“Your Ideas Matter! Write them down.” Photo taken by Mika Baumeister. Bonn, Deutschland. | mikabaumeister.de
Written By Jared Isham
Whether it is a term or not, it definitely should be and is one of my favorite tools that I use when writing a screenplay. It is a process that I like to call “listing,” or more specifically, “creative listing.” Without a doubt, this is a process that is used by many writers and may likely be called many different things. I prefer to call the process creative listing because it is far more than just making a to-do list of story beats or writing tasks that need to be completed in order to have a finished screenplay. Creative listing breaks down creative barriers. It destroys writer’s block and moves your story from good to great or great to exceptional.
So, what is creative listing anyway? Creative listing is the simple process of writing down your ideas in a list format as quickly and as fast as you can with whatever comes to mind, not thinking of what might be better, or what people might think, but writing things down before your brain had a chance to “check” its validity. A teacher of mine, Corey Mandell, would say that when you get to the point of alien abductions or invasions, you are probably getting closer to making a breakthrough, so keep going.
So how and when should you use creative listing? I use it for nearly everything I write. It is my brainstorming tool that helps to push me beyond what I think I am capable of. I have found listing to be most effective when I use it before I even start writing. It is how I determine character goals that will naturally produce conflict, come up with escalations, choose a good title, determine a major plot point or twist, etc. Listing is the prep work you put in, so the execution goes smoothly.
I have found that when I prepare for a script with the creative listing tool in my tool kit, I run into the wall or experience writer’s block far less often. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm with a pen and paper, write it down, practice “creative listing,” and watch your screenwriting move beyond the gut instinct writing and become something unpredictable. It will keep people turning the page.
Jared Isham (Bounty 2009, Turn Around Jake 2015) is an independent filmmaker and head of motion pictures at Stage Ham Entertainment (www.stageham.com). He also create videos focused on helping filmmakers to make better films on a micro-budget (www.jaredisham.com)