Aaron Sorkin attends the 29th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 2, 2018 in Palm Springs, California. (AFP/ Matt Winkelmeyer)
Academy Award-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin revealed on Thursday he goes to bed most nights having not succeeded in putting a single word to paper.
The 56-year-old mastermind behind NBC's "The West Wing" and big screen productions "The Social Network" and "Moneyball" recently turned to directing, working from his own Oscar-nominated screenplay for "Molly's Game."
"I have to say this -- directing is really hard. But I loved every minute of it," he told a discussion panel of Hollywood writers in Beverly Hills.
"One of the things that I loved, other than the people I was working with, was that you may have a hard day at the office, but at the end of the day you've done a day's work.
"As a writer, with me, not only is that not always the case, for me it's hardly ever. I'm not kidding. Most nights I go to bed having written nothing and not knowing what I'm going to do tomorrow morning."
Sorkin, who is reportedly Hollywood's highest paid screenwriter at $4 million a movie script, has a standing offer to reboot "The West Wing" but is much in demand for big screen movies and has repeatedly refused.
He advised writers finding themselves on a roll in the evening to stop and go to bed, even if they know exactly how the scene is going to play out, so that they have something to dive into the following morning.
"It takes me months and months of doing what to the untrained eye what might look a lot like lying on the couch and watching ESPN. But I'm really searching for an 'intention and obstacle,' he added.
"I do a lot of research, not really knowing what I'm looking for and hoping I'm just going to trip over something and it will get me someplace else. But for me, without a strong intention and obstacle -- someone wants something and someone is standing in their way to get it -- it's finger painting."
Sorkin was speaking at "Beyond Words 2018," a discussion among nominees for the Writers Guild of America Awards in Beverly Hills on February 11.
The panel included Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor ("The Shape of Water"), Greta Gerwig ("Lady Bird"), Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani ("The Big Sick"), James Mangold and Michael Green ("Logan"), and Jordan Peele ("Get Out").
Peele revealed that he broke down in tears as he was writing an intense scene in which his protagonist Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is hypnotized into believing he is trapped in a mind state called "the sunken place" as memories of his mother's death come back to him.
"It was a cathartic thing, I wouldn't describe it as fun,"said Peele, who is nominated for two statuettes at the March 4 Oscars, for writing and directing.
"But the thing that stops so much of my art, if I let it, is when I lose track of why I want to tell the story -- what the most fun thing can be."
Gerwig, also nominated for writing and directing Oscars for coming-of-age tale "Baby Bird," said she had the "literal opposite thing" from Peele's mantra tacked up on her message board -- the motto, "Don't be afraid to be bored."