Why is Screenwriting So Hard? 7 Related Reasons

Writing a screenplay is no cakewalk. It takes time to acquire specific skills, to master the art of storytelling and to complete a project. To be blunt, screenwriting is a herculean feat, but totally worth it, if you are willing to go the distance. Below are seven reasons why screenwriting is so hard but don’t let these reasons deter you, let them motivate you to leverage your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses.

Within my guide you will find out:

  • Why facing your fears is a necessary step in becoming a screenwriter?
  • Why consistency and commitment is the only way to a finished screenplay?
  • Why screenwriting is all about the long game?
7 Reasons Why Screenwriting is so hard

REASON #7 COMMITMENT

Let’s say, you’ve got an idea, you think it’s brilliant, you have scribbled the flash of inspiration on a piece of paper. You have told your friends, family and even the neighbor’s dog walker about your screenplay idea but now comes the hard part – doing the work. An idea is worthless without follow through. 

Plenty of people get “movie ideas” but are they willing to marry it? As a young screenwriter I dated my ideas, sometimes I even had a one night stand with an idea but after years of not getting into a lasting relationship with an idea, I started filtering out the duds from the studs.

“Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly pass through us, constantly trying to get our attention.” 

Receiving an idea is awesome but not every idea will not be worth your time and energy. I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions when an idea comes knocking at your door looking sleek and holding a red, thorny rose.  Is this idea…

  1. Love at first sight? 
  2. A short-term romance?
  3. Or a marriage commitment?

Are you willing to go through hell and back? Are you willing to stick it out for days, weeks, months, years?  Is the idea so good you can endure the inevitable ups-and-downs that are bound to happen over time?  Thick or thin, in sickness or health, during good times and bad times, richer or poorer?

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

“Commitment is what transforms a promise into a reality.” 

Screenwriting is hard because it requires commitment. In choosing a story idea you are saying NO to other alluring opportunities and YES to writing something that will demand daily of your unwavering devotion. You will have to choose your  idea everyday even when you don’t feel like it, when it’s annoying the shit out of you and especially on days that you wonder why you got into a relationship in the first place! Once you decide to marry your idea you will need to be consistent enough to keep that flame burning.

“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.” Anonymous

REASON #6 CONSISTENCY

Screenwriting calls for consistency and that is one tough habit to master. If everyone was consistent about things they really desired in life, they would be richer, healthier, and more productive. 

The prerequisite for consistency is commitment, will power and discipline. Without consistency that screenplay will never become fully formed. Set a deadline, mark your calendar and work toward your screenwriting dreams every single day. There isn’t an easier way. Baby steps.

"It’s so simple really: If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you start something, finish it."

– Epictetus

Mel Robbins "The 5 Second Rule"

Transform your life, your Work and Confidence with Everyday Courage

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REASON #5 INVISIBLE FORCES

There is very little instant gratification in screenwriting except for the simple joys found in the daily work. Crafting a screenplay is very different from assembling a table you bought at Ikea. When you assemble a table you have clear instructions (most of the time lol), visible tools, your progress is obvious and if you make a mistake you will know it. Once you finish the assembly you will be rewarded with a brand new table to dine upon.  A screenplay not so much. 

Screenwriting is hard because you are working with invisible forces. Not only are your ideas, characters and worlds, a creation of your imagination but even after you type FADE OUT your screenplay still has to be made into a movie! And movie production is slow as molasses. 

That’s why I encourage you to print your script pages, hold them in your hands, write in the margins, feel the weight of your hard work. Make screenwriting a little more tangible in the invisible, digital age we live in. Let there be a paper artifact left behind by you, even if it only takes up physical space in a box under your bed.

REASON #4 THE LONG GAME 

Remember what I said about molasses. It’s true. Movies can take years to make. Screenplays take time too. Plus you gotta sell it. Once you sell it, a team needs to be assembled, a budget, pre-production, production, post-production, delivery, etc…the list goes on. 

Screenwriting is all about the long game and there are no shortcuts. Becoming a master screenwriter takes practice, patience and lots of badly written pages. Overnight Success Exists, but It Happens Only for Those Who Build It Daily Over Years  It involves time and likely way longer than you think. Ten years… Maybe more. Maybe less. Either way, you have to decide if your screenwriting dreams are worth it.

Why is Screenwriting So Hard?

Overnight success illusion by Sylvain Saurel

RICHIE NORTON

-AUTHOr-

“I’ve learned that the long-game is the shortcut.”

REASON #3 IT’S A PRIVATE ACT

The life of the screenwriter is hard because it is often a lonely and esoteric journey. There may be days when the deafening silence will rattle you. You may even wonder if you are wasting your life tap, tap, tapping on a keyboard. Don’t lose heart!

DAN BROWN

“Write like nobody’s watching because, guess what? Nobody’s watching.” 


Your screenwriting matters when there are no witnesses. If being an exceptional, prolific screenwriter is what you want, you must recognize that external rewards will not sustain you on the length, unpredictable journey ahead. Your ambitions must go well beyond outside approval or recognition.

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” ― Barbara Kingsolver

Write for you. Make yourself proud. Exterior success and prosperity will follow, in due time. And whenever you are feeling isolated during the writing process, connect with a friend, call a fellow screenwriter or seek resources like this blog so you feel a little less alone. It will help! I promise. 

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” 

― John Wooden

REASON #2  REWRITES

Knock Knock. Who’s there? A screenwriter in rewriting hell. 

Have you ever wanted to rip your hair out because you have rewritten your screenplay so many times that you have no idea why you keep erasing one sentence and then putting it back. I like to call this a revisionist nightmare. It’s a dark night of the soul but on ground hog day. 

See also  How to Deal with Writing Rejection

Whoever came up with the phrase “writing is rewriting” should be kicked in the shin for being right. 

I’ve been there and so have countless other writers. My screenplay Liberty or Death was rewritten so many times that I am scared to count the actual number of drafts. It’s well beyond seven drafts spanning over the course of two years. Even after the millionth draft, I ended up starting over because I discovered a story structure issue in the first act and I realized I had to do what Aaron Sorkin did when he wrote A Few Good Men.

I’d write it to the end and go back and write it all over again, go back and write it all over again. I think I probably wrote, without exaggeration, about twenty drafts of A Few Good Men.

aaron sorkin

If you haven’t checked out Aaron Sorkin’s screenwriting classes on Masterclass, do it, you won’t regret it! 

When you are in the process of rewriting you may find you have lost sight of how to achieve a final draft. According to Stephen King you will know you have reached the final draft stage when you can confidently say “yes!” to the following questions:  

1) Is the story coherent?

2) Does it resonant? 

When I finally finished my screenplay something incredible and unexpected happened…all the pieces clicked. It was a sensation I had never felt before and will never forget. The story flowed, resonated, and above all it felt beyond me, as if invisible hands had been assisting me along the way. I encourage you to keep rewriting until you feel that CLICK. You will know, when you know, and all that rewriting will be worth it.

Stephen King "On Writing"

Stephen King's Memoir on the craft of writing.

REASON #1 FEAR

Screenwriting is hard because it involves facing your fears. The fear of sucking. The fear of starting. The fear of finishing. The fear of mistakes. The fear of showing up.  The fear of being judged. Fear will eat you alive if you let it.  

I have a quote above my computer that reads: “On the other side of your fear is freedom.” I don’t know where this quote came from or who said it, all I know is that I need reminding. 

You’ve got two choices when it comes to fear. Feel the fear and do it anyways. Or let the fear win and keep you from making real progress. The choice is yours. Do you want to stay the same? Or do you want to evolve as a human and as a writer? Transformation cannot occur without your willingness to step outside of your comfort zone. It is in the discomfort that change happens.

“I discovered that my decision was only a question of whether I preferred to be governed by fear or by a creative feeling, and although I was very frightened, I knew I could not choose fear.”  

Katharine Hathaway

Every single day fear will try to stop you from achieving your dreams. Sometimes you will be armed and ready to fight fear with brave action, on other days you may lose. No matter what happens, you’ve got this. You are strong. You are brave. You can handle anything that comes your way. Fear is merely False Evidence Appearing RealShow fear who’s BOSS!

Now get back to writing, that screenplay needs you! 

Stories with Whitney
Why is Screenwriting So Hard? 7 Related Reasons

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