How I quadrupled my screenwriting output by hiring a stranger from Craigslist to slap me in the face.

“How could I leverage Craigslist to improve my efficiency? To me, the answer was obvious: I hired a girl on Craigslist to slap me in the face everytime I used Facebook.”

This story that made the rounds online a few years ago. A guy hired a girl to watch him work in a coffee shop. It made him really productive for these five reasons:

1) Someone else, besides me, knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish that day.

2 [She helped me ignore the impulse to snack or surf the web.]

3) I finally had someone to bounce ideas off of.

4) The Slap Challenge added a playful, silly element to working.

5) Having another pair of eyes to go over my content drastically improved the quality of my work.

I think it’s got more to do with the fact that we’re social creatures and we perform differently with others than when we’re alone. I also think that paying someone for time creates a scarcity of time. We don’t want to be suckers for wasting money, so we work harder than we would have if time was “free.” Honestly, read the whole article.

The high concept here, the reason why this went so viral, is the slapping bit, which has a tinge of the naughty, so it makes for a better story. But the productivity increase works without the slapping part. I know this, because I’ve tried it myself.

Some might say that this is hypocritical, because my job is to help other people write. I say it’s not, I’m embracing the idea of hiring someone to help me with a weak point in my game, and besides the cobbler’s children often go barefoot. I’m not sure why this works, but it really, really works. The biggest obstacle to conquer in screenwriting is discipline. I know a lot of tips, hacks and talents, but at the end of the day it’s me alone with a page, and that’s often hard to deal with.

Capsule review of this process: I absolutely love it! I work faster, harder and better, and created some of the best sequences I’ve ever written in the least amount of time. I would do this every day if money wasn’t an object. I never got slapped.

I’m posting this for a few reasons: one, to share a helpful hack. Two, to help establish the utility and value of my own coaching business. And three to point out that novel philosophies often have useful applications for those who are willing to explore them.

The last part is key. Many times, when I post this ad or tell this story, people react with a huffy surprise. They can’t see why this could be useful, they refuse to imagine how it could be useful, and they quickly build a big case for why it can’t be useful. Sadly, many people would rather demonize novel information rather than learn from it. It’s the biggest step in promoting a growth mindset .


You can try this yourself. Just post a version of the ad in the linked article and see what happens. I recommend posting a link to the article itself, as it makes you look less crazy.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area and would like to sit with me for four hours in exchange for story notes, drop me a line! No slapping required.

Published by Matt Lazarus

WGA screenwriter offering in-depth writing instruction, notes, critique, and assistance.

One thought on “How I quadrupled my screenwriting output by hiring a stranger from Craigslist to slap me in the face.

  1. While I like this idea, what do you do when you’re not feeling inspired or you’re bereft of ideas or you’ve got a problem you can’t quite figure out how to solve? Do you still sit there and write even if it’s “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over, ad infinitum?

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