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Weekend Writing Inspiration: Five Steps to Crafting Your 2020 Screenwriting Vision

January 31, 2020
4 min read time

Even with the new year already well upon us, it’s not too late to craft your screenwriting vision for 2020 and beyond.

While many writers focus on goal setting and resolutions when the year turns, I recommend first getting clear on your vision so your goals and resolutions act in service of your vision. It’s too easy to get caught up taking actions that are disconnected from what it is we truly want. When we do that, we end up in an entirely different place than we meant to go.

For example, if you’re pouring hours into feature writing when you ultimately want to work in television, you might want to rethink your approach. Or if your dream is to adapt your own novels, but you’re focused on something else, you’re off track with the big vision. The key is getting as clear as possible about what you are fundamentally intending to create, then reverse engineering from there.

Here are five steps to help you craft your 2020 screenwriting vision:

Step 1. Visualize

Start with visualizing. Where do you want to be at the end of this decade? In five years? At the end of this year? Allow yourself to dream big and imagine where you want to be at the end of each of these time periods to help yourself tune into what you want. It’s okay if you’re not certain, or if the vision adapts and changes over time, but know what you’re aiming for to inform your choices and steps along the way. You probably already have a sense of what you want, but taking time to name it and see if you’re acting in alignment with it is often a missed step.

After you confirm your overall trajectory, hone in on what you’d like this coming year to result in. Make sure to tie the two together.

Want to write in TV? Where would you ideally want to be at the end of this year along the course of that vision?

Want to write adaptations? What would stepping toward that this year look like?

Step 2. Intend

While you’re thinking about your vision, reflect also on your intention, which I define as the underlying energy or quality of work you bring to your endeavors.

How do you want to feel over the course of this year as a writer? And at the end of it? What’s the spirit you want to bring to what you’re doing?

Choose a guiding phrase or word to be a kind of mantra for your year. For example, even a simple intention like “determined” or “introspective” or “well-connected” can guide your vision and work alike.

Step 3. Evaluate

Take a look at where you are right now versus where you want to be by the end of the year. This is the gap you’re going to fill in the coming months. You don’t have to make decisions at this point, but get as clear as possible on where to focus your energy.

Do you already have a body of work and it’s time to focus on networking, relationship building, and querying production companies or looking for a manager? Or is this a year to focus on building your content library and elevating the screenplays you already have in your arsenal? Are there craft skills you want to improve? Is it time for professional feedback?

Step 4. Plan

Now that you know where you’re headed and what you need to focus on, design a plan. This is where reverse engineering comes in. Do you want to revise three scripts this year? Excellent! Make an approximate timeline and map out your work. Divide the year into three sections (leave space for vacations and holidays) and then assign each script its own window. Break it down from there.

Or if you’re determined to build your network of industry professionals, craft a plan for how you’ll systematically identify and connect with people you’d like to work with, support, and be supported by in the coming year. You might make a list of potential contacts and start connecting with them on social media, and build relationships with them from there, making sure to have a consistent routine you use to do so.

Along the lines of our earlier examples, the screenwriter who wants to work in a TV writers room might be focusing on writing pilots, pitching stories to TV/streaming networks, and/or building branding and relationships accordingly. And the writer with a goal of adapting their own novels to scripts might be studying how to master adaptations, making sure their novels are receiving the attention they deserve to make script sales more likely, all while crafting the script versions of their stories.

This is the stage of visioning where you can set measurable goals, such as revising a certain number of pages or scripts or contacting a certain number of people each month. Setting goals and targets at this point makes sense in the context of your vision.

Step 5. Attend

As the year unfolds, pay attention to how well your actions match your vision. Business coach Tara McMullin recommends choosing a “chief initiative” at any given time — the main project you’re working on, regardless of the duration. Your job is to match your chief initiative to your vision, intention and plan, and then to keep attending to it, day by day, week by week, month by month. If you find yourself getting off track, make course corrections to bring yourself back into alignment as you move forward.

And have fun with it! This is your calling after all.

***

Your weekend writer’s assignment

This weekend, brainstorm about your 10-year, five-year, and one-year visions for your screenwriting career. Where do you want to be at the end of each of these time spans? Then once you’re clear(er) on your vision, identify the gap for this year — what do you need to take action on to close the distance between where you are right now and where you want to be? Make a plan and start putting it into action!

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