How to Write Like a Sculptor

Statue of David
Is your screenplay your Thinker? Maybe Michelangelo's David? Or what about Mount Rushmore? 

I won't lie, I love a good metaphor when it comes to screenwriting lessons. Sometimes writing can be so abstract of an exercise that you have to put it in other terms to tell what needs to be done in your draft. That's where sculpting comes in. 

Sculpting is an ancient art form where you take a material like clay or stone and mold it into the form you want. You have to shave pieces off with sharp tools, and add other pieces along the way. 

But I am sure you know about sculpting, so how does it relate to screenwriting? 

Check out this video from Tyler Mowery, and let's talk after the jump. 

How to Write Like a Sculptor 

I like to think about screenwriting like sculpting. You start with an idea which is really your block of marble. Then, as you write scenes, you chip away at what the story should be. From draft to draft, you're doing the finer details, and eventually, you polish what's in front of you. 

But that might be oversimplifying it, so let's dig in as Mowery did in the video. 

When you're writing, the first script you do is not going to be your masterpiece. I mean, maybe it will be, but if we can take a lesson from artists, most people just create and create until things come back around.

When you look at a sculptor, they don't think the first thing they make will be their magnum opus. 

They know that you need to just refine your art, learn how to handle different mediums like stone versus wood versus clay, and refine your craft until you have the skillset needed to create something that makes you a professional. 

It's time we look at writing the same way we do other artforms. You need to do a lot of it to be able to create something worthy of being recognized. That means working on various specs, pilots, and even entering lots of contests. 

It means reading lots of scripts, getting familiar with the idea of beats, and understanding the strategies that can keep you inspired and churning out pages as you go. 

So, stop putting immense pressure on yourself to become a professional right out of the gate. Instead, take the time to become even adequate at it. Then work to become better every step of the way. Your career is your block of marble.

Your desire to be better is the hammer, and everything you learn is the chisel. 

Make every stroke count, and you can build toward something great. 

It might take years, but it will be worth it. 

Let me know what you think in the comments. 

Up next: What Does Van Gogh's Ugliest Painting Have to Do with Filmmaking?

Three months after Van Gogh painted "Night Cafe," he had a mental breakdown and cut off his ear. So what can filmmakers learn from what he considered to be his biggest failure?     

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1 Comment

I naturally think of my script as a big piece of white stone that I am slowly chipping away at!!!

November 11, 2020 at 4:26AM, Edited November 11, 4:26AM

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kirsten james
Screenwriter
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