Tips to Help Overcome Perfectionism as a Screenwriter

Why can't I write a perfect script? Perfect is mixed with uppercase and lowercase letters.

Are you a perfectionist? Does the photo above bother you? Do you feel like your scripts are never good enough?

I know what it’s like to want to write a perfect script. I know what it’s like to have the desire that producers, directors, and actors will read it and say, “Don’t change a word.” But the truth is…that is a fantasy. I also know what it’s like to re-read my script in the cold light of day and reality…then say, “It still needs so much work.”

As a struggling perfectionist constantly stuck in the loop of questioning our writing, here are 7 personal steps I use to help me overcome perfectionism when it comes to our own scripts.

1. Embrace Excellence in the Rewrite

It’s okay to try to write a good first draft, but don’t let yourself get stuck because you want it to be perfect. It’s not going to be great. It is okay if your first draft is bad. If you’re willing to accept this as a reality, then you can allow yourself to strive for excellence as you rewrite it. 

2. Don’t Let Your Inner Critic Ruminate 

Unless you are problem solving issues in your script, don’t let your inner critic keep your script from seeing the light of day. The truth is, you write a script to be read first and then one day for others to experience it once it’s been filmed. Being cruel to yourself about your writing will not help you improve it.

So let your inner critic help you improve your script where it needs to be improved, but let it go before it gets ruined through unhelpful, defeatist thoughts.  

3. Don’t Get Stuck Rewriting the Same Script

You’ve heard of the “Groundhog’s Day scenario” in film? Well, the same thing can happen during the writing process. The more scripts you write, rewrite, and get feedback on, the better you will become as a writer. Being a screenwriter is so much more than having one great script.

If you find yourself stuck in a loop of rewriting your first and only script over and over again, move on. Challenging yourself with a new script will help you improve as a writer and could even give you insight into the missing piece in your first script. 

4. Recognize Writing a “Perfect” Script is Not the End Goal

Your goal as a screenwriter is not to write a “perfect” script. Your first goal is to tell a story and write characters that engage the reader emotionally. Your second goal is for that script to either sell and get made and/or create an opportunity for you to be hired to write another script. Unless you want to make it yourself.

Your script does not have to be “perfect” to achieve this. It just needs to be great. Great, amazing, stellar, exceptional, moving are all attainable. Perfect is not. 

5. Accept the Fact You Are Going to Fail

Becoming a professional screenwriter is a career that requires a fighting spirit. Someone that will keep going even if they are told no. Someone who won’t give up. Someone willing to take risks.

You are going to fail.

This is a very frightening statement for perfectionists, but the sooner you understand this, the sooner you can take the risks necessary to improve your writing and to put it out there for others to read and give you feedback. 

6. Understand that No One is Rejecting YOU 

As writers we often pour our own personalities, experiences, and views into our scripts. So if someone rejects our scripts, it can feel as though they are rejecting us. However, no one is rejecting you as a person.

Your script can get turned down for so many reasons. We have to remember that film and tv are an art form and whether or not someone likes your script can come down to something as simple as a matter of taste. Not everyone is going to like your writing, but as long as you are striving to improve your work, keep at it.

It doesn’t matter how many no’s you get. All you need is one yes. 

7. Listen to Experienced People Around You

What are other writers saying about your script? Find writers that are further ahead of you or at least at the same level and get their thoughts. If they say your script is ready, believe them. If they say it needs more work, ask them for feedback. Now because art is subjective, you might run into professionals that don’t like your work, that’s okay.

Find people who like the kind of movies and television you are trying to emulate. Ask them. Sometimes the best thing you can do is get out of your own head. You’ll be surprised. Sometimes your script is actually ready. 

  • This article was written by Kaylah Cantu – Screenwriter & Co-Founder of Writers Spotlight

About the Author

Photo of Kaylah Cantu

Kaylah Cantu

Kaylah Cantu is a screenwriter, CEO of Writers Spotlight, and writes scripts with her husband. They have been hired to write multiple projects in the last two years and are at the beginning of an exciting career as paid screenwriters. She graduated from Biola University with a degree in Cinema and Media Arts with an emphasis in Screenwriting. She loves comedy films, small animals, and sushi. Her biggest inspirations are Jesus and Mel Brooks. Her goal is to see hardworking screenwriters succeed, which is why she created Writers Spotlight.