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Juggling Your Day Job and Screenplay: Tips for Writing and Finishing Your Script

Writing a first draft while balancing a full-time job can be challenging, to say the least... BUT it is definitely doable with the right strategy. Whilst there is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution, there are plenty of writers who juggle jobs that pay the bills and career progression via spec/portfolio screenplays. Due to this, we have evidence of common themes and tips to help writers complete their screenplay.

So, here is Script Stable's plan to help you make progress on your script if you're currently unsure how to juggle it all:

Set Realistic Goals

There is nothing more defeating that overestimating what you can do in the short-term: go in guns blazing only to then 'fail'. That approach kills aspiration so fast. Instead, assess your schedule and determine how much time you can realistically commit to writing each day or week. Be honest with yourself. If it's not as much time as you'd like, then accept that. It might not always be the case, you might be able to carve out more time in the future. But for now, starting is the main goal.

Create a Writing Schedule

Set aside dedicated blocks of time for writing. This could be early in the morning, during lunch breaks, or in the evening. Consistency is key. Implement time management techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, where you write for a focused 20-30 minutes, followed by a short break. Repeat as needed. The amazing screenwriting consultant Pilar Allesandra has a book called The Coffee Break Screenwriter which embraces the idea that little and often (10 mins a day) can get your screenplay written. Don't underestimate what you can achieve in the long run.

Outline Your Script

Before you start, create a detailed outline of your screenplay. This will serve as a roadmap, making it easier to write in short bursts. Of course, writing is re-writing but if you don't have an outline or treatment to start, it's highly unlikely you're going to end up with a good script. Writing a screenplay takes a lot of knowledge and planning. If you're unsure about what planning looks like then check out our Supporting Material Article.

Minimise Distractions

Oof, what a hard thing to do in our modern times but you must! Find a quiet, distraction-free place to write. Turn off notifications on your devices and let others know you're not to be disturbed during your writing time. Some people enjoy writing in cafes and the like, so by all means, try that. But do NOT be on your phone or checking social media in your dedicated time to write. You are on a limited time-frame - don't spend it doom scrolling. If you need extra help focusing, we have Audio Timers that you can play and set aside; helping you to not look at your phone.

Set Clear Goals for Each Session

Break down your writing tasks into small, manageable goals for each session. For example, aim to write a specific number of pages or complete a particular scene. It's ok if you don't always hit your target but even if you write one scene on a day where you had originally planned to write three scenes; you're still one scene further than you were before that day of writing. Start as you mean to go on but aim for progress and not perfection.

Reward Yourself

Set up a reward system to motivate yourself. After meeting your writing goals, treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a favourite snack or a short break. It might be helpful to stack these up. For instance, weekly or monthly rewards once you've hit your targets. It doesn't always have to be monetary rewards if you're on a budget but it should be something that feels like a treat to you. Something to look forward to that gives you more incentive to put the work in when you're too tired or 'don't feel like it'.

Join a Writing Group

Consider joining a writing group or finding an accountability partner. Sharing progress and setting deadlines with others can help keep you on track. There's a huge range of options out there from paid memberships to free forums. Accountability is a vital ingredient to success. You'll also end up making other writer friends and expanding your network, so it's a win-win.

Stop Making Excuses

Writer's have an amazing way of creating excuses as to why they 'can't' start (or finish) their script. If you're exhausted and need to take a writing holiday to focus on your script (that 'holiday' can be at home btw) then by all means, go for it. But you don't need long, uninterrupted hours in order to write, so stop making excuses not to write. Make the most of short breaks, commutes, or waiting times to jot down ideas or scenes on your phone or in a notebook. You can be working on your screenplay even when you're out and about BUT remember that 'Thinker's Think. Writer's Write.' And you're a writer, no? Screenwriting is hard, for a multitude of reasons but if you're serious about being a screenwriter then you need to commit to it. You can't just talk about your script and then not work on it.

Use Speech-to-Text Tools

Utilise speech-to-text software or apps to transcribe your thoughts when you can't physically type. This can be especially useful during commutes or walks. Or perhaps if you're finding it difficult in general to get your ideas on the page. You can find examples of tech here in our article on Screenplay Software for Dyslexic Writers.

Prioritise Self-Care

Don't roll your eyes at us. Your health; physical, mental and emotional is imperative to your quality of life. Balancing work and writing can be very draining. That's without adding in any aspect of social life or family commitments that most people have. Ensure you get enough sleep, eat well, and find time for relaxation to prevent burnout. But you might need more than that. You might need a therapist, or a physio, or massage, or regular calls with your best friend. Everyone needs to recharge in different ways. Burnout is no joke. Whilst balancing your work/life/screenwriting goals can be trial and error, you should be trialing it until you find a healthy balance.

Of course, there will be times where your priorities have to shift. It's life on life's terms. It's not realistic to think that you can give your full-time job AND screenwriting pursuits 50/50 of your time and energy, unless you're about to work an 80+ hour week without feeling like you're going to perish. Or alternatively run the of risk getting fired from your job for not pulling your weight... :s You need to look after yourself.

Track Your Progress

Keep a writing journal or tracker. Maybe try writing apps that help you track your progress. Seeing your word count increase can be motivating. We have a free Script Stable 30 Day Challenge tracker to help you get motivated. Sometimes your just need a little extra push to get started.

Stay Flexible

Life can be unpredictable. If you miss a scheduled writing session, don't be too hard on yourself. Adjust your goals and keep moving forward. Whilst we don't recommend living in a world of excuses, you're also a human being with a finite of energy and time. Life will get in the way sometimes. Accept it, work around it, or take a break if you need to.

Celebrate Milestones

Celebrate when you reach significant milestones, like completing acts or finishing the first draft. Acknowledging your progress is important. Whilst similar to rewarding yourself, this is actually different and probably more important. It's far too easy to feel down when you're writing. Whether it's the quality of writing, lack of word count, or general self-doubt. So big yourself up when you hit a milestone. Even if you've written a shabby AF first draft; you did that! Look at that glorious mess of (approx) 120 pages in front of you and recognise that your dedication got you here. That is no mean feat. Even for experienced screenwriters. So, celebrate your achievement.

Stay Inspired

Surround yourself with sources of inspiration. Watch films, read screenplays, and engage in activities related to your script's genre. Not only will it will help to inform your writing but it will also help your mental health. Inspiration doesn't always have to be linked to your project either. Sometimes doing something completely unrelated can be the most inspiring of all. As they say 'A change is as good as a rest.'

It might sound cliched but remember that writing a script is a marathon, not a sprint. Your full-time job may slow you down, but a consistent and disciplined approach will help you complete your first draft over time. Patience and determination are your allies in this endeavor.



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