Film & TV

Writing Habits

Aaron Sorkin

Lesson time 15:25 min

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.

Aaron Sorkin
Teaches Screenwriting
Aaron Sorkin teaches you the craft of film and television screenwriting in 35 exclusive video lessons.
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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.

Aaron demystifies the screen trade, making it seem almost blue collar. Even just at a cursory skimming of the video lessons, I gleaned enough valuable insights into the trade to justify the purchase. I look forward to going back over it thoroughly, with the workbook to hand.

I'm a game dev, not a screenwriter, and this class was universal enough to help me sort out a lot of my issues with writing. Thanks!

Fantastic class! Loved Aaron's teaching style! Highly recommend!

Great insights of course on the ins and outs of writing screenplay and great scene development ideas too. Greatly appreciated.


Katharina R.

"The most of that time is spent in thinking and being depressed" Glad to hear that it also (and still) happens to experienced screenwriters. I love you :D

Sophie C.

"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." So true! So much good information to absorb.

James S.

This helps SO MUCH. I've been pressuring myself to get on top of a project because i need 5-7 projects to put on a creative Resume for my college application by next February and I'm at 1. I've stared at my screen for HOURS just to try and get something put down.

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..