To wrap up my recent series of posts on writing your first draft, it’s worth stating the obvious: One way or another all successful writers have found a way to sit themselves down on a regular basis and turn out pages day after day, week after week, year after year. And the operative word here is discipline.
Almost every writer struggles with this to one degree or another. And the best of them have found a way to fight their way through the ever-present alluring distractions of their daily lives and sit themselves down and focus on the task at hand. It may be painful, even agonizing, to order your body into your writing space and force your mind and fingers to crank up yet again, but this the only way scripts get written.
You’ve got to produce actual pages, lots of them. One at a time. Steadily, stubbornly. With determination. Sometimes with gritted teeth. And sometimes with great pleasure. Page after page after page…day after day after day…
Here are some our most successful writers on the subject:
The late Wendy Wasserstein:
I’m innately a very undisciplined writer. I’ll be distracted by anything, basically. I take phone calls, I speak too many places. But finally, when I think, “this is too much, I can’t do this any more, I must write,” I set aside time and say, “Wendy, every day for x amount of hours you’ll be in a room writing–no telephone. You must do this or you’re going to go mad.” So that’s what happens. It really takes discipline.
Playwright Terrence McNally:
I have to sit at my desk to work….I have to sit there and look at that computer screen. And not talk on the phone. You have to be really grown up… Once you start on a play, it’s an enormous emotional, physical, spiritual commitment. It’s a big thing to write a play.
And screenwriter and playwright John Patrick Shanley:
At a certain point I had a job, so I had to get up at five o’clock every morning and write for three hours, and then I would go to work…My only rule was that I had to be sitting at that typewriter. I didn’t care if I wrote anything or, if I did what it was. Just so long as I was sitting at the typewriter, then I was writing. So I created a space and habit in my life with that.
Somewhere inside you have to find that commitment. Because without self-discipline, even a towering gift lies dormant.