Chapter 11 of 35 from Aaron Sorkin

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

Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting

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

Learn More


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. You’ll learn his rules of storytelling, dialogue, character development, and what makes a script actually sell. By the end, you'll write unforgettable screenplays.

Watch, listen, and learn as Aaron teaches the essentials of writing for television and film.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Aaron will also critique select student work.


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

A very eloquent, succinct & informative look into Aaron's writing process. Enjoyed this course immensely.

Amazing! I love Aaron. The way he speaks is so genuine and what he's teaching is both aspirational and practical. I can definitely relate to being someone who's better at the written word than the spoken one. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to write for the screen.

Aaron Sorkin is quite, quite brilliant. He is a natural at what he does, and a natural at communicating with others. Fantastic course,

I've completed a script for a feature film and had many, many rewrites. I've had feedback from a handful of people in the business. During and now after this class I am working another rewrite to attempt to incorporate all the great information I've learned. Thank you Aaron.


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.

Kayla Z.

I had to laugh when he shared that he drives and listens to music to feel the creative juices because I do the same thing. Those two things combined allow the theta brainwaves to take the wheel, so to speak. I felt especially inspired by the short story/10 pages of an adapted screenplay assignment that we had earlier on so I've been working on that diligently. My goal is to be done with 100 pages by May 1st.

A fellow student

I used to feel bad for waking up, living my day, then falling asleep never writing anything for that day. But hearing Aaron Sorkin describe his state of 'Always having writers block' not only grounds him in reality, but it make same feel better for not always meeting my personal bar. Now, writer's block is of course no excuse to not try, but know that there's no shame in coming up short.

Jim C.

I loved hearing this this morning. As a self-taught writer with 1 produced screenplay and another in development, I'm delighted to hear that my personal process is not much different. I spend a great deal of time working out the story, months perhaps, scene-by-scene (in a 3-Act spreadsheet alongside piles of accumulated notes), before I ever write a single word. I'm now in the very early stages of a new script and have been wondering if my approach is flawed. On a side note, I always listen to music when I write, preferably movie scores which adds a cinematic ambience without distracting lyrics and voice. Youtube is a great resource. Search and play. Loving these lessons, Mr. Sorkin.

Judith M.

I'm not sure what the worst form of writer's block is for me; not to have an idea which is pretty rare, or just being unable to get the characters in my mind to speak and move correctly. Worse yet when you try to explain the problem, people just don't get it, because they don't write in that manner and you are suddenly in danger of people considering you a looney tune for listening to the voices. I admit to using index cards because they allow me to play with chapters or scenes, and their placement. Yes they are yellow as well ;) Music and actors photos as well. Sometimes poetry, lyrics or quotations from a randomly opened page. If all else fails, I try to circle around and find out where the problem actually is, and if I can change my mindset by freeform writing of anything in order to free up what I actually want to write. Perhaps the biggest block to my imagination is when I am writing in the wrong genre. So my biggest question is always, I have a story but is it set in the correct time period?

Jan M.

I write novels these days, having given up on attempting to have my scripts produced (Australia's a small country and I found I wrote big budget hoo). Two books published successfully by traditional publishing house but now, with a great agent awaiting my new novel I'm STUCK! Only about another 30,000 words to write but it's not going anywhere....hasn't for four months. (No, make that six!) Thanks, Aaron for letting me know it happens to you. At least I got well beyond P-15. There's (maybe) hope for me, yet.


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...