Who Knows what evil (and self sabotage) lurks in the hearts of writers?

I’ve been having such a wonderful time working on the script (Hint: the initials of the title are “MS”) that I am overwhelmed with gratitude. No, I have no idea if I’ll be able to sell it, or if it will get made, or if it will be good.  If I focus on those things, I’ll go crazy.  My task is to focus on what is right in front of me: doing the very best job I can bringing these characters and this situation to life.


I was a lonely, bespectacled, nerdish little kid, who lost himself in books and movies to protect his heart from an often cruel world.  No father in the home, dreams of being a writer that no one believed in.  Stories of heroes who triumphed over adversity saved my heart.  I wanted to create those stories myself.


The Hero’s Journey says that moving from one level to another you will ALWAYS hit the “Dark Night of the Soul” and God knows I did, again and again.   It felt like I never got anywhere, and in combination with the discouragement from my family and school, it often felt like I was trying to climb Everest wearing a concrete jacket.


And even after I “made it”, that same struggle was part of the process. The only difference was that I now recognized that I wasn’t in an endless loop, I was in an upward spiral.  As long as I paid attention to the steps, remembered my long-term objective, modeled success and maintained sensory acuity…as long as I defined my goal in achievable terms (in other words, not “be the best writer in the world” but “publish consistently and constantly improve, while having fun and making enough money to live”) I would hit problems, but also have a wonderful life.


Right now, at this moment, I’m having that wonderful time.   And wanted to speculate why this is happening, so that you can have similar fun in your own work. And…life. If you’ll just take a step back, you will be able to see how to create moments of grace in any arena of your life.


  1. I’ve done my million words.  Almost four times.  So all the basic skills are at “unconscious competence”.  I don’t have to think about the basics, which allows me to go into flow and just…write.
  2. I have “safety rails.”  By working from an outline, I know that if I execute the outline, at the very least it will be a competently structured piece of work.  This allows me to ignore the negative voices in my head.  “Pantsing” is fine…if it works.  When it stops working, you need to have a fall-back position.
  3. The subject taps into my passion.  It is like nothing I’ve ever written. And…it is exactly in line with everything I’ve ever done.   It is absolutely a “Steven Barnes” story.  I would LOVE to sit in an audience and watch this movie.   It comes from my heart.
  4. I set myself a doable amount of work every day.   Five pages of script ain’t that much, especially if its mostly dialogue.  Writing dialogue is EASY if you know your characters and just let them talk.
  5. I gave myself permission to suck.  That’s right.  SUCK.  First drafts are “suck drafts”. I don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or whether it is any good at all.  JUST GET IT WRITTEN.   The “writer” part of your head is NOT the “editor” part of your head. They are different aspects of your mind, and except for a fortunate few, are not friendly to each other.  The “writer” is the little boy, the “editor” is the pitiless adult.  SEPARATE THEM.  In general, I don’t do both in the same session.  “Pantsers” are usually switching back and forth between them rapidly and fluidly, and that is wonderful.  I can do that.  Maybe I “should”.  But I found that this process works very well for me, and seems to help me climb that “upward spiral” of improvement with minimal stress.


There are other things too.   We’ll talk about them on our “Write a Sentence A Day” webinars, starting October 6th at 3pm Pacific.   I’ll be discussing process and connecting it to real production, in real time, and embarrassing detail.   Watch me humiliate myself…or get a major win. Who knows?  Who knows what evil (and self sabotage) lurks in the hearts of writers?

The Shadow Do.


Write with Passion!



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