7 Essential precursors to becoming a Screenwriter

Becoming a screenwriter happens way before you even realize you can write. There’s a general perception that you have to learn to be a writer to be a writer. Yes, of course, you can learn the craft to be a better writer but essentially writing is about living life in all its dimensions. You have to have the lived experience that acts as a raw material for your ideas and how you articulate your thoughts.

In that context, there are 7 essential factors or precursors that I consider pivotal to developing into a solid screenwriter —

1.      Travelling a lot, I mean, a lot. Going way beyond your comfortable geographical zones. Travelling gives you a bird’s eye view exposure to life and how you look at the world around you. Travelling forces you to think differently than the context you grew up in. It adds layers to your understanding of how the diversity of  life functions which can be a great stepping point to how you write layered characters and stories and avoid falling into the trap of the danger of the single story.

2.      Not being too quick to judge others. We are often told not to judge others with good reason. Because if we judge everything at face value, then we lose the value of looking deeper into things and learning life lessons. But of course, considering human nature, we are by default in a judgmental mode. If that’s the case, then judge yourself judging others i.e, see things from the others’ POV. Filmmaker David Fincher says of writing characters – that every character is/must be right, from their own perspective, if we are to create great drama. Which brings us to the next point – self-awareness.

3.      Having a keen sense of self-awareness. Knowing the right balance between your potential and limitations as to where you stand in a creative domain. Talking to yourself and practicing a healthy dose of critical thinking does wonders to our self-awareness. Self-awareness is also a way to keep yourself grounded and be humble which in turn makes you always open to learning new things.

4.      Engaging in a lot of creative, intellectual, philosophical, spiritual interactions both online and offline. Especially observing and learning from them. Most writers are apparently introverts but that should not stop us from engaging in a critical debate. It sharpens our critical and analytical thinking and helps hone the way we articulate thoughts.

5.      Practicing some form of visual or performing art. Sketching, painting, dancing etc. Other forms of Art especially involving the physical body or senses open up our minds. If a simple walk through the woods can open up your senses, imagine what a physical performance can do to your psyche.

6.      Connecting with people aka Being in a lot of relationships – friendly, romantic, familial, professional, whatever that adds to your sense of people psychology and dynamics. This is one of the foundational ways of understanding how people/characters’ minds work. This helps in developing characters that are multidimensional.

7.      Reading. Of course, one of the most foundational blocks of being a writer/screenwriter. You can create only if you ingest words, thoughts, perspectives, minds and ways of thinking – all of which come through reading fiction(novels), articles, poetry, comics and non-fiction or anything you can get your hands on. Your writing is directly proportional to your reading. Reading opens up new worlds in your head without ever stepping into one.

 In essence, having a wide and deep life experience can greatly influence your maturity as a screenwriter. If you already are practicing any or all of the above, then you are already on your way to developing into a solid screenwriter.

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