’s star writer says that the only way to write a first draft is with the awareness that it’s going to be the first of many, so you don’t need to get it right. That’s why I try to churn out a screenplay as quickly as possible without worrying too much about how terrible it is. The hardest part is actually sitting with your first draft and trying to work out how on earth you can improve it. But apparently if I can just get to that second draft, I’m already doing well — see, I feel better already! Don’t you?

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Claire J. Harris

Claire J. Harris

2.7K Followers

Global wanderer. Expert thumb-twiddler. Screenwriter, travel writer, and copy writer. Find me at www.clairejharris.com.