Recollections and advice from a writer constantly struggling with writing
Don't have time to read my full blog post? Here's a quick summary:
I'm always learning and growing as a writer, and I want to share my methods for anyone else who might get some use out of them!
Recommended reading (Affiliate link): Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Check out the template I personally built and often use for my stories. Page counts are directly from Save the Cat and therefore are based on film scripts.
These beats are EQUALLY applicable to all kinds of stories! TV shows, podcasts, short stories, and even things like commercials and anecdotes! MAKE THEM YOURS. And yes: I genuinely use this, myself.
Okay now here's my full post:
In the years that I've been writing, producing podcasts, and performing, the thing I've always considered myself first and foremost is a PROBLEM SOLVER.
EVERYTHING is a series of problems to solve. Today I want to focus on WRITING.
Got an idea you want to turn into a story? PROBLEM: What's the best way to TELL the story? Movie? Show? Audio? Sort Story? Tweet?
Not familiar with script formatting or story structure? PROBLEM: How do I format my story?
Got a blank page in front of you that feels daunting? PROBLEM: How do I get over the anxiety of filling in the page (What if what I write isn't perfect)?
Running into a wall, where you're not sure how to get to the finale you had originally envisioned? PROBLEM: Does my idea need to change?
And those are just SOME of the COUNTLESS walls you hit from idea to writing/scripting, or writing to production, or production to launch, or launch to marketing, and beyond.
Now, the SOLUTIONS themselves might be helpful in this article, right? But who knows if MY particular solutions will be a good fit for YOU? My point right now, is that you have to learn how to best solve your problems in a way that works for your specific style.
The point is to stop seeing these walls as barriers to progressing, but as problems that simply require a clever solution.
You feel hungry -> you eat something, right? Simple catalyst and solution.
But demotivation doesn't feel as obvious as feeling hungry, or thirsty, or tired...
The biggest trick, in my opinion, is noticing that you have a problem to solve at all!
Writer's block can feel insurmountable. It's obviously a very common issue writers complain about. Here's something I do a lot:
It's 9am, and I'm exhausted. I have two machines in front of me: my laptop, where I work, or my phone, where I stare at twitter and privately judge everything I read.
The phone provides instant gratification...I can do that for HOURS, without really being mentally engaged... And you know what?
Sometimes I choose the phone!
Maybe MOST of the time!
I'll "doom-scroll" and get lost in NONSENSE for HOURS, until suddenly the guilt of my lack of productivity builds, and just like a shaken bottle of soda, eventually the pressure builds so much that it's going to burst. SOMETIMES, this will push me to grab the laptop and prove that I can write, or edit, or do my research for a show, or whatever the task of the moment is.
A lot of the time it just makes me sleepy.
Procrastinating and getting annoyed at myself for procrastinating is a LARGE part of my process.
But there are some days where I just fearlessly grab the laptop and dive in. And in those moments I strive not only to do the work, but also to remember the feeling of success I often get by shoving my doubts to the side and writing something (anything), even if it needs to be COMPLETELY rewritten later.
Two imperfect systems. Both difficult to replicate. So I started thinking about ways to ease the kickoff of my writing process.
...I built myself a tool.
In my experience, I'm confident that everyone has their own style, methods, and preferences for how stories work and flow, let alone their own specific comfortable writing tools. I'm one of those people who only uses ONE type of pen, for example (not that I do much handwriting, these days).
So I'll share this tool I built knowing full well that what works for me might be crap to you. But why not share something that, more often than not, helps me solve the problems of what to write, how to write it, why it needs to be told, who my characters are, and how it all can get from a day dream to a story on the page?
TheMythTraveler's Story Beats Template (Constantly evolving)
In the document you'll see a series of simple questions that will hopefully spark your creativity and get you to re-envision your IDEA as a PROBLEM to solve. A world to BUILD.
PRO TIP - Hover your mouse over some of the cells to read more about what the beats and terms actually mean!
Listen, I can't claim to have truly invented this thing. It's a hodgepodge. A living document as I learn new lessons from books or from creating future projects.
The document is MOSTLY based on the wonderfully motivational "Save the Cat," by Blake Snyder. I never thought I would enjoy a book about writing until I read Snyder's anatomy of storytelling.
This is NOT about saying "ALL STORIES MUST FUNCTION THUSLY." It's about acknowledging "THIS IS HOW A LOT OF WONDERFUL STORIES ARE TOLD."
Break the rules, find your loopholes, go for it.
Just take it from me that I have literally filled out this simple worksheet numerous times, and I've always felt like this format of questions and answers can take the doughy sphere of an idea I had, and knead/roll/flatten it into a pizza crust, ready for the next step.
Maybe this sheet can help SOME of your problems.
Let me know if it does! Or if you have other tricks of your own to share!
And go solve those problems, problem-solvers!