Here’s how Steven Spielberg got "amazing confidence"

when he was directing E.T., one of my favorite movies ever.

Spielberg writes that Melissa Mathison, the screenwriter,

“put every day’s work on cards. She put the entire script of that day, not the whole week, on little three by five cards. She included the dialogue and the stage directions. These cards gave me amazing confidence.”

“Rather than going through the unwieldly script (120 pp-kk) which is full of notes, I had these little cards and I was kind of liberated and unencumbered. I could walk around with these cards in my pocket, pull them out and say, okay, this is what I’m shooting right now. The cards somehow gave me the freedom to go to the kids and say, ‘We’ll do these lines, but let’s make it up at the same time. What would you say if this really happened to you?'”

The moment I read this comment, I have limited what I plan to do each day to the thing(s) I know I CAN do that day, not look at this huge list of many different things, which distracts me from what I AM doing at this moment. I do my best NOT to think about what’s next, but what I am doing now. That’s after limiting what I will focus on each day to begin with.

I think I do better work and enjoy it more. Because I’ve allowed myself to focus on it, and not everything else on the list.

In case it helps you…voila.

P.S. Spielberg notes that no other screenwriter he’s worked with had done that before – or since.

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • Many years ago I was learning Tae Kwon Do. It was the first TKD school in the UK which shows you it was eons ago. The whole class was lined up in rows with the higher grades at the front and the beginners at the back. The idea was that you took a tiny peek at what the higher grade was doing while you worked on what you were doing.

    There were two lessons in this:

    1) You looked at what the next grade was doing, not the guy 4 rows in front who was nearly a black belt. Small steps. Can you see yourself doing that in 6 weeks’ time? Yes, you can.

    2) You had to concentrate very hard on what you were doing (whilst taking a peek in front). People were moving fast and punching and kicking. If you weren’t in the right place at the right time you got an accidental smack in the mouth.

    Every day my mammoth To Do list smacks me in the mouth. By 2pm I’m exhausted. (That’s when I go swimming). On sensible days when I get up and think, “Right. Today I’m going to do this and ignore everything else” it’s much much better.

  • WOW wow WOW!

    I’ve heard it time and time again ‘live in the moment’ but WOW!

    How many of us are trying to plan a month, a week or even 2 days ahead?

    That can get stressful as we are not focusing on the ‘now’ but focusing on the mystery of the future.

    More energy in the ‘now’ will create results ‘now’. I love it and will be using this concept in my business as well as mentioning this to my growing team!

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~Alethea Anderson

  • When I was in college I’d write term papers by putting each idea, quote, reference, etc. on an index card. Then I’d put them in order, sit down at the typewriter (as I watched the dinosaurs walk by – lol) and write the paper. It worked like a charm.
    Sounds like the way to organize each day. Put each thing to get done on a card. Do it, then move on to the next. I’m going to start today. Simple, easy and doable.
    Thanks for the tip.

  • Daniel Chege :

    People like to multi-task and at the end of the day, they end up doing less than they could have done if they were more focused.

    The secret is to surround yourself with experts who can help you with what you need but at the same time find out what they would want from you as well.

    This works, and the prime example is Sean “diddy” coms running more than 10 multi-million dollar companies (music,clothing company,comedy,publishing company..) and also Percy Miller.

    Don’t work harder, work smarter and you will have more time to play even harder!

    – Daniel Chege
    Poppa Productions Web Designs

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