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Untangling the Knots

By Randal Stevens · August 5, 2010

"My half written screenplay has been staring at me for months. By now I'm not sure I even remember what I was writing about. Should I just chuck it and start all over again?"

– John Kraft / Arlington, Vermont

Here's what I'm hearing from you, John:
 
"My 2-year old just pulled down his pants and took a dump on the kitchen floor.  Should I tell him that we're going out for ice cream one day and just leave him at the bus station?"
 
No, John, I can never recommend completely scrapping something in which you've put so much effort and starting over from scratch – at least, not just because you've lost momentum. There are occasions when you've got no choice but to chuck the thing and start from the beginning, but in my experience, that only occurs when you've written your way into a dead end and the only way to fix it is to untangle the knots at the source.  
 
The two things I recommend you do to try and get those creative juices flowing again is to:
 
1) Go back through any notes, outlines or random scribbles you wrote in the process of getting to the screenplay to try and re-capture that experience you had when you were embarking on the creative journey in the first place.  Finding bullet points or notes to yourself that you scribbled down in an old notebook may transport back into the mental state when that epiphany first struck your brain and you can simulate that step by step experience until you've gotten to the point you're at now and maybe by then you'll have enough momentum behind you where new writing can take place.
 
2) Move on.  Don't forget about your screenplay, but put it aside for a bit and start working on something else.  Even though you'll be starting from scratch one way or the other, building up that writing momentum may lead to periphery inspiration and you'll get an idea that'll help kick start the old screenplay again.  Sometimes the best ideas hit you when you're least expecting them.