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 Can I Keep Up My Confidence In Myself as a Writer? – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article, I’m responding to a question about how to keep up confidence in writing:

“My biggest challenge is making regular time to write and work on a script. My question is about keeping my confidence up that I can do this.”

Here’s the high-level overview of my response:

  • Being confident means feeling self-assured, believing in yourself and your abilities, and trusting that you can rely on yourself.
  • Build confidence through experience and by taking action.
  • Protect your confidence by making smart choices about who you interact with and with whom you share your work.
  • How you talk to yourself really matters.
  • Taking consistent, regular action to write builds confidence.
  • Starting and finishing scripts makes a big difference.
  • Facing and solving tough story challenges teaches you that your storytelling skills are improving.
  • The evidence you take in matters.
  • Choosing to believe in yourself ultimately comes first — it’s a choice.

When you take creative risks, however small, and build on your successes, you gradually learn where and how you can trust yourself.

Want the full scoop? There are more details in the full article on Script Mag: 
Ask the Coach: How Can I Keep Up My Confidence In Myself as a Writer?

If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash 
calendar & coffee cup

Ask the Coach: How Can I Build a Consistent Writing Routine? – On Script Mag

In this month’s “Ask the Coach” article I’m answering a reader question about how to build a consistent writing routine, even while managing work and family.

This is the high level view of the 7 tips I shared to help writers start to establish a consistent writing routine and rhythm. Each tip is described more fully in the article, but here’s the list to get you started: 

  1. Begin with sustainability in mind. 
  2. Study your own “resistance threshold.” 
  3. Explore your optimal time of day for writing. 
  4. Trim time from less fulfilling activities. 
  5. Design a writing schedule. 
  6. Build in writing associations or triggers. 
  7. Implement and refine.


In order to be consistent, a useful strategy is selecting a sustainable level of effort for each of your writing sessions.

Want the full scoop? There are more details in the full article on Script Mag: 
Ask the Coach: How Can I Build a Consistent Writing Routine? 

If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

Ask the Coach: Superstitious About Writing Time? – On Script Mag

Welcome to the latest installment of my “Ask the Coach” column on Script Mag! This month I’m addressing a question about being superstitious about writing:

“Do you ever feel superstitious about your writing time? Like you have to write in the same place, at the same time, after eating the same thing, to recapture the same success of a particular writing day that went well? Or do you find yourself giving up on a day’s writing because you weren’t able to do those things?”

This is an intriguing set of questions because whether or not a writer considers themselves superstitious about their writing practice, it speaks to underlying strategies and challenges around having a consistent writing practice, which is something I recommend for most writers. Let’s discuss. [more…]

Create a routine or container for your writing practice, but don’t be afraid to experiment and refine. Being a creature of habit is useful for writers, but we don’t have to be locked in.
Read the article on Script Mag: 
Ask the Coach: Superstitious About Writing Time?

If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
Photo by Black ice from Pexels

Ask the Coach: How Much Should I Plan My Writing Time? – On Script Mag

Welcome to the latest installment of my “Ask the Coach” column on Script Mag! This month I’m addressing a reader’s question about how much (or whether) to plan writing time:
“How much should I be planning my writing time vs. just showing up to write each day?”
Much like the answer to most writing-related questions, it depends.

Here are some things to think about:

1. Showing up to write consistently is one of the most consequential actions you can take as a writer.

Whether you plan or don’t plan, showing up to write consistently and regularly throughout the year is the best way to see your body of work building over time.

Writing regularly has other benefits as well: According to a study by researcher Robert Boice, writers who write daily are twice as likely to have frequent creative thoughts as writers who write when they “feel like it.”

Writing consistently is also the best way to “find” or develop your voice, something writers often ask about too.

I typically advise most writers to aim to write 5 to 7 days each week, leaning to daily for newer writers or writers getting back on track after time away. Longer gaps between writing sessions make it harder to restart.

On the other hand, “just writing” without any kind of plan won’t necessarily help you see a script (or other writing projects) through to Done. Yes, ideas and voice development, as well as personal growth and insight are valuable. But planned writing leads to completion. At the same time, you can design it in such a way as to allow for flexibility. [more…]


While you certainly can be detailed in your day’s planning, I recommend working within the context of a well-structured goal and overall plan and setting up daily average targets in terms of time, page counts, and/or to-do’s. 

If you’ve got writing questions, please send them my way!
I’d love to answer them for you in my column.
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

5 secrets to harness the power of your calendar

If you’ve got a calling (a Big Dream, vision, goal, or project) that you’re not getting to — put it on your calendar.

Simply scheduling time for the thing you SAY is important to you is how to make it happen.

(And by the way, this is true even if your project is getting clear on what your big project IS.)

Here are 5 secrets you may not be aware of when it comes to the power of your calendar and how you use it.

Secret #1: Commitment isn’t enough.

Simply deciding to do something and hoping it will happen doesn’t fly. Yes, it’s important to DECIDE and COMMIT — but you also have to actually do it.

Show me the money, baby!

There’s far too much talking about what we want, and what we’re going to do (or why we can’t and it’s too hard). At the end of the day, doing it is what counts. 

Put it on your calendar.

Secret #2: “Your calendar never lies.”

. . . as Tom Peters says in his essay, “Pursuing Excellence” in the inspiring compilation book End Malaria, piloted by Michael Bungay Stainer.

What you SAY is important versus what you actually DO is telling about where you’re focusing your energy and setting your priorities.

If you want to learn to paint, for instance, you’ll need to make time for it. If you say that business development is key to moving forward with your creative entrepreneurialism, you’ve got to make a concerted effort to make that happen. If you want to write, you must make it a priority in your life and on your calendar.

If you’re not scheduling time for it, you’re not serious about making it happen. At least not yet.

Look at your calendar and see how it reflects your priorities — or not.

Secret #3: Make a divine appointment with yourself.

There’s something miraculous about scheduling time on your calendar for something important — it’s like making a sacred appointment with yourself. If you don’t show up, there’s a nagging sense inside that you’re supposed to be doing something else.

While nagging might generally not be a good thing, when it comes to your soul pestering you about fulfilling your divine calling, I’m okay with that.

Use your calendar as a tool to help you to get back on track with what you were put here to do.

Secret #4: Learn from what you don’t do as well as what you do.

When you don’t show up, you learn something about yourself and your project. You can test your commitment and ask, “Is this something I truly want to do, or is it something I think I should be doing?”

If it’s the latter, it’s time to reevaluate. A true calling is never a should.

If it’s the former, treat your lack of action as information and explore what would make it easier next time. Take a look and see where and how you’ve scheduled it — is it in the right place on your calendar? Is there something you’re doing beforehand that’s spilling over?

For example, I’ve learned that I have to write first before I do anything else. I’ve also learned that I have to go to the gym on the way home from taking my kid to school, or it’s never going to happen. This is about smart scheduling.

Pay attention to what’s working and what’s not — then make adjustments to make it easier.

Secrets #5: Discipline isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I know I look disciplined to the outside world, writing weekly blog posts, consistently offering classes and programs, and screenwriting regularly. I gotta tell you, it isn’t discipline.

It’s a weirdly fascinating combination of calendared deadlines that are publicly announced and an inner knowing that unless I say I’m going to do something and make time for it, it ain’t gonna happen. I also make it much harder NOT to do it than it is to do it. More on that next time.

Use your calendar to inspire you to take action. 

Your turn

Share your thoughts. I always love to hear from you.




Coming Attractions

~> June 5th. My Spotlight Study Group completes. I’ve heard that there’s interest out there from others in participating in such a group — if that’s you, please email us to be notified about when/if I offer it again.

~> June 7th. Last day to register for the next 4-week session of my “Just Do The Writing” Accountability Circle. This is for writers who want help staying on track and consistent about doing their writing, day in and day out.


What I'm Up To

~> Ongoing. Mentoring with screenwriter Chris Soth through ScreenwritingU. Working away on a new project before I tackle the rewrite of my first one.

~> Fall. Heading to Hollywood for a ScreenwritingU event to meet with producers and agents.

~> Sacred writing time. Early mornings and Fridays.

~> In between shows and books right now. I think I have Sex and the City: The Movie and Another Earth hanging around to be watched, but Scott Myers has me interested in watching (500) Days of Summer. So we’ll see what happens next. :)




What are the hallmarks of a serious writer?

I recently read a wonderful article on by John Buchanan called, “Work Habits of the Pros,” that inspired this post.

1. Write consistently.

A serious writer knows that writing regularly and consistently is key to their future success.

Buchanan’s article cites screenwriter Craig Mazin (The Hangover II, Scary Movie 3, Scary Movie 4) as saying, “Work habits are as important as talent. You can’t really make it with just half of the equation. The basis for a long career is to be able to have some modicum of talent, but to have a good work ethic.”

From the same article, Pamela Gray (A Walk on the Moon, Music of the Heart, Conviction), says, “It’s more important for me to write for 15 minutes a day, six days a week, than to write for five hours on Monday and not work again until the following Monday.”

Surprisingly, it’s much, much easier to write in short “sprints” on a day basis than it is to find big massive chunks of time to write. The principle here is consistent, regular writing in small bite-sized pieces.

Many writers believe that they require a lot of time to “gear up” into writing mode, but interestingly enough, when your work stays fresh in your mind with daily writing, it only takes moments to get back into it.

2. Know how to navigate the sticky waters of the inner side of writing.

Writing is a tricky business.

Also from Buchanan’s article, Craig Mazin says, “…writing is a hard thing to do. It seems as simple as tapping on a keyboard, but it’s not. It’s difficult, both emotionally and physically,” and “[There’s] a whole other level of coping mechanisms you have to have, or quickly attain, just to keep yourself sane and writing.”

I recommend that writers objectively consider the negative messages they’re telling themselves about their writing on a daily basis, and then positively reframe those messages.

Although it might seem a little daunting to confront those inner demons head on, there’s a great deal of power in taking a clear look at what you’re telling yourself. We don’t often do so, and it’s usually a bunch of malarkey. Pausing to truly pay attention takes the power away from those harsh thoughts that are ultimately getting you nowhere.

3. Realize you’re in it for the long haul.

Not only is a serious writing project like a book, novel or screenplay a lengthy undertaking, it’s worth thinking of it as a marathon, as Erik Bork does (From the Earth to the Moon, Band of Brothers).

As such, pacing yourself is key. Don’t press yourself so hard or set such high and unrealistic goals that you burn yourself out. 

And not only do you have your current big project on the hook, a serious writer usually has a library of projects she’s working on. So it’s not just NOW; it’s about building a habit that works in the long term.

Look to find your natural stride and stick with it — you might even get a second wind.

What would you add to this list?

Do you consider yourself a serious writer? What would you add to this list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.


“The Writer’s Circle is perfect for anyone who has the dream to write but somehow never gets down to it.”

“If you have trouble finding time to write, this is for you. If you’re skeptical, try it for a month. What I love most about the Writer’s Circle is the support of everyone and their massive attacks on my self-doubts.  The telephone calls are extremely inspiring and I appreciate having to report every day and set goals. I feel much more committed to writing daily and pressing on to finish the first draft of my novel — I wrote almost 20,o000 words of my novel in just 3 sessions. I am more able to put aside doubts that can stop me and I’m better at setting priorities so the writing gets done. I would say this is perfect for anyone who has the dream to write but somehow never gets down to it. It works if you commit yourself to reporting in every day and doing some writing just about every day. If I can just keep it going, I’ll be very happy. Building up confidence takes time.”
~ Fredrica Parlett, Writer and Pianist