Ask the Coach: Recovering From a Writer’s Dark Night of the Soul – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m responding to a comment from a writer online about having a moment of wondering why she’s still trying to write.

Having one of those nights where it feels like all of my writing is just a giant waste of time and nothing is ever going to come of it so why do I keep trying 🙃 (This feeling means I’m due for some kind of success like, tomorrow, right??)

I love the positive spin at the end! I had a similar response, which was, “My take is that it means you’re on the verge of a breakthrough with your current script!” And, I immediately had several further thoughts on the subject, so I asked for permission to elaborate, which was granted.

In the article, I discuss the following suggestions for supporting yourself in a dark night of the soul moment:

  1. Know that dark nights of the soul are real and normal, yet painful.
  2. Ask yourself what it would look like not to write.
  3. Remind yourself why you love to write. 
  4. Hold that no writing is ever wasted.
  5. See frustration as a sign of an impending breakthrough.
  6. Focus your appreciation on the process of writing. 
  7. Create your own outcomes.

I’ve yet to meet a writer who doesn’t have dark moments from time to time. While this means we’re not alone in having these experiences, it sure can feel that way. Taking time to reflect and support yourself through the dark moments will help you come out the other side more committed and focused on what you truly want to do.

 

Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
 

Ask the Coach: 7 Steps to Recovering Writing Motivation After a Creative Setback – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m responding to a question from a reader about staying motivated and disciplined after receiving discouraging feedback. 

Hi Jenna, I recently had a major setback: some pretty discouraging feedback from a reader. What are some tips for staying motivated and disciplined as a writer, particularly when facing rejection or setbacks? I’m writing on spec.

In my response, I share seven steps for handling setbacks and moving forward:

  1. Recognize the need for recovery time — and take it.
  2. Consider the source.
  3. Ask for outside support, depending on the severity of the situation.
  4. Reconnect with your inner motivation and original vision for the story.
  5. When you’re ready, review the feedback through your storyteller’s lens.
  6. Craft a revision plan (or not!) based on your decisions.
  7. Aim to build a writing practice or habit.

We all face painful or challenging feedback as writers. Not everyone will like our work. The key is deciding if and how to use the feedback we receive for maximum effect after we’ve given ourselves time and space to recover so we can keep writing with clear hearts and minds.

Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
 
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Ask the Coach: 10 Ways to Deal with Writer’s Procrastination – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m responding to a question from a reader about managing procrastination.

Dear Jenna, I struggle with procrastination and getting started writing. I want to write, but each day I wrestle with myself to get started. When I do finally get around to writing, I feel so much better. But I hate all the time I’m wasting. What can I do to get myself to work faster?

First, you’re not alone. Many writers struggle with procrastination, if not all, at least at some point in their writing lives.

Procrastination is one of the many ways fear manifests for writers, along with perfectionism, paralysis, self-doubt, negative self-esteem, and more. These are all forms of writing “resistance,” which is an oppositional force artists, writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs face. It works hard to keep us “safe” from taking risks, usually based on past and childhood experiences that have taught us to avoid certain kinds of exposure or self-expression. Procrastination — putting off doing the work — is a way of managing the fear and anxiety we feel.

Unfortunately, procrastination is like a band-aid on top of an infected wound. Because procrastinating doesn’t resolve the underlying anxiety or fear, it simply delays it. If anything, even while procrastinating, we’re still walking around with a (low, sometimes) level of fear and anxiety.

The beautiful thing is that writing is the ultimate cure-all for the fear once we can get ourselves to take the actions and do the work.

In my response, I discuss ten strategies for dealing with procrastination:

  1. Tell yourself you only have to write for X minutes.
  2. Find a deadline or goal for your work.
  3. Reverse-engineer a timeline.
  4. Give yourself permission to start over.
  5. Write early or late.
  6. Focus on showing up.
  7. “Find” writing.
  8. Trust your inner voice.
  9. Focus on how you feel when you’ve written.
  10. Recognize the underlying fear.

When you’re struggling to write, remind yourself how good you feel when you’re engaged with the purely creative act and process of writing, regardless of the outcome or result.

 
Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
 

Ask the Coach: How Can I Focus On My Own Unique Voice? – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m responding to a question from a reader about comparison and embracing your unique voice as a writer.

Dear Jenna, I have a tendency to compare my writing to others. How can I focus on my own unique voice and style without feeling inadequate or inferior?

In the coaching world, there’s this phrase, “compare and despair,” which gets right to the heart of your question. It means that to invite comparison is to invite despair, aka feeling inadequate and inferior. There’s another related notion that goes something like this: When you compare, someone always loses. It might be you, it might be the other person, but either way, it doesn’t feel good, and it’s always a one-up, one-down situation.

Writing doesn’t have to be like that.

There’s room for a whole spectrum of styles of writing, even in screenwriting.

In my response, I discuss:

  • Making a conscious choice to choose inspiration over despair, envy, or jealousy
  • Studying the work you admire and parsing the writing to understand what makes it work for you
  • Determining which skills you feel inspired to grow into and which skills you admire but feel disconnected from or unable to master
  • Leaning in, hard, to your own lived experience by being willing to lay out rich, powerful emotional moments and undercurrents on the page
  • Letting your natural voice come through on the page

You’re not inferior or inadequate. You are different, with your own stories to tell, in your own unique voice and style. That’s ultimately what makes your work special.

 
Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
 

Ask the Coach: How Can I Stop Self-Doubt From Stopping Me? – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m responding to a question from a reader about self-doubt and feeling like an impostor or not a “real” writer.

Dear Jenna, I keep feeling like I’m not a “real” writer and that I’ll never be good enough. But I want to write! How do I keep my self-doubt and feeling like an impostor from affecting my writing and creativity?

Feeling like an impostor or not a “real” writer is tough. It can even feel like maybe you’re not allowed to pursue this career you want. But every writer starts out from not being a writer. Some start earlier, some later, but we all start somewhere.

Many writers think we can’t call ourselves writers until we are sold, optioned, hired, produced, or published, and stick words like “aspiring” in front of the word “writer” until reaching one of those states, almost as a way of atoning for the temerity in adopting the identity at all.

In my response, I discuss:

  • Writing regularly as an antidote to feeling like a writing impostor.
  • Claiming your identity as a writer with the words, “I am,” while also taking the actions to back it up.
  • Seeing your access to the challenges of being human as a tool for helping you develop deeper characters.
  • Working with a compassionate mentor.
  • Framing what you’re telling yourself about writing and about who you are as a writer.

What are you telling yourself about writing and about who you are as a writer, and is that story serving you? If not, tell a better story. 

 

Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
 

Ask the Coach: How Do I Set Goals While Recovering From Burnout? – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m responding to a question from a reader about setting goals for the new year while also recovering from burnout. 

Hi Jenna, it’s the start of the year, and I know it’s past time to sort out my writing goals for 2024, but I’m (still) recovering from burnout and I worry about pushing myself too far. I’m writing on spec, so I don’t have deadlines I have to meet, just a sense that I need to get work out into the world ASAP. What suggestions do you have for making the most of writing this year, while also continuing to recover. Thank you! ~ One Burned Out Writer

It’s no small task, and as someone who’s been in a similar situation, I know it takes as long as it takes. Many writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs around me seem to be experiencing similar circumstances. I’m seeing quite a few thought-leaders advising against pushing hard on the goal-setting front this year.

Whether your burnout is personal, writing-related, or because of the happenings of the broader world, taking the time you need to recover is critical to your ability to generate your best work. So do give the gift of recovery to yourself.

In my response, I discuss:

  • trusting yourself and your intuition with goal setting
  • focusing on what would feel good to you over deadlines and SMART goals
  • focusing on the practices, habits, or rituals you’d like to have in place around your writing
  • guiding your writing while recuperating by intuition rather than force
  • allowing time for “sideways drift”

Thankfully, writing is not incompatible with recuperation. I would argue that writing is a critical part of how we heal and find ourselves again, if we have the patience and willingness to stay with it. 

 

Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
 

Ask the Coach: On Pacing & Structure with Screenwriter Jeff Howard – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m addressing two similar but separate questions from readers about building to a climax and keeping a story moving with help from guest expert Jeff Howard.

Question 1: How do I build tension toward a climax using structure and pacing?

Question 2: How do I combine actions with dialogue to keep the story moving?

Here are the recommendations Jeff discusses for building tension using structure and pacing, then about using dialogue to keep a story moving.

  • Tighten pacing with a shorter “second half.”
  • Design tension with your outline.
  • Earn your climax with your second act.
  • Use dialogue as “frosting” on the cake of your script.

 

…if you want to build to an exciting climax, you’ve got to mirror it with the first act and you’ve got to plan how to get there.
— Jeff Howard

 

Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
 

Ask the Coach: On Character Development & Arc with Screenwriter Jeff Howard – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m addressing — with help from Screenwriter Jeff Howard (‘Midnight Mass,’  ‘Haunting of Hill House,’  ‘Oculus,’  ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil,’  ‘Gerald’s Game’) — two similar but separate questions from readers about character arc and character development:

Question 1: How to develop a character arc that is consistent with the story?

Question 2: How to continue developing your characters throughout the story?

Here are the main insights discussed in response:

  • Character or plot first?
  • Imagine your plot and character together from the start.
  • Intertwine character and action early.
  • Don’t worry about ‘core wounds,’ etc.
  • Think of your character as a real human being — always trying to win.
  • See character as living through the eyes of another person.
  • Embrace action and character as one and the same.

 

To me, good character work is living within the moment of what’s happening — the actual moments of the story — not laying some construct of life-changing stuff on top of your story. 
— Jeff Howard

 

Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
 
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Ask the Coach: Odds & Ends: Getting Started with Screenwriting & More – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m addressing a collection of shorter questions from writers wondering about getting started with screenwriting, writing and learning screenwriting in another country, getting an MFA, and finding other screenwriters.

My responses include:

  • Steps to begin exploring and learning screenwriting
  • Tips for finding writing mentors
  • How to evaluate whether an MFA program could be a good fit
  • The challenge of the term thick skinned
  • Where to find writing groups online, especially for screenwriters

There really are no “shoulds” with writing. There are so many paths forward, and it’s about choosing what resonates with you the most.

 

Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
 

Ask the Coach: 6 Antidotes for Self-Doubt in Writing – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m addressing a set of questions from a reader about managing self-doubt in writing.

“[My] fear of failure has several prongs for me:

1. What if no one likes my writing? I’m trying to make it as truthful as it is filled with emotion and colorful descriptions, but maybe it’s just me because I relate to it all.

2. I’m currently writing a memoir that involves some memories of my parents and their failures — but good memories also. I feel guilty/disloyal for writing about their failures, but to some extent that’s where the strength of the story lies.

3. What I create in my head as I’m falling asleep never seems to be as great when I put it into my computer.

4. I suffer off and on with imposter syndrome, but I usually like what I write in the end.”

This is a set of challenging questions so many writers wrestle with. It reads to me like issues of self-doubt more than a fear of failure, though the two are intertwined.

First let me say this: In working with writers all over the world, being a writer myself, and reading first-hand accounts of seasoned, professional writers, so many if not all writers deal with self-doubt and fear much of the time (including me).

Here are the 6 antidotes I discuss in my response:

  1. Use self-doubt as a clue that what you’re working on is important.
  2. Trust that truth transcends differences.
  3. Ask yourself empowering questions.
  4. With memoir, write for yourself first.
  5. Embrace the vision while also welcoming imperfection.
  6. Trust the process.

The real key to all of this is learning to manage the doubts and the fears so they don’t stop you from writing, and so that they don’t make the experience of writing miserable along the way, by triggering overwhelming negative self-talk, habitual procrastination, perfectionism, and even shame.

 

Want the full scoop? Get all the details in the full article on Script Mag:
 
 
 
If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.