In Hollywood, Steven de Souza is a legend. He’s one of a handful of screenwriters whose collection of films has earned over $2 billion at the box office. His feature credits include Commando, 48 Hrs.,The Running Man, The Flintstones, Die Hard, and Die Hard 2. I originally met Steve through a mutual friend who had been a producer at Star Trek: The Next Generation when I worked on the show. I got to know Steve better when working on stories for his animated series for CBS Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, a popular graphic novel series he was producing.
Steve is a member of Mensa International, and has a mind that moves at light speed. An amazing thing to be around, whether in a casual setting at his home, discussing current events and talking about ideas, or in a formal story meeting addressing a team of television writers… And yes, it’s intimidating at first flush. His ability to process dense information, formulate remarkable insights and communicate complex concepts was striking and deeply impressive.
I got one particular jewel from Steve, which I’ve carried with me for years. That treasure resulted in never being blocked in my writing, ever again. It represented a paradigm shift in how I approached my writing. And when I’ve passed this concept on to other writers (both new and experienced), many of their jaws would drop slightly with the simplicity of the concept and the power of the action.
It boils down to this: most writers, like me at the time, write from A to Z. Linear. And if you reach D and it remains unresolved, or not completely developed, you battle with that piece till you can move on to E, and finally reach Z. Internal brain debates, maybe more research, etc. That constant stopping and starting results in a congested productivity, some stalling, and can ultimately result in writer’s block. Thinking back and forth, deliberating till you’re satisfied that the chunk you’re working on is good to go. Steve’s method is this: write what you are excited about in the moment, on that day. That means you may have started going from A to C, but when you hit D, you find you’re really thinking more about something in the back end of the story, even the finale. He’d say go for it. Write that today. And don’t stop to worry about spelling, etc., get it down first, polish and refine later. Then as you go forward, writing more pages, the block points (like D) will be filled in with your thinking in an organic manner. It could be that D is the last thing you write. The result of this method is your productivity swells; your excitement for the project builds on itself creating a powerful momentum.
Sometimes I still write from A to Z, but it’s because that’s where my passion is taking me, and the story unfolds organically. But at any time I hit a block, I know to just keep going with another element that’s playing through my mind. From my perspective, it is the definitive cure to writer’s block, which I have not experienced for well over twenty years. I credit Steve de Souza with that gift.