writers block tips - image of a backpacker passing a bookshelf on the street

Is writer’s block a real thing?

Are you feeling like you can’t write anything useful?

Time passes, you sit staring at the paper or a screen, and nothing comes out. Nothing works. It’s a problem. It’s stressing you out. It makes writing feel like an impossible burden, so you avoid doing the thing you want to do. You avoid starting or finishing that book, screenplay, whatever progress you’ve wanted to make. It just won’t go. You’re… blocked.

I remember reading an article in Wired, years and years ago, about a tech company that was trying to create a scent on-demand appliance. I think it was for the cosmetics industry. The article said the appliance had little vials of different scented oils inside, and they would be opened or closed based on which smell needed to be produced, and a little fan inside the appliance would waft out the scent. In order to test the appliance, the researchers had the journalist stick his nose into a jar of coffee grounds, because somehow the smell of coffee works like an olfactory reset button in our brains.

Later, when I was in college, working on my BFA in Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington, a professor gave us a simple exercise at the beginning of a workshop session when several people came in looking worn out and stressed around exam time. Similar to the idea of throwing a dart at a newspaper to pick stocks, you just open a book or newspaper and blindly point to a sentence, then write for 3-5 minutes exclusively on this random topic, in whatever direction you please. This has a similar effect to the coffee grounds thing on one’s deeper creative brain, effectively allowing the connections to clear. The words we wrote were disposable, and that was the key…

Let’s talk about writer’s block.

Is it a real thing? Yes and no.

It’s not a disease, and in most cases, it’s just an unproductive frame of mind.

Most often, writer’s block is symptomatic of the fear of failure.

The block comes from a place of fear, whether you’re conscious of it or not. Making the act of writing non-precious and for your own immediate satisfaction alone is the solution nine times out of ten.

The tenth case is often depression, which can require medical intervention, and I’m in no way qualified to address it here. If you are feeling depressed and agitated all the time about basically everything for no reason, you should definitely speak with a mental health professional as soon as possible, it’s often simply a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be treated with a variety of medications.

So, what do you do about it?

Metaphorically, you open your veins and bleed on the page because it gives you joy when you let what is inside you flow out. Don’t think about the next page, think only about one line at a time. That’s how you write your way out of a block.

At some point, you just have to let the pressure you’ve allowed weigh on your heart to pass. Say to yourself something like…

This line is going to be trash, and it almost certainly won’t be productive, but if I write a hundred lines, and then even a hundred pages, there is half a chance one of them might be good, and that’s enough to catch the wind and sail on. I know I have to go through the shit and the doldrums to get to the good stuff, but not every comma has to be gold, because in the end I’ll edit, and editing is the real work. All I have to do right now is dream and write down whatever comes to mind that I feel is interesting.

Transcend self-inflicted pressure to perform and you will transcend your creative block.

Don’t worry about what people will think or what will sell during the initial writing process. That’s how you get stuck. Just focus on the joy of the words, then edit later.

You’re probably just prematurely self-censoring, and it’s gumming up the works because idea generation and critical thinking are separate processes. Most people can’t really run them simultaneously. That’s why when you’re brainstorming it’s important to just write everything down and not make any judgments about the ideas while they’re flowing.

Write, then edit. Don’t edit as you write.

Any time you feel like you’re hitting a wall with your writing, step back and dismiss the idea that you need to be accomplishing something concrete at every moment, even if you’re on a deadline. You shouldn’t try to make rational decisions while you’re writing, you do that after you write.

The best cure for writer’s block is low-pressure writing.

Here is a simple exercise:

Use the “Random” feature on Wikipedia here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random

Every time you click that link, it will give you a new Wikipedia entry.

Whatever comes up, use it as a writing prompt for 5 minutes of freewriting that you can assume you’ll immediately discard. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It will help get the lead out.

—— written by Charles Beckwith, January 13th, 2022

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Where can I find screenplays to read?

This is the most important thing:

Read Fucking Screenplays

There is no shortcut for this shit. You can’t just read one book. You won’t learn how to write screenplays if you haven’t read any. Aim for 50 and then read more. All will be revealed.

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Yes, go find more screenplays to read!

And read more screenplays!

software section title card, "is that your final draft?" text over prison bars

Which screenwriting software should I use?

Which screenwriting software should I use?

Just fucking pick one:

  • Final Draft – the standard since the 90s
    (also Final Draft files are the standard file format for collaboration in the industry, but most of these programs export smoothly to .fdr)
  • Fade In – also popular
  • Highland 2 – good shit, free to try, Apple only
  • WriterDuet – best tool for online collaboration, flexible pricing
  • Scrivener – popular with people who also write books
  • KIT Scenarist – freemium open-source software with paid-tier services

If you join UCLA’s WP Now program, you can get discounts on certain screenwriting software.

Do I need screenwriting software at all to get started?

Honestly, you can write your first draft of any screenplay on index cards or a yellow legal pad and it would probably be more useful than trying to learn new software at the same time you’re trying to learn how to tell a story in this way. You’re the only person who needs to see the first couple drafts of a script, so you don’t have to type it yet if you don’t want to. You only need standard formatting when you want to show it to someone in the industry.

Which screenwriting software is best?

Which screenwriting software should you use? That’s really not the first question you should be asking. “How do I tell a story in a way that gets someone to want to turn every page?” is the question you should be asking.

Don’t be asking everyone what to use, it’s a personal preference. Seriously, just fucking pick one.

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Where can I find excellent books on screenwriting?

This is not another “Top 10 Screenwriting Books On Screenwriting” spam list. There are no affiliate links on this page.

Did you already read some screenplays? Do you want books on screenwriting now?

Books on Screenwriting

Read this shit first.

Four books every screenwriter should read first:

  • Bob’s Book – So many people come to the entertainment business with huge misconceptions. Many things movies and TV have told us about how things work turn out to be convenient lies. But in That’s Not The Way It Works, veteran screenwriter Bob Saenz breaks down the mechanics and processes of screenwriting as a job. If you want to know how to write a script that can actually be sold in the current market, definitely start here.
  • Joe’s Book – J. Michael Straczynski wrote this as the book he wished he had when he started in the business.
  • Art and Fear – Frank Herbert wrote, “fear is the mind-killer.” Art and Fear is probably the best book on how to deal with the mental obstacles all artists must cope with when creating. Creating things can be a joy, but it can also be incredibly stressful. This book helps.
  • The Screenwriter’s Bible – Even the most seasoned professionals keep this around. It’s like a complete DIY home repair book for all things screenplay.

Check out the Blogs page for free online reading material.

Read those? Now go write some shit.

Wrote some shit? Messed around with it? Now go read more screenplays.

Eventually, later, read this shit:

  • Adventures in the Screen Trade – William Goldman was basically a creative genius, both at writing screenplays and explaining how they work. Check out a film he wrote called The Princess Bride.
Image showing the cover of “Save The Cat” with a warning about not reading it first. Many Recommend this as one of the great books on screenwriting, but it’s very problematic for beginners.
The best books on screenwriting for beginners tend to be more practical than theoretical. Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat” series is best classified as theoretical material and should be taken with a grain of salt. A working screenwriter should have an awareness of what this book contains, but following it too closely or as gospel tends to result in thoroughly unoriginal and uninteresting work from beginning screenwriters.
  • Save The Cat – Be careful about this paint-by-numbers shit, this is a guide, not a template.
  • Story by Robert McKee – Seriously, do not read this shit first, read screenplays. McKee give you interesting things to think about, but really not a lot of the practical information you need to get started. If you read this first you may be very confused.
  • How Not to Write a Screenplay, AKA “101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make,” which is by the guy who co-wrote Star Trek VI. Anybody who can keep up with Nicholas Meyer is probably worth listening to.

Books screenwriters should read that aren’t strictly about screenwriting:

  • Who The Devil Made It – It’s hard to imagine that anyone ever had a better awareness of film history and the actual personalities and temperaments involved than Peter Bogdanovich. His efforts in documenting Hollywood history were second to none.
  • Sculpting In Time – Fucking Tarkovsky, man. Watch his shit. Poetry and technical mastery from an absolute genius filmmaker working during the worst years of the Soviet Union. He had none of the advantages American and European commercial filmmakers had to work with. What he actually accomplished with what he had available is mind-blowing. Learn anything and everything you can from him.
  • Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual – This actually explains how comedy works. That’s not a joke. It’s an actual technical manual for making things funnier.
  • The Playboy Interview: The Directors – A really good collection of in-depth interviews with fantastic storytellers. The one with comedians is also quite interesting.
  • Hit and Run – You won’t believe this shit. Hollywood at its worst. Read this to be prepared.
  • Harpo Speaks! – Technically, not shit. Read up and gain mad respect for this artist. Anyone who gets to the end of this book and isn’t crying has no soul.
  • Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece – Don’t let this shit happen to you. Clarke basically got mugged by Kubrick. Learn the warning signs and make sure your contracts don’t let anyone do this to you.

More than any single book, if you want to be writing movies and television, you should be reading screenplays (good and bad).

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podcasts section title card

What are the best screenwriting podcasts for new screenwriters who don’t know anything yet?

Listen to this shit:

This list is intentionally short. These are just the best screenwriting podcasts for new writers. There are hundreds of screenwriting and entertainment industry podcasts, but you should start with just these three.

You should be making friends with other screenwriters, so ask them what else to listen to.

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movies section title card

What are the best movies for a new screenwriter to watch?

What are the best movies for a new screenwriter to watch? You have probably already watched a lot of the kinds of movies you want to make. This list is more about teaching you valuable lessons about writing and how people use a camera to tell a great story.

Watch this shit:

What are some other best movies for a new screenwriter to watch? Start networking and ask other screenwriters.

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” – Harlan Ellison

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Videos for screenwriters to learn about screenwriting.

If you’ve read fucking screenplays, maybe you’re a bit tired of learning from the page, so here are some great informational videos for screenwriters and links to channels where you can find many more.

You can learn a lot of shit from channeling YouTube:

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Where do I find good screenwriting blogs?

Are There Screenwriting Blogs?

Of course, there are fucking screenwriting blogs.

Primary Recommendation:

If you only pay for one thing in your screenwriting career preparation, a Medium.com subscription to access all that Go Into The Story has to offer is where you should park your dimes.

It’s mostly written and edited by one guy, Scott Myers, who really knows his shit. An amazing resource with probably over 1000 articles at this point. They’re on basically everything you could possibly want to know about screenwriting.

You’ll need to subscribe to Medium.com (not expensive) to read past the first few entries, but it’s totally worth it.

Other Good Screenwriting Blogs:

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How do I copyright a screenplay?

How do I copyright a screenplay?

A Simple Guide To Copyright For Screenwriters






You have an inherent right to control and profit from any original work you independently generate, but what you need in place to protect that right is serious motherfucking documentation.

Need a lawyer? The lawyers section has links to several different lists of entertainment lawyers.

In the United States, if you created a work of art, whether it’s taking a photograph, doodling a sketch, or laboring out the first sentence of a screenplay, then you automatically own the copyright on that work. However, you may have trouble proving that, so read on…

If you get into a situation where someone is claiming your work as their own, you want some evidence to take with you to court. Basically, the best evidence of authorship is a registered copyright.


A registered copyright is easy to obtain. Before you show your script to strangers, or even friends and family you don’t quite trust, just pay the filing fee and register what you’ve got.

By holding registered copyright, if you need to go to court, essentially your witness is the Library of Congress. The usefulness of being in this position cannot be overstated.

So, when in doubt, always pay the fee and get the thing.

How do you copyright a screenplay? Here’s what you do:

  • To copyright a screenplay, start by going to https://eco.copyright.gov/
  • Set up an account, and make sure you save your copyright.gov login information in a safe place
  • for Register a Work select Standard Application if you are collaborating with another writer, or One Work One Author if you are the sole writer (slightly less expensive)
  • for Type of Work select “work of the performing arts”
  • for Titles click “New” and type in your title
  • keep hitting “Next” until you’ve finished checking out and have paid the registration fee

Important notes:

Hit Next

For some reason, the “Next” button is at the top of the screen, so you have to scroll back up to go to the next step each time.

Work For Hire

If you’re doing “Work For Hire,” the copyright may belong to your employer (based on your employment contract language). If you plan to work on side projects while employed by a studio, make sure they don’t own your side hustle. Again, consult an entertainment lawyer.

WGA Registration

Some people may tell you to register your shit with the Writers Guild of America West (WGA).

WGA registration is definitely not a substitute for federal copyright registration.

WGA registration only provides limited added protection in certain situations.

But It’s Unfinished / Unpublished…

Copyright and Registered Copyright cover both published and unpublished works.

You can file an update on a registered work if it has been modified since the original filing.

The last time we checked, it cost about $35 to file an update.

Other People’s Shit

Don’t rip other people’s shit off.

If you want to make Citizen Kane II: Rosebud’s Revenge, you need permission from the rights holders to create a derivative work.

As a new writer, you just aren’t going to get those rights without weird extenuating circumstances, so basing your script on someone else’s work, unless it’s clearly in the public domain, is a complete waste of time and energy, and you won’t be able to sell it.

The Foreigner

If you live outside the United States and it’s awkward to register copyright locally, you can likely still register your work with the US Copyright Office. Most nations operate with mutually recognized copyright treaties.

“An eligible source country is a country, other than the United States, that is a member of the WTO, a member of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, or subject to a presidential proclamation…” – LoC Circular 38B

Here is the official list of countries with whom the USA has a copyright treaty in place: LoC Circular 38A

“Can I copyright my idea?”

No, you cannot copyright “an idea,” you need to actually do the work of writing out a specific narrative.

Even if it’s just a one-page or five-page treatment, or some sort of short story, you still need to have more than just “shark guy in board shorts terrorizes Ohio.” What happens to him? How do people react to him? How did he get there? Flesh it out.

A narrative is more than just a situational premise or inciting incident. You need to string together a bunch of ideas in words people can read to be able to register copyright on narrative work. An interplay of multiple ideas is what is considered unique and protectable for these purposes.

“Copyright 2021, The Noob”

Some people will say putting the copyright notice on your title page makes you look like an amateur. Ignore them, they’re not lawyers.

From the beginning of the work on a screenplay, you can immediately write “Copyright {year}, {your name}” on your title page, and you should do that.

“Copyright {your name} {year}” also works.

However, don’t put your registration numbers on the script (LoC or WGA). You are the only person who needs that information until you file a lawsuit.


Non-Disclosure Agreements are not helpful when you’re trying to sell your script.

Unless you’ve made it up to the Aaron Sorkin level of success, don’t ask a serious producer to sign an NDA.

You don’t want to be projecting “Hey, look at me, I’m litigious!” It’s a rookie move that will get you nowhere. If you have the copyright registered, that’s your protection.

If you want to hear basically the same information presented here, but from an actual lawyer, consult Stanley B Gill’s website.

Read more about entertainment lawyers.

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Understanding and finding lawyers for screenwriters

Lawyer The Fuck Up


For employment contracts, most entertainment lawyers charge a 5% fee, so you don’t have to pay before the deal closes.

Find A Lawyer:

Be selective. Find someone you’re comfortable communicating with. This is a relationship you’re starting.

Here are some lists of entertainment lawyers and law firms:

see also: Entertainment Law Exposed on Clubhouse

Notes on Working With Entertainment Lawyers:

Ask Your Questions

  • Once you have a lawyer you are going to work with on a regular basis, they tend to be pretty open to the occasional quick question. Don’t abuse their attention, but also don’t hesitate to call them when something feels sketchy.
  • Calling to ask, “should I sign this?” takes 2 minutes on the phone and can save you millions of dollars in lost revenue.
  • If they’re not open to infrequent quick consults, or they ignore you or bill you for every second of their time, you may want to find a different lawyer.

Don’t Release Me

  • Most entertainment lawyers will advise you not to sign those rights-grabby submission release waiver whatever forms a lot of agents, managers, producers, and competitions often require new screenwriters to send before they’ll look at an “unsolicited” script.
  • Once you’re properly represented, whenever someone asks you to send them a script, you should be able to just email them the PDF and copy your lawyer (see note below) the same way you would when represented by an agent or manager. As a client of an established entertainment lawyer, you do in fact have representation.

Note: ABSOLUTELY DO NOT try to fake having an entertainment lawyer to submit materials. It will not end well. It’s a small fucking town.

Good lawyers for screenwriters are usually pretty nice people.

Most entertainment lawyers are people who like working with artists or they wouldn’t have taken the job.

If you stay professional, manage your expectations, do your own homework, ask good questions, and bring them opportunities to profit, they should look after you fairly well.

If you get a sense that they’re not interested in you, or they’re just in it all for ego reasons, find a different one.

Looking for referrals? Network with other screenwriters to find the best lawyers for screenwriters.

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