Monday, December 19, 2011

Writing Routinely

This is a companion piece to my previous post in which I wrote about the importance of writing throughout the day whenever you can find a morsel of time. I should elaborate to say I find it helpful to devote routine, solid chunks of time to writing and only writing.

Just this second a friend texted me on this very phone on which I'm writing, and with lightning speed I denied a response. This is how seriously I guard my writing time these days; I refuse to sacrifice even ten seconds for anything else. The problem is not sacrificing those ten seconds. It's the sixty or one hundred and twenty seconds or on some days much, much longer my brain requires to shift back into writing gear. My writing time is nothing less than sacred. That speaks nothing of the potential turds I churn out during writing time, but I think it's important to respect your work enough to let everything else take a back seat for at least one solid, sustained period every day.

It should be the exact same time every day too - thats's hugely important. You'll find that by forcing yourself to write always at 2 PM no matter if you're not in the mood, eventually you'll feel the urge to write at 2 PM just as you get hungry around midday and tired at night. Conditioning your mind for creativity is absolutely essential in being a productive, prolific writer.

I think often of prolific writers and wonder about their creative methods. Just how do they write so damn much?! I used to believe R.L. Stein was just a pen name used by many writers because hell, there are over 150 Goosebumps books. Turns out he's one guy who made a habit of writing one to two novels per month. Per month! I haven't even written one in all my 29 years! Did the man not sleep, ignore his wife and kids, and wear earplugs 24/7? Did he never have a doctor's appointment, a friend asking to hang out, or a picnic to pack for? Is he still racking up overdue fees with unwatched Blockbuster VHSs from fifteen years ago? Just how did he manage the rest of his life?

To find that time will require that you budget the rest of your time wisely too. This is where writing really stops being a hobby and becomes a discipline. You cannot ignore the other equally important aspects of your life in favor of writing time. I'm still in the process of figuring this out myself, that you must have balance in your non-writing hours to sustain your creative ability and motivation. I have a terrible tendency to gung-ho my way about everything I'm presently doing to the total exclusion of everything else, and let me tell you that twenty-hour nonstop writing sessions do not make you a good writer. They make you an odorous, grumpy person, who's pissed off those whose calls he ignored and the cats whose litterbox he didn't clean, with a stack of dishes in the sink, unpaid bills stuffing the mailbox, a flickering light above that still needs to be fixed, and fifty pages of mediocre writing for the day who will not want to write again for a month.

You can't really think in terms of "writing time" and "other time" because they are so entwined that if you've got too much "other time" stuff on your mind, it's a clog in your creative pipes, and if you never write (or draw, sing, or whatever your creative outlet may be), then you'll be too depressed to do anything to your full ability. Just give every necessary activity its very own routine timeslot, and quickly you'll fall into a daily rhythm of productivity and naturally-occuring motivation to be creative.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Finding Time

I hate cars. I hate paying for cars, maintaining cars, and operating cars. I also hate the notion that all men like cars. You could say I hate cars, and all the ideas that surround them. Chief among my reasons is that driving requires your full attention, and despite some idiots' valiant attempts to prove otherwise, you really can't do anything else while driving. It is time wasted.

Cars represent freedom, don't they? That's what popular culture has us believe. In the movies, in commercials and novels throughout the past century the message is consistant: if only we had a car, we'd be free! Sure it's true to a degree, but most drivers don't even own the car in their driveway - they lease or repay a loan - and they've secured their place as a statistic alongside the millions who spend 15% of their life just...driving.

Many people like myself live in a big city where public transit is an option, yet so many look upon it with disdain, failing to see its secret glory. Yes it takes longer than driving yourself in your own automowhatsit, but not only is it far cheaper - without having to pay attention to the road, you can also work while you ride.

A key factor in my resuming this blog is that I now have an hour-and-a-half commute to work. I take the bus during the day, and in the evening, a bus and a trolley, and all told that's 2 to 3 hours per day locked in a big metal box with only my brain and an iPhone to keep me occupied. It's perfect. I have trouble getting motivated to write; now it's write or sit there being bored.

As I write this there's a girl talking on her phone behind me and the train's rattling loudly down the tracks - a less than favorable writing environment, but I won't let that stop me as it once did. I think we all prefer to just sit in front of our computers for a 2-3 hour block and concentrate entirely on our writing, but most days that's impossible. I'd go long, long stretches without writing anything, and that was my excuse - I really just need time to focus, I can't write under less than perfect conditions. This is a great mindset for watching a movie, but not for writing one. Conditions are hardly ever perfect; wait for them to be and you'll hardly ever write.

If it's difficult to find time for writing consider this: with the smartphone you most likely have or with a little old-fashioned notebook, you can do everything you need to do while writing throughout your day. Waiting in line? Write. Eating lunch? Write. On the can? Write write write. We like to tell ourselves we're too busy, we're just not in the mood. Ask yourself if you're really okay with believing that, if you're really okay with ending your day not doing something to work toward your goal, with being in the exact same place you were yesterday, and suddenly those little pockets of time will call your attention.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Newly Defined Loosely

I'll spare the zero of you reading this any excuse for my year-and-a-half absence because I don't need to explain myself to non-existant people.

After ten years of pondering and procrastinating I've finally made the move to southern California. Looking back at the midwest, I don't know what took me so long. While Michigan's ass-deep in a frozen white bother called snow (I care not to see it again) I sit writing this post outside at night in December with my sleeves rolled up. Yes, I have the long sleeves, but I've opted to roll them up because this December, I'm in lovely warm San Diego. The beach is half a mile in any direction.

I'm also closer geographically speaking to my goal of writing for film and TV full-time. I'm fortunate enough to have a few undiscussable projects in the works and now I'm close enough to LA I can actually participate in their production. That makes me explode with happy.

For years I thought filmmaking should be a divided, compartmentalized process wherin directors direct, editors edit, cinematographers cinematograph, and writers write. I blame my school for that broken understanding of cinema production. We were instructed to declare a concentration within our major - do you want to produce? Do special effects? DEFINE YOURSELF NOW, unshaped eighteen year-old mind! - and thus I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Video Production with a Concentration in Screenwriting (no it doesn't say that on my diploma, but I was constantly asked throughout my four years "what's your concentration"?). I turned down many good opportunities for on-set work and even a prized editing internship because, well, my time was better spent concentrating on screenwriting. That's who I was forced to tell myself I was!

I missed out. On a lot. And rather than wonder what would've happened if I'd done this or that, I'll change my present frame of mind to say there are no such things as directors, editors, cinematographers, or writers. If you want to make films, you need to know every aspect of the craft - the best in the biz do, and they're your competition. They're filmmakers, and that term encompasses every aspect of the process from writing and financing, up to the final cut and through distribution.

I've wasted a lot of time with the excuse I need to build my writing portfolio. These days I'm trying to be a filmmaker, and moving here takes me closer to that title. I have no money and no means to get my stuff back across the country should I fail to become one. Feels good to take a big bet on myself.