screenwriter | teacher | Misfit Film School founder

Advice to a Young Writer in School

Advice to a Young Writer in School

Question from a young writer (left in a comment on one of my vlogs):

I’m starting university on the 30th of this month to study English and Creative Writing with the end goal of potentially becoming a screenwriter (though I’m open to other things along the way). Do you have any tips or pieces of advice? 😊 

My reply:

This is so exciting! Congrats on this new journey you’re about to start! Yes, I have so many tips and I’ll share three with you here! My first tip is the biggest and best tip I have for any writer (albeit the one that was hardest for me to learn): Just let go. Let go while writing, especially while you have the gift of being in a university program for a set amount of time. You have time, Sofia. You have time. You have etched out time for yourself to go to school and focus on you and focus on your craft so let go of what other people think you should do. Remember that you can absolutely do what you want to do and write what you want to write. When you feel peer-pressured to focus on grades or get the best marks, remind yourself that you can let go of that desire to prove yourself. You can let go of thinking about what you “should do” and let your instinct lead you, especially when it comes to trying new things and writing new things. You can let go of the idea that any one draft will be great or exceptional or perfect and this will help you grow as a writer more quickly. Letting go will allow you to write more and live more. Letting go will allow you to be your own champion while you write. Letting go will allow you to get through a first draft, take a break, and then come back recharged. Letting go will allow you to ignore the critic in your head. Letting go will allow you to not put too much pressure on any one project or assignment. And letting go will allow you to type something up at three in the morning because you had a funny idea that just made you smile and you want to jot it down because it makes you happy, even if you “should” go to bed.

Another tip I have specific to screenwriting is: don’t feel pressured to master the mechanics of screenwriting just yet. That will come. The real challenge is how to tell compelling stories about characters with a big compelling want. For inspiration, look at the big wants you have in your own life. And for more inspiration, try new things and meet new people and go on that spontaneous weekend trip with friends. You are young, and you have time. All of it is writing — living is writing. And when you catch yourself being too hard on yourself or getting caught up in doing what other people want you to do, forgive yourself. Inspiration and productivity and high points will come in ebbs and flows. A strong writer is one who keeps getting up after they’re knocked down from a rough patch. A strong writer is one who keeps writing, even if all they write the day they come back is one page.

And lastly, make a lot of friends. They will inspire you and these will be your buddies for a long time. The friends that are writers will be in writing groups with you for years to come. You won’t get along with every single person you have class with, and that’s okay. But still try and be compassionate and understand where they are coming from. Be gracious in your notes, and you will find people who are also gracious. These will be valuable allies and you will teach each other lessons of vulnerability that will make you all better, more compassionate writers.

Excited for you! 🙂

All the best,