Time: make it work for you


One of the things I’ve tried to take advantage of during the ongoing sheltering-in-place is being able to set aside time to write. Every day, if possible.

Sure, some days all the other stuff that requires your attention might whittle it down to practically nothing, but hopefully you’ve allowed yourself that window of opportunity to work on your latest project.

So far it’s worked out pretty well. My current project is THIS CLOSE to being done.

Would I have been able to made this kind of progress if I hadn’t been confined to my house all this time? Maybe. Maybe not. The important thing is I PUT IN THE WORK. That’s the only way anything gets written. A writer writes.

If you’re like me, you know writing requires discipline. It takes a real effort to keep at it on as regular a basis as you can manage. Any progress is good progress.

Even if all you can manage is a page a day, that’s still something. It’s a page more than you had yesterday. And the more you write and strive to constantly develop your craft, the more you’ll improve. Because you put in the time to do it.

This isn’t to say you should devote every available second to working on something. You don’t want to burn yourself out. Allow yourself a little downtime and relax. Go ahead and recharge those batteries.

Hard as it to believe, you are allowed to spend some time NOT writing. You can even do something that’s not even related to writing in any way, shape or form. Shocking, I know.

My wife and I have been enjoying the Miss Fisher Mysteries on Amazon Prime, and I’m slowly working my way through all those “I’ll get around to watching this eventually” movies in my Netflix queue.

I’ve also been able to do a little more exercising, which has been beneficial for both mind and body. It helps clear my head, gets me out of the house, and keeps me active. Even just taking the dog for a walk is good.

But my writing still manages to find a way to remind me it’s still there. It’s not uncommon for me to be out on a run and, even though I’m all sweaty, out of breath, and still have several miles to go, I’ll be mulling over potential solutions to a pesky problem involving something in the script.

No matter how you spend your time, I hope you’ve been able to make the current situation work for you as best as you can, and are happy with how your writing’s coming along.

Work those writing muscles!

Feel the burn! C’mon! Just one more page!

Earlier this month, I hosted a networking event for screenwriters from the Bay Area and throughout northern California. It was fun and I got to make some new connections as well as reconnect with some already-established ones.

(Can’t recommend this sort of thing enough. Getting to know other writers in your area helps all involved.)

Part of the event involved introducing ourselves and offering up a little background info, including our individual screenwriting- or film-based experience (there were a few writer-directors) and a thumbnail description of our current works-in-progress.

When it was my turn, I mentioned the blog and how I was dividing my time between a few rewrites. At that point, one of the attendees raised his hand.

“A few rewrites? Like, all at the same time?”

I clarified that I’d work on one script for a few days, or at least until I thought I made some significant progress, take a day off, then dive into another one.

“But don’t you find it kind of difficult to stay focused?” He also added that he was relatively new to screenwriting, so the concept of working on a script and then suddenly shifting gears into one that’s totally different was a little mind-blowing.

I explained it this way:

I’ve been doing this a while, and all of these scripts are at least third, fourth, or higher drafts. I’ve gotten to know the stories and characters for each one pretty well, so I can jump right in, fully aware of what each rewrite requires. It might take a while (along with several more rewrites) to finally get there, but I’ve found that always working on something has really helped make the whole process easier.

It really is like exercising. It’s kind of tough and challenging when you’re starting out, and takes time to learn how to do it properly. Then you figure out a pace and/or system that works best for you (with everybody having their own methods and routine). You will indeed discover that the more you do it, the easier it gets.

I try to write every day, even if I only have 30 minutes to spare. You might think such a short amount of time isn’t worth the effort, but I’d disagree. Better to spend a little time writing than no time at all. Friend-of-the-blog Pilar Alessandra even wrote a book to help you do just that. (totally unsolicited plug. It came to mind while I was writing this.)

If you go into a writing session with an idea of what you want to accomplish, it’s a great use of your time. And if you sit down, not entirely sure what to do, you’re still giving yourself the opportunity to focus, which is always good.

That’s really what it all comes down to: Want to be a better writer? Find the time to write.

And reading helps a bit too.

Looks like my get-up-and-go has got up and went

Everybody feels like this sometimes; today just happens to be my turn.
Amazingly, not as comfy as you’d think

I’m up to page 80 of the first draft, with maybe 2-3 pages to go to hit that next major plot point, which would put me approximately 7-8 pages over. Not necessarily too bad.

But there have been times lately, especially in the past few weeks, when writing feels more like work, which it really shouldn’t.

I’m not going to call it burnout, but it feels mighty close to that. Call it the writer’s equivalent of battle fatigue.

I don’t like it, and what bothers me more is the why.

Maybe it’s from not exercising as much, so my energy levels are down. On the other hand, I did two 13-mile runs in just under a week, so maybe I’ve exhausted myself.

Or maybe it’s psychological.  The ever-present concern whether people will like the end result is shaking my confidence, which makes it hard to focus.

A lot of writers say they write because they can’t imagine doing anything else. I agree, but what do you do when it’s tough to actually write?

It’s not writer’s block. I know the material. And it’s not motivation. Believe me, I really want to get this done.

The biggest drawback to all of this is if I’m not mentally jazzed about writing, the writing’s going to reflect that.

I could have an incredibly thrilling action sequence ready to go, but it might read as sluggish, listless or, god forbid, lazy.

It’s one thing to say to yourself “Keep going! You can do it!” It’s another to actually put those words into effect.

-Movie of the Moment – MAN OF STEEL (2013) Talk about tired and listless. How can a movie about Superman feel so empty? The special effects were impressive – I’d expect nothing less – but in terms of story and characters, I was very disappointed there wasn’t more of a sense of fun to it.

A friend says they were following the Nolan/DARK KNIGHT model and going for dark and brooding, which is what Batman’s all about anyway.

For a character with the nickname of the Big Blue Boy Scout, ‘dark and brooding’ isn’t exactly what comes to mind.

V and I saw it, and there were a few times she asked “Is it almost over?” This is a child who really enjoys a good comic book movie, and she’s known about Superman since she was really little, so when she asks that, you know it’s not a good sign.

It’s either optimism or hypothermia

Luckily for me, it doesn't snow here
Luckily for me, it doesn’t snow here

My bike ride to work is an enjoyable 6-mile pre-dawn journey across most of San Francisco. The temperature when I left the house just after 4 this morning was 43 degrees, so by the time I got to work 40 minutes later, some of my outer extremities were a bit chilled and are taking longer than I’d like to thoroughly thaw.  Especially my feet. They’re still cold.

But looking back today at how this year developed for me combined with what I’m hoping to make happen in 2013 make for that warm glow of satisfaction.

-My writing has definitely improved. Several drafts later, DREAMSHIP is much stronger now, and I’m feeling really confident about it. While a sale would be fantastic, I’ll focus on getting representation for now.

-Because of the feedback I’d received on DREAMSHIP, the outlining process for LUCY is working out much, much smoother. Once the outline is ready, and it almost is, I’m really looking forward to getting started on pages.

-I didn’t get to read as many scripts as I’d wanted to, so setting a weekly goal of at least 2 seems pretty doable.

-I had a blast doing The Script Adventurer!, and am that much closer to bringing it back as a podcast. Still planning on a January launch. This is becoming a real learning process, and is actually kind of exciting.

-I did three half-marathons, finally breaking 2:00. I plan on doing at least three more this year, hopefully adding 1-2 more into the mix. Once again, the objective is to break 1:55.

-Since the running took care of my lower body, 2013 will also see more attention to upper body. Hoping for bigger arms and flatter abs. First up – the 100 Pushups program.

-I made a lot of pies this year. So many that they’re now strongly requested when friends invite us over for dinner. Pie-making will continue, but baklava remains at the top of the “I really want to make this” list. (This is not necessarily counter-productive to the previous item – it’s all about moderation)

-I’ll try to keep posting on a semi-regular basis. As always, my appreciation and gratitude for those of you willing to endure my ramblings continues to be limitless.  I hope 2012 saw good things happen for you, and that 2013 is even better.

Happy New Year, and see you on the other side.