Behavioral Science

I’m a procrastinator.  I get easily sidetracked.  And when it comes to writing, I have a terrible record when it comes to finishing draft after draft of a script.

But that’s not unusual for screenwriters.

The usual advice for procrastinators is, “break your challenge down into smaller tasks”.  Which of course makes little sense for a screenwriter…  A spec (uncommissioned) screenplay is 105-120 pages.  That’s a long, tough slog.

So let’s work on some hacks to get through the 120-odd pages of a first draft, by using some tricks of behavioral science.

Behavioral studies show that people are generally good at figuring what they should be doing in the future (“next week, I’ll work out 5 days”), and really bad at figuring out what they should be doing in the moment (“oooo – chocolate!”).  This is why almost no-one sticks to a budget or a diet.  We’re just not wired to think that way.

To counter these natural mental deficiencies, financial blogger Ramit Sethi promotes the idea of automatic savings — in his system, you set up your bank accounts to automatically deduct a portion of each paycheck into an account that pays all your bills and distributes your savings.  Then you’re free to spend whatever remains — no hassle, no budget.

We’re going to try to apply that level of automation to screenwriting.  Here are the initial systems I’m going to utilize to keep me on task:

  • Beginning writing at the same time every day
  • Writing an initial “daily-goal” statement at the start of each writing session
  • Writing to a daily page-goal, regardless of quality
  • Setting a plot point goal
  • Tracking my Churn Rate

I’ll explain these strategies in more depth and discuss their effectiveness over the next few days.  Let’s see how it goes…

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