From Aaron Sorkin's MasterClass

Writing Habits

Even Aaron gets writer's block. Learn how he gets unstuck and what writing tools he uses to make sure he's ready when inspiration strikes.

Topics include: Bulking up to write • Tools to organize your writing • Writer's block


Even Aaron gets writer's block. Learn how he gets unstuck and what writing tools he uses to make sure he's ready when inspiration strikes.

Topics include: Bulking up to write • Tools to organize your writing • Writer's block

Aaron Sorkin

Teaches Screenwriting

Learn More


From the moment I say I'm starting until the moment I deliver it, is usually about an 18 to 24 months on a screenplay. But most of that time is spent trying to think of it and being depressed. There are people for whom it is 10 weeks, 12 weeks. In fact, I'm pretty sure the contracts that I sign say that I'm going to have to deliver it in 12 weeks, and nobody ever believes that. Most of that 18 to 24 months is spent not writing. Most of that 18 to 24 months is spent bulking up, preparing to write. Once I start typing the screenplay, if everything is going great, I can usually do it in two or three months. What came before that was months and months and months, probably a year of not writing, of banging your head against the wall, doing a lot of research, whether it's reading or meeting with people. Banging your head against the wall. One of the mentally challenging parts of being a writer is that most days, you don't write. Most days, you wake up in the morning, and you go to sleep at the end of the day, and you haven't written anything. And it's a demoralizing feeling. On the other hand, those much less common days, where you did write, and you wrote something good, you feel like you can fly. [MUSIC PLAYING] When I start writing the script, by writing now, I mean literally typing the script, I have to have the intention and the obstacle-- I have to have it already in my head. Or at least have the intention and obstacle of the first scene of the thing that I'm writing. It's OK if you don't know what the second scene is. With The American President, it's not like I had a genius idea or anything. It felt like a genius idea at the time, when I said, you know what? I'm just going to start by beginning the President's day. I'm just going to have him walk from the residence, from the East Wing to the West Wing. And along the way, he'll run into various staffers. And we'll introduce various problems. And we'll be charmed by this guy who ordinarily in popular culture, our heroes, elected leaders, are portrayed either as Machiavellian or dolts. And in this case, he was going to be a very bright, very charming guy. So I was going to introduce us to that. And for some reason, it felt like the greatest idea in the world. And whatever it was, it got me writing. It got me actually typing. And then once I started, I couldn't stop. And then just talking about the first scene. Once I know what the first scene is, once I'm ready to write the first scene, I write the first scene in roughly the amount of time it takes to type the first scene. And if you're doing that, you're doing well. If it's coming out like ketchup out of a bottle, then you don't have it yet. You haven't pinpointed the conflict. [MUSIC PLAYING] The software I use is Final Draft. It took me a long time to get to Final Draft, because when I first started writing...

Your script starts here.

Aaron Sorkin wrote his first movie on cocktail napkins. Those napkins turned into A Few Good Men, starring Jack Nicholson. Now, the Academy Award-winning writer of The West Wing and The Social Network is teaching screenwriting. In this class, you’ll learn his rules of storytelling, dialogue, character development, and what makes a script actually sell. By the end, you’ll write screenplays that capture your audience’s attention.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Very informative. I will be able to put a lot of this to good use!

I so completely identify with Mr. Sorkin, with regard to running all over the road when he speaks. I run all over the world at times.

Please add autoplay!!! Don't have much time to write, just wanted to say that I loved this

This helped me greatly in terms of how to develop interesting dialog, structure of plot, and it has helped me peak into the life of a professional writer. I would highly recommend this course.


Brandon S.

It was relieving to hear someone as talented as Mr. Sorkin to state that he too struggles with having days where he doesn't write anything. That is something that has played a huge part in my lack of self-confidence because I believed that because this occurs sometimes more often than not that I was a failure. Thank you for the encouraging words Mr. Sorkin definitely needed that reassurance.

Tara Jade B.

"That's what every writer is thinking: that they are fulling everybody." LOL

Tara Jade B.

He says it so well: "On the days when you don't write, for whatever reason, you feel demoralised. But when you write, and when you write something good, you feel like you can fly." :))) Spot on!

Tara Jade B.

18 to 24 months! Oh, yes, thank you, Aaron! This makes me feel so much better! :)))

Pashon T.

I think I've had a writer's WALL for the past 20 years. I've started so many stories, and "HONESTLY", I quit when they get too hard to flesh out. It actually makes me feel good to know that, I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE. Right now, I'm standing up at the corner of my bar, typing this comment, and feeling like I could pound out my entire first scene in the next 20 minutes. I think that's what he means by FEELING GOOD WHEN YOU WRITE. I've been depressed about life for the past 3 months and this is the first time, in a long time, that I have felt completely invigorated.

Richard D.

WHen he said, "Writer's block? It's my default position." I laughed a sign right out loud.

Daron J.

I actually host coffee klatchs in nyc with my fellow writers to talk through stuff and just to get creative juices flowing..

Vickie R.

I find I get writer's block when I'm bored, so whenever I have to spend two hours in a doctor's waiting room, I make sure to bring my writing pad and do my writing there. Same thing with going to the Verizon store to get my phone fixed, which takens another hour or so. SO now I try to bring my writer's pad everywhere I go in case inspiration strikes, like hearing my favorite 70s song CAR WASH, my favorite movie as a teen. I find listening to 70s disco music inspires me a lot to write.

Vickie R.

Listening to Aaron is so inspiring that I wish he could come over to my house in Northridge, sit by the ultra big pool and trade Hollywood war stories. Writing is very solitary and sometimes I need a mentor or expert to talk with. (Other than my five cats and one dog who also provide inspiration for me). However I am writing my story in long-hand but will only work on my trusty typewriter so I can't get hacked again. IBM Selectric is great.

Judith H.

Sometimes you have to live the story to write the story. Thanks Aaron Sorkin.