Sunday, July 22, 2007

Write Now!

It’s impossible to have a birthday without contemplating your life so far - looking at your accomplishments as well as your mistakes. Analyzing just where you may have gone wrong and making plans to correct past mistakes in the future. Examining your life.

Here’s where I’ve gone wrong:

There were times when I came up with great ideas, jotted them down on note cards... and never did anything about them. Frequently, I was waiting for some other great idea to come along and complete the first, or I was waiting for inspiration, or I was waiting for... I don’t know what. I didn’t write the script.

That is a mistake.

Though I like to know my story before I write it, many times I *have* known my story but found some stupid excuse to put off writing it. Now, I have some nice jotted notes on cards, or maybe a nice treatment, or maybe just a notion waiting to be formed into a concept so that it can eventually become an idea.

But what I don’t have is a script I can sell... and every day that passes is one less day I have. Morbid, maybe, but true. You may be 20 years old right now, but in the blink of an eye you’ll be thirty (that’s what it seemed like to me - a decade seemed to fly by!) - blink again, and you’re suddenly 40. That’s old. Blink again and... oh, crap, your life is over! Where did all that time go?

So write *now* - don’t put it off until you are in the mood. We come up with a million excuses *not* to do something, but we need to focus on just doing it anyway. Because you can’t just hit the rewind button on a day and do it over... and those days fly by. Thank God It’s Friday! The weekend is here! But that also means another week has passed... and maybe you didn’t really get anything accomplished in that week.

I have had weeks speed by where all I did was go online and argue screenwriting with people. What a waste of time! What a waste of *life*! I should have been writing!

I’m not saying that it’s easy to work on your screenplay - it is *work*. It’s more fun for me to go online and argue. More fun for me to *think* about writing my script than to actually write it. More fun for me to *imagine* a sale than to go out there and do the work that results in a sale.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about getting older...

When I was in my 20s, I could work my day job, get in some writing on a script, drink all night, go to class the next morning, then go back to the day job for another 8 hours. Sleep? Who needed it? I could live on a couple of hours and still have all kinds of energy.

But with every blink, every year, every decade... I needed more sleep to function. And even with 8 hours of sleep, not as much energy as I used to have. Now, I have good days and bad days. On a good day I’m working at 100% steam - I can’t wait to get to work on whatever I’m doing. On a bad day, I wake up dumb as a board and stumble around... maybe getting something done (if I’m on deadline I *have* to get something done) and maybe just going to all of the crazy websites my friend Jim sends me... or arguing about screenwriting on messageboards.

When I’m on deadline, I force myself to write on a bad day, and I have all kinds of little tricks to squeeze out the pages when I don’t feel like it. But when I’m working on a spec? Heck! I just waste time.

Precious time.

Time when I really should be working.

Time when I actually *could* be working, even though I don’t feel like it.

When I was working at my day job and I didn’t feel like working, I couldn’t really call in “uninspired” - I had to go punch the time clock and put in my 8 hours. And a couple of blinks ago I could do that with writing - though I didn’t always actually write every day that I could have...

And that’s where I made a huge mistake. Now, I wish I had those days back. Now, I wish I could ump into Doc Brown’s stainless steel time machine and go back to those days where I goofed off... and write something. In fact, I wish I could go back to last week and write something. The plan was to knock out the COWBOY NIGHTS rewrite - 10 pages a day for a week and a half. I can do that. I even did that recently. But *that* rewrite involved a producer with a carrot, and there is no producer anywhere in the world waiting to read COWBOY. No carrot. No stick. No reason to actually do the rewrite... except that it needs to be done. I managed to rip through the new opening sequence in a day - a great start... then jet lag caught up with me and I had a couple of brain dead days. Now, this is a rewrite - I probably could have struggled through my 10 pages a day if I’d really wanted to. But instead I played hooky. Now those days are gone forever, and I reach my self imposed deadline with the script half rewritten.

So, COWBOY becomes a “spare timer” and I jump into my new spec this week.


No matter what I do, time just keeps on ticking into the future.

But here’s what I know is true: Those markers in time - birthdays, New Year’s Day, whatever - are not just a time to contemplate your life and figure out what you should have done... they are also a chance to begin again. You may break every New Year’s Resolution by the end of January... but why not make February 1st your chance to begin again? And if you find your life is a series of great weeks winding down to complete goof off weeks - well, at least you have some productive weeks (or days, or hours) in there. Begin again. Every Monday is a chance to start again. If you peter out before Friday, there’s always another Monday coming up. Another chance to start again.

So, my advice to all of you is to WRITE NOW. Don’t put it off. Do it while you are young... and if you aren’t young, do it while you aren’t dead. If you screw up, start again.

Hey, I’m not 20 anymore. If I party all night... I suffer... maybe even for a couple of days! I’m *old*! But I’m starting a new spec script. And today is the first day of... well, my week. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll have to start from scratch next week... but I can do that.

- Bill


Yesterday’s Lunch: Slice of Starbuck's Zucchini Loaf.
Movies: On my *birthday* got outvoted and was forced to see CHUCK & LARRY. I'm actually planning a blog entry on it, because it was so... bland.
DVD: Bought some DVDs for my birthday, and one was NAKED JUNGLE. One of my favorite movies when I was a kid, saw it on CPM Theater on Sunday afternoon on Sacramento channel 3. I'd also heard the old ESCAPE RADIO THEATER version - when I was a kid one of the San Francisco stations (KSFO) played old radio shows at night (when everyone else was watching TV). I used to record the shows, and had a huge collection of cassettes of radio shows. The radio version was 30 minutes long (including commercials) and the movie is around 95 minutes. The big problem is with how they expanded a 30 minute story into 95 minutes - they open with a 60 minute indoor romantic drama about rugged Chuck Heston's mail order bride Eleanor Parker and his problems with her having been married before (he wants a virgin). 60 minutes of soap opera crap shot on a soundstage... then, when he starts to warm up to her and realize that a piano does sound better if it's been played before, we get the action- jungle story. The one we paid to see. And they rush it! Because the radio drama had commercial breaks, the structure was: hero tries to solve problem, fails... commercial break, repeate two more times. The movie just had him do almost everything at once. So instead of a trio of "how the hell is he going to get out of this alive?" moments, we get one. Why the hell didn't they *integrate* the jugle adventure and soap opera plots? Alternate between exciting jungle adventure and relationship drama? That would have been more exciting - and one plot would have *added* to the other pot. I guess when you're a kid watching this on TV, you forget the boring part and just remember that last 30 minutes of jungle adventure stuff. Someone should remake this sucker and do it right.
Pages: Did 6 pages on COWBOY NIGHTS, then set it aside. Half rewritten, but if someone wants to read it, I can bang out the rest in a couple of days. The heavy lifting is over, and it's mostly just cleaning up and improving what's there. Prep work on the new spec for the rest of today.

5 comments: said...

Been there, thought that. In addition to doing more writing, I would have totally nailed Anne Marie P. when I had the chance.

Anonymous said...

I believe when writing younger, there will be more rewriting involved than when writing you agree?

If so, then the passage of time (ie, getting old) could be quite the asset.

Dante Kleinberg said...

Does drinking/partying give you energy or something?

I'm 25, and my girlfriend's 24, and our friends are all our age, and none of us drink or party (some of us have a drink with dinner but that's it), and NONE of us ever have ANY energy for ANYTHING. I could go to sleep right now, easily.

But anyway.

Right on! Or write on! Or whatever. I was lazy for years, and only a few weeks ago I re-dedicated myself, and it's crazy how much work I've gotten done since then compared to how little I got done before.

Christian M. Howell said...

Heartfelt comments indeed. I wish I coul dgo back and force myself to do this 10 years ago.

I can still party like there's no tomorrow, but I am in full blown spec mode.

Unfortunately my building was next door to the pipe explosion in NYC, so my laptop with the latest versions of several scripts is inaccessible until they reopen our building.

I do have an FD license at home but that means I can only write on new scripts and not the current ones.

BUMMER times two.

I try to write everyday but I also try to read everyday. That's why I like blogs like this one.

Being a screenwriter means having few friends so the interaction is a good use of time.

And as I'm so fond of saying,

Keep writing as writing is the revealing of the soul.

Anonymous said...

My blog roll is alphabetical so what does that say about procrastination when I started at A this morning

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