Are you stuck for ideas? Is your writing in a mess? Do you need a way to get critical distance?

Here’s a deceptively simple method for literally getting your work to move forwards – but don’t be fooled. Like many simple ideas it can be profoundly useful. It works for all kinds of screenwriting, and other creative work, and also for problems in directing and producing.Creative head

I like it because, like everything I use and teach, it’s simple and based on the working methods of real writers. Real writers don’t have time for complicated 99-step processes invented by writing gurus. This technique was actually developed from the working practice of a top Hollywood studio.


Before you start you need:
1 problem
3 different places

The problem could be all-encompassing – sorting out the entire premise, revising a whole draft, reconfiguring the structure – or very specific – a single line of dialogue, the right setting for a scene, the name of a minor character.

The three places could be any different places. They could be three rooms. Or three chairs. Or a swivel chair, a sofa and a rug. You could presumably do it with three different towns, or even countries, but your travel costs might be a bit high.

Let’s say it’s the third, which is what I use. The swivel chair (place A) is the Creative spot. The sofa (place B) is the Organising spot. The rug (place C) is the Critical spot.

Now you start. First you sit in the swivel chair and brainstorm ideas for solving your problem, creating your premise, writing the next dialogue scene, finding finance, whatever you want. Anything goes, no limits, write all the ideas down, or if you like record them on a voice recorder. You can fix a time, or just sit as long as you like.

When you have a fair number of possibles, you move to the sofa (or whatever your second place is – second chair, second office, Belgium…) and here you organise those ideas. You arrange them, cut or rethink the ones that don’t work, build on the ones that do. And when you’ve done enough of that you…

Move to the third place – the rug, the third chair, the third office, Croatia…

This is where you unleash your full critical faculty. Here you pull holes in what you’ve made so far. You do your best to find every fault. You nitpick, you tear it apart, you hammer at it until you’re confident you’ve found every possible thing that could be wrong about it.

This will probably have left you with some new problems to solve. So you go back to the first place, the swivel chair, etc, and run the process again.

In fact, you keep rotating round the circuit as many times as you need until you feel confident you’ve solved every potential issue and are happy with the result. Then you go and have a cup of tea and start on the next problem.


Simple, yes, but a very powerful technique with many different uses and variations, and not just writing. You could use it for creating a pitch, thinking out a marketing strategy, blocking out a shooting schedule, or even a business plan.

Three places could become three fonts – one font for speed writing, one for organising the draft and a third for editing it down. Or three colours of paper. Or… the only limit is your imagination.

The Mental Game

The psychology of writing – using simple psychological techniques like this one – is the bit that is missed from just about every screenwriting book or course. But I do believe that it is crucial.

Sadly, skill and talent is not enough to get you through the barriers any more.

You have to deal with your doubts, and build self-belief. You have to ketinker tailorep in touch with what you love even when struggling with writing problems, or facing rejection. You need to avoid being sabotaged by your weaknesses and to discover how to play to your strengths.

If you want more simple and practical techniques, based on understanding the psychology of real writers as well as my personal experience, then I have other articles on the Mental Game. And you’ll find many more solid, practical techniques in my two books – Teach Yourself: Complete Screenwriting Course and Jaws in Space.

Happy problem solving.