Monday, August 28, 2006

Procrastination & Prioritization

This month is almost over... and I’m not even close to finishing all of the things on my to do list. Because I’ve got so many irons in the fire, and it’s easy for me to lose sight of the big picture... and I’m just as lazy as everyone else... I put together a to do list every month. It can be anything from just the script I’m writing and whatever other deadline stuff I need to do, to a day-by-day list that breaks down what tasks I have to do on each day. This month, I had a bunch of different things to do, so I had a day-today list.

Between the website, this blog, screenplays, classes, articles, events, and my career stuff (once again I’m looking for an agent and manager) (oh, and I need to sell a script in case the Lifetime deal falls through) - I have a million things fighting for my attention. Often I feel like that guy who used to be on the Ed Sullivan show who had to keep three dozen plates spinning on top of three dozen pool cues. All I do is run back and forth keeping the plates spinning!

So this month I had three major tasks:

1) A page one rewrite on this ancient sci-fi action script that has been renamed STEEL CHAMELEONS. I plan on producing this one myself (more on that in a later entry) and I need to get the script done and the project moving along before I fly to London at the end of September... because when I come back I have something like 3 days before I jump into wall-to-wall classes at Screenwriting Expo... and right after that is American Film Market (where I plan on finding a distrib and/or funding for the film).

2) Write and fine-tune all of my new CD classes... so that I can record them before I hop the plane to London, because I want to have the new CD Classes for Expo this year.

3) Like a complete fool, I threw out some titles for potential 3 hour classes for the Raindance Festival in London... and they picked a couple. So I have to create those classes before I hop a plane at the end of September.

Now, factor into this that I post a Script Tip five days a week... and sleep.

So, it was going to be a busy month to begin with.... is it any wonder why I’m way the hell behind?

I decided to set up my schedule so that I would alternate between script and classes - that way my mind could be “fresh” for each task. It’s always a choice between momentum and variety. I never know which will work best, but thought my subconscious might do some script work while my conscious was working on the classes. That kind of makes sense, right?

Well, things didn’t work out as planned.

The script rewrite proved to be more work than expected. You see, this was going to be the second time I’ve done this rewrite. A little over a year ago, I was putting this same project together, and spent some time figuring out how to rewrite the script... and got about 3/4 of the way through the rewrite when... my hard drive got wiped. Because I was still working on the rewrite, I hadn’t printed it out... and, like a fool, I had no back up on disc. So I lost the entire rewrite. I was so depressed, I avoided even thinking about the script... until the end of last month. I was originally going to rewrite a crime script - and change it into a *western* crime script... but realized the odds of selling that were about a zillion to one. Even though I had that rewrite completely prepped and ready to go, maybe it would make more sense to rewrite something else? I looked over all of my projects waiting for rewrites and stumbled on STEEL CHAMELEONS. With AFM around the corner, maybe I should try to put that together again? Hey, I’d already re-written it once, so the second time should be easy, right?

Wrong.

This is a page one rewrite. The original was written in 1993 or 1994. The new version would completely change the protagonist and the female lead, and change the plot to take advantage of the advances in CGI effects. When I first wrote the script, it was designed to be made cheap... and there were almost no FX. The audience has changed since then as well, as have my sensibilities. And the original version of the script was written around a specific location that I had access to... in 1993. I don’t even know if that location still exists! I have access to different locations, now, and want to take advantage of them when I make this film. So almost everything is going to be different in this version.

What happened last year was a distrib I met at AFM said he might be interested in helping me set up an action film, what did I have? I pulled out the 1993 script, read it, realized it could probably be made on the unbelievably low budget this guy would provide, and brainstormed up a rewrite that would add a ton of production value without raising the cost. Some of that was just using better ideas, and making the two leads into more interesting characters. I put together a three page synopsis based on these new ideas and delivered it to the distrib, who said “yes!” (as long as you can get Lorenzo Lamas to star... and still bring it in on the dirt cheap budget). When that proved impossible (Lorenzo was booked with a soap opera)... and the rewrite vanished along with everything else on my hard drive... the deal fell apart. But I still had those notes! I still had that 3 page synopsis!

Except over a year later, the notes made no sense to me.

The synopsis would have to be my guide.

So now I have a page one rewrite that was going to be a breeze - but my vague memories of how I did this scene over a year ago are all I have to go on.

So I spend two days, when I should be cranking out pages, just trying to figure out what those pages should be. But on the third day, something amazing happens...

I get a phone call from Movie Maker Magazine asking me to write an article on Realistic Dialogue... and can they have it by Friday? Thursday would be better. It’s *Wednesday*, and I’m already 2 days behind... and by the time I finish the article I’m a week behind and I’ve lost my train of thought on the script...

So I jump into one of the new CD Classes...

Just like the new classes I have to create for London, the new audio classes begin with some subject that I think is interesting and important. I start filing away material on that subject, sometimes writing an article for Script on the subject (but creating an extended version for the class - the horror class is 5 times longer than the article I wrote for Script) as well as writing bits and pieces of the class in my spare time. I usually wait until right before I go into the recording studio to write all of these notes up into a class, so that it will be fresh in my mind when I’m recording. Unfortunately, for well over a year, now, I haven’t been able to get any time in the recording studio. Now it’s time to just do it - even if it means using some other recording studio. That means I have to get these classes written for a possible last minute recording session.

I start to work on one of the classes... then decide I should write a blog entry instead.

After that, I decide to check out the message boards.

And then I spend a couple of days getting my Blue Book and CD orders under control - one of the big thorns in my side is that the place that has printed my Blue Books for years has gone out of business and I have yet to find a good replacement printer. It seems like everyplace screws up the order, which means I have to have them do it all over again... and one place managed to KEEP screwing it up, making the orders really late getting out... and burning up a bunch of my time due to someone else’s screw up. So I’ve been trying out different printers and printing smaller quantities at a time (in case they screw up). This has turned the Blue Books into a major pain in the ass. Oh, and the CDs have become a pain in the ass, too - because I *still* have not found a place that will do the labels. The printer that went out of business used to do that, too. After spending half a day fighting with inept printers, I don’t feel like writing... and I deserve a break, right?

After that, I... oh, boy am I getting behind. And once you get so far behind that you’ll never catch up, it’s pretty easy to just say screw it.

Next thing you know, two weeks have passed and you’ve written an article for Movie Maker and a blog entry and that missing Porn Panel blog entry and a swell new tip or two and fulfilled my Blue Book and CD orders... but haven’t crossed anything off the to do list at all.

Add to that, a manager asked to read a script over a week ago... and I just put it in the mail a couple of days ago. It wasn’t even on the to do list, so I never found time to do it. I’ve had to call another manager back for 2 weeks - again, not on the to do list. I have to get back to that guy! I should put this stuff on the top of my priority list... but all of these other things also need to be on top of the list. Just not enough time!

And I waste a bunch of it hanging around on message boards. Procrastinating. Actually avoiding work. In fact, when I get overwhelmed, I go out of my way to avoid work...

Usually by working on something that has no deadline. Like this blog entry.

That’s my unique way of procrastinating - I work on pointless projects. If there’s some writing I can do that will accomplish nothing - I’d rather do that than the writing that might actually help my career. This makes no sense at all. Some days I answer 20 questions with mini-essays on 5 different message boards... and feel like I’ve done a ton of work... but really have accomplished nothing.

So I can comfort myself by saying I wrote 4 pages today... but later beat myself up because I wrote 4 pages that just don’t matter. They don’t cross anything off the list. So I appear to be working... but I’m really not. It’s just a different kind of procrastination.

Maybe I need to do better at prioritizing - factor in all of these other things that always pop up? Even factor in things like this blog entry. That would be more realistic... but I can’t really see “Avoid Work By Writing A Blog Entry” on the to do list.

The good news is that over the weekend I figured out some of the critical stuff on the STEEL CHAMELEONS rewrite... and managed to get the first 10 pages rewritten.

Oh, and I changed all of the dates on my To Do List so that it starts with this week and ends 3 weeks from now with a rewritten script and all of my classes ready to record (or teach in London). Hopefully this time around I’ll actually cross some stuff off.

Unfortunately, I’ve begin today with a 4 page blog entry.

- Bill

17 comments:

Sports on a Schtick said...

Hey a little progress is still progress, right?

wcdixon said...

Bill:

This has ceased to become your list or your blog post...it's your 'assistants' list and post --- oh right, you/we ARE the assistant. Ahhh life of the freelancer grinder...gotta love it.

Still got a lot done in my book. What's up with the Lifetime draft?

Unknown Screenwriter said...

Sleep? You don't have time to sleep!

Unk

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when you are completely overwhelmed like that the only thing to do is just dump half the stuff. Ask yourself what is really important out of all these things you have to do. Good luck.

rorybaldwin said...

In that case you shouldn't be reading this, Bill. If I had some spare cash I might head down to Raindance but it's not looking likely!

Emily Blake said...

You think you're procrastinating?

Who's the more procrastinatory? The procrastinator or the procrastinator who procrastinates after him?

I'm taking the time away from writing to read about your procrastination. How sad is that?

Vlad Tepes said...

Your procrastination style is almost exactly the same as my own. For some strange reason I find that fact comforting.

Vlad Tepes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vlad Tepes said...

Whoops. Double post. Sorry about that. Stupid firewall at work gave me problems. Yes, I'm at work procrastinating from actual work by reading your blog. Worse than that, I opened up a script to work on as procrastination from my actual work, but now I'm procrastinating from that too! I have issues.

David said...

Wil,
Went to expo4 last year, your class was a standout, still dropping by your tips site for refreshers all the time.

Dude- get your books electronically published, along with your CDs. Use cafepress.com or lulu.com. Inventory and setup costs are for suckers, sorry but it's true. And they'll even make it blue for you.

Can't go to expo5 this year, no money, no time, pregnant wife and I'm too busy trying to write something decent for freakin' once. Thanks for giving back, it's a major help!

Anonymous said...

Bill... exactly what David said. You should be doing your Blue Books as downloadable eBooks already... forget printing/shipping paper books... just let people pay and download a PDF... I know I for one would have ordered all your stuff by now had it been done this way... and maybe you could set something up so that your CDs could just be downloadable files too... would save a ton of time and headaches.

The Moviequill said...

whatever you do don't ever slack off on those Daily Tips. I require them as my first read in the morning... just so you know

wcdixon said...

You must be finally writing now....good.

If you get a chance, what's your spin on the whole MySpace thingee?

http://uninflectedimages.blogspot.com/2006/08/so-whats-deal-with-myspace-cont.html#links

wcmartell said...

Just answered that...

My goal on My Space is to have more friends than you do... and better friends!

- Bill

MaryAn Batchellor said...

You need an accountability partner who will work you over with a battery sock if you procrasti... wait, are you married?

wcmartell said...

No... single. You think that's the problem? Should I track down my ex?

- Bill

English Dave said...

''No... single. You think that's the problem? Should I track down my ex?''

As someone recently emancipated I'd say no. lol

Writing for a living is dead hard. Ain't no two ways about it. Okay, digging coal is much more physically demanding but at least you don't get notes, or have the constant nagging fear that the last piece of coal you dug has to be the best piece of coal you dug or you will dig no more coal.

Procrastination and paranoia are the writer's tools. [Or I'd say that if those lazy bastards weren't looking at me]

It'll all get done Bill. You know it. One of the benefits of being single!

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