Write Like It’s the Last Thing You’ll Ever Write!
September 8, 2023
Writing like it’s the last thing you’ll ever write might sound overdramatic to some people, but writing is all about having the right mindset.
Whether you’re an aspiring or professional screenwriter, facing the empty page is a battle. Some days the prospect of writing just one page let alone an entire screenplay can be daunting.
You have to motivate yourself to write and sometimes this requires certain mental tricks. This is why the mindset you have when writing is important. In addition, writing like it’s the last thing you’ll ever write can actually make your writing stronger.
But before embracing this mindset, you have to set the stage for it…
Setting the Stage for Your Writing
The more mentally prepared you are, the more you can write with abandon. Before starting your screenplay you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Why are you the best person to write this script?
- What made you want to write it in the first place?
- Is there anything about your personality, taste or background that makes you the best person to handle this material?
If you don’t think you’re the best person to write this script, others might feel the same way when reading it. Your mindset should be the following: You have a story to tell and you’re the best person to tell it. It’s what you were born to do. Everything in your life has been leading to this defining moment: you writing this script!
Notice how dramatic and exciting that sounds?
It sounds almost like… a movie!
And that’s the point. You want the people reading your script to feel like they’re reading a movie. Having some pumped-up bravado when you write can definitely help you convey this feeling. In the same way most movies deal with the most important event to ever happen in a character’s life, your writing should have gravitas and purpose. Even if it’s a screwball comedy, it should be the screwball comedy to end all screwball comedies and reinvent the genre.
This might sound like hyperbole or too much to ask of an aspiring writer, but it’s like the famous quote from The Power of Positive Thinking author Norman Vincent Peale: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”
The goal is to push yourself to write at the highest level possible and produce the best script available. It doesn’t have to literally be the best thing ever written.
It just has to be written to the best of your abilities.
Don’t Hold Back When Writing
One of the main reasons you should write like it’s the last thing you’ll ever write is it’ll enhance your voice. And if your writing showcases a unique and discernible voice, it’ll make your script a stronger writing sample and give you a brand as a writer.
Because of this, a writer shouldn’t hold back and put all of their personality and passion into their writing. Even if there’s personal stuff that might embarrass some people you know in real life, if it can make your screenplay have more impact, use it. The more of yourself you put into your script, the more emotionally invested you’ll be. This might make others feel the same way. Ultimately this is what you’re going for: an emotional reaction from the reader.
I was a dishwasher in Pennsylvania when co-writing a spec script that would eventually sell for 7 figures (thanks to a movie star’s attachment). The script was entitled Pierre Pierre. It was a subversive dark comedy and my former writing partner, Frederick Seton, and I didn’t think of it as a studio film when writing it (which is probably why it never became one). Despite never getting produced, the script became a calling card for us. In addition to life-changing money, the script sale led to us becoming professional screenwriters.
When writing Pierre Pierre we never held back and we never thought about what was next. The world could explode when we wrote the last line, we didn’t care. Everything was about that moment and that script when we were writing it. As far as we were concerned, we might never write another script again. A few years later, we were sitting in a movie star’s living room and he told us reading the script was like, "hearing Appetite for Destruction for the first time."
When you have nothing to lose and go for broke, you create something kinetic. People reading your script will respond to the energy and find it exciting. It’ll read like a statement because you were making a statement when writing it.
The Last Thing You’ll Ever Write… Until The Next Script!
“Writing like it’s the last thing you’ll ever write” shouldn’t be taken literally. Once again, it’s an effective mental trick to help you start your script and to be passionate while writing it. Your words will pop off the page. Your voice will shine brightly.
I always write every script like it’s the last thing I’ll write and I’ve written 30 + scripts in the past 15 years. A few have sold, a few more didn’t, but they all felt like “the one” when writing them. And this helped me finish every one of them. It’s what keeps fueling me again and again as a writer and this mindset has kept me in writing shape. It’s one of the things that makes writing fun and it’s why I keep coming back to it (even after many career ups and downs).
There’s a lot of competition out there thanks to an ever-growing screenwriting marketplace. As a result, industry professionals are bombarded with numerous scripts on a daily basis. Even if you have a great concept, readers might stop reading after the first couple of pages if your writing doesn’t engage them. This is why writing like it’s the last thing you’ll ever write is a great mindset to have: it’ll add energy and passion to your script.
So whether you’re writing your first script or your thirtieth, this mindset can work for you as well.
Now go and write like it’s the thing you’ll ever write…!
Written by: Edwin CannistraciEdwin Cannistraci is a professional screenwriter. His comedy specs PIERRE PIERRE and O’GUNN both sold with more than one A-list actor and director attached. In addition, he’s successfully pitched feature scripts, TV pilots and has landed various assignment jobs for Universal, Warner Bros, Paramount and Disney.