Write what fascinates you

This seems simple, right? Of course we should write about what fascinates us, what we obsess over. But so many people approach writing, and especially screenwriting, as if it can be gamed, figured out, strategized.

And if you’re someone who can do that, congratulations. Rock on. Although I wish you wouldn’t waste that kind of strategic brainpower on show business. There’re problems to be solved, out there in the real world. Go figure out how to arbitrage our energy resources in a way that motivates buyers and seller to create a more equitable market or something. I don’t know. Because I don’t think that way. But obviously you do.

As for the rest of us. We need to calculate less. And to look inside to find our subject matter. Or outside at the world we see, but through a prism of enthusiasm. Meaning: we must find subjects that are personally animating. Inspiring and engaging to us.

Once we do, we have a shot at making them inspiring and engaging for others as well.

Because when the story is important to you. When it fascinates you. That passion is tangible. The reader senses it. And, without even knowing why, gives you the benefit of the doubt. You still have to tell the story well, of course, and that still takes an enormous amount of effort and concentration. But: The huge collateral benefit of telling stories that genuinely fascinate you is this: forcing yourself to sit down and actually do the work is much, much easier than when you are merely writing something because you think it is marketable, can sell, is in a genre that’s currently in demand.

So. Calculate less. Write your obsessions. And have a better chance of A) really getting something written and B) making your screenplay into something that excites and engages the reader.

What can I do today to put myself in a peak state to create?

That’s the question I try to ask myself whenever I feel like I’m drifting, going along without intention. And then I make sure to do those things.

It’s a personal question. At different stages of my life, the answer would have been slightly different. But some elements always remain: 1) some form of exercise. These days that mostly means a long walk to wherever it is I am going to write that day.  On weekends, I jog, slowly, for between a half hour and an hour. 2) Meditation. Every day. Morning and afternoon for twenty minutes. 3) some form of journaling, usually morning pages, as described in Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way 4) the right music (today, and many days, that’s an album by The Hold Steady. 

When I incorporate these things into my day, I am able to ease the doubts, quiet the inner critic and get into the state of flow I need to be at my most creative. 

What do you do? Do you even know? Should you start to find out? 

Ask yourself: What can I do today to put myself in a peak state to create? And let me know the answer.