New Year’s Eve is a time when many of us are reflecting on the past year and planning ahead for the next by making resolutions.
Here are 10 lists you can make to help do just that and supercharge your productivity in 2023 as a screenwriter. Do as many or few as you like, or invent lists of your own—whatever is the most useful.
Ready? Let's go!
1. People you want to meet next year:
Are there writers, producers, execs, or others whose work you identify with or admire? Put them on the list. Make the decision to reach out and say hi or ask a question.
If they don't respond, that's OK. You were polite enough to read up about the person before reaching out, so you'd have something meaningful to say, and you were brave enough to make the effort. That's something to be proud of. Best case scenario, though, maybe you'll work together someday.
2. Your favorite people that you’ve met this year:
Show business is built on interpersonal networks, so it's important to maintain relationships with people who have common interests, or just people you get along with.
Hint: spreadsheets/databases and automatic calendar reminders are a big help with staying in touch.
3. Companies or shows you want to write for:
Are there shows or companies that are generally a good match for your style, interests, or voice as a writer? Making a list of these can help you focus your efforts, and it can also help you figure out how to pitch your brand or personal logline as a writer.
4. Books and scripts you want to read:
Whether you're one of those who has an ever-growing to-read pile or just someone who has always meant to get around to “reading the classics” for years: better late than never.
Start slow, maybe with the top five that you've been meaning to read. You can always add more later.
It's easier than ever to find scripts to read. A wide selection of produced, professional, and contest-winning screenplays and teleplays are available with just a quick web search (or through databases run by such places as the Discord server Script Hive). You can also browse unproduced scripts by up-and-coming writers on places like Coverfly, or on curated databases like The Stunt List, The Black List, The Blood List, etc.
With options like audiobooks, e-books, and good old fashioned paper books available for free from public libraries and websites such as Project Gutenberg and Internet Archive, the possibilities are endless.
5. Scripts you want to write or finish:
You knew this one was coming eventually, right? We all love to procrastinate sometimes (how else would my bathroom stay so clean?), but in order to be a screenwriter, the most important thing you need to do is to write.
One thing that can make it easier to organize and keep track of your plans is to make a list (even if it's only two ideas) of scripts you want to write next year.
I used to keep a paper notebook in my purse to scribble ideas into, but by now it's become a full on color-coded spreadsheet that indexes a long document full of what are essentially mini-pitches to myself of potential things to write.
6. Things you want to try next year:
Are there skills you want to learn? Experiences you want to have? Places you want to go? Whether it's kayaking, learning a new language, or taking a tap dancing class, put it on this list to encourage yourself to give it a go in the new year!
Remember, everything you learn and do becomes fuel for your writing. No one can write in a vacuum, so feed your creative brain with new experiences and knowledge.
Some of my items from past lists included attending Comic-Con, doing a stand-up comedy open mic in a real club, riding in a sailboat, visiting all the theme parks in the Los Angeles area, visiting a new nature park every weekend (or almost every weekend, as life permits), preparing as many recipes out of a particular cookbook as possible, and trying a different hair style for at least a week.
7. Things you accomplished this year:
Write down at least 10 accomplishments from the last year that you're proud of. In many cases, these are the kinds of things you'll often describe in a bio or resume anyway, so having this list in advance will make prepping for fellowship and job applications much easier.
They don't have to be all about your career either. Some of my past entries to accomplishments lists included things like taking a painting class, improving my dietary habits, and taking a vacation to somewhere nice. It all counts.
8. What you want to happen next year:
As with the accomplishments list, you can include both professional and personal goals here. You can also be as general or specific as you like. For example, in my list from last year it felt reachable to include such far-flung and seemingly contradictory items as “get enough sleep on a consistent basis” and “get paid to write.” Done and done!
9. Favorite inspirational quotes:
Since you're a writer, you know the power of words. Many people keep quotes pinned to their wall that give them strength, or have favorite mantras or phrases they think of as words to live by. What are a few that have meaning for you?
When I made my list, I found that many quotes had different versions, or were so old nobody knew their origin. If knowing that a specific person spoke or wrote a version of the words at one time or another adds meaning for you, then by all means include that information with the quote. As for myself, I didn't attribute them when I wrote them down because it was the words or memories I associated with them that carried meaning for me.
In some cases, I reworded quotes to my own liking. In other cases, I included multiple similar quotes I felt that the slightly differing meanings were inspiring in their own ways. The choice is up to you. You're making this list for yourself, so there's nothing wrong with punching up the wording or being redundant if it helps you.
Here are some favorites from my own list:
• Oh, I’m brave, but I’m careful.
• The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.
• Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.
• If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
• We do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.
• People tell you who they are the minute you meet them. You just have to believe it.
• Expect (or hope for) the best, prepare for the worst.
• People will treat you how you let them treat you, and the people you work with or befriend now will most likely be/determine your long-term relationships.
10. What you’re grateful for this year:
When you get into a cycle of thinking too much about aspects of professional or personal life that didn't meet your hopes or expectations, it helps to think about the things you're thankful for—whether it's something as simple as having people you love in your life, having been able to make time to write, or something else.
One last thing:
You don't have to do these lists specifically at the end of the year. Pick whatever time is most meaningful to you. I do my lists for my birthday every year because I feel like it's a more accurate way to measure my annual progress—and because it takes the pressure off of New Year's.
*Feature photo by Sevde Şen (Pexels)