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Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Battle Plan: Ass in Chair

Have you ever noticed how phenomenally hard it is to get the writing ball rolling? You think about your script. You ought to be working on it today, right? But there's laundry to do. And the grocery store. Oh - and email, tons of those to answer. Gotta walk the dogs. Pay bills. Call so-and-so back. You really don't have time.

I'm here to say - yes, you do. You really do.

Here is my time honored method. Sit down at your computer. Open the script file. And just stare at it. No - don't skip over to a message board. Just stare at your pages. Scroll up. Scroll down. Pretty soon you'll find a line of dialogue to change a little. You might make some notes to yourself. Scroll up and down again. Get overwhelmed by what, exactly, needs to be done on the script today. Look at your outline again. Stare at the blank pages that follow page 10. Pretty soon your eyes start getting tired. Close them for a sec. But don't move. Do not let yourself move from that spot. Put on a timer if you have to. It won't take long before grudgingly, you change an action line to shorten it. Then you'll go to the scene you left off on. And you'll type some really bad dialogue. But that's okay. Don't judge it. Just type it. Keep going. Tell yourself that before you get up, you'll write three pages of your script. Bad dialogue and all. Long action lines and all.

Writing is rewriting but the blank pages don't fill up magically, they fill up by pure determination and gluing your behind to the chair. And once you get some stuff down you'll be bummed to notice that your allotted time has already passed and you have to return to the more mundane tasks in your day.

It's sort of like working out - I know I have a JILLION great reasons why I don't have time to do it. But I put on my iPod and think okay, whatever you do today, it's good. Just move your body. And pretty soon, I find myself feeling energized, proud of myself and more relaxed and fulfilled - and ready to move on to other things with a better, healthier attitude.

Sometimes writing is a battle of wills. Some days it flows like water. But you'll never find it out if you don't sit down and create the space for the writing to show up. Try it. I promise you, you'll write SOMETHING worth keeping. And you'll get that ball rolling. Even on days when you have a million excuses not to do it.

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Anonymous said...

You are so right Julie. This works for me too. So it's worth a try for anyone who want to get the ball rolling easier.
This is why I usually go to a coffee shop to do my writing. Then I can't do the laundry, housework, flip on the TV, pet the cats, organize my desk, etc.
~ Trina

E.C. Henry said...

Okay, this groundhog will ATTEMPT to poke his cute little head out of the hole and see if it's safe to return...

Julie, you're so right about how to ball rolling again, I couldn't agree more; rewriting past pages IS the way to re-engauge your mind. I do it all the time.
The BEST way to keep the ball rolling is to write everyday, (an hour is my goal thanks to a fellow Scott in my life), BUT if you can't do that, go back over your material, rewrite a little, THEN write new pages.

Julie, did any of your 2009 New Year's resolutions include being nicer to Sweedish people? Just wonderin,' this cute Sweedish kid could use some more love in '09.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Christina said...

What I've been doing over the past month - and it's really working - is to touch the script every day for a minimum of just 15 minutes. That means on the days where the day job is kicking my ass (my ass is bruised right now, btw), I open the script and work on it for 15 minutes, and then go back to the ass-kicking day job. That way, I don't feel that disconnect I've felt in the past when I don't work on something for a month. 15 minutes a day is all it takes to stay connected so that when I do have a whole 3 hour block, I can get a lot of pages done, not waste it trying to remember where I was.

Steve Axelrod said...

Or, as my mother-in-law used to say, "Doing does it."

PJ McIlvaine said...

Even when I'm not physically writing, I'm mentally writing. A new idea, that bit of dialog, how can I improve this....

Luzid said...

Julie, you nailed it -- although getting my ass in the chair isn't hard, sometimes it's a page-up-page-down-what-do-I-focus-on-now? affair -- but no matter what, if I believe in and stick to the process, the words and ideas eventually come, and often surprise me with how well they interlock.

Then I find myself wishing my nightly two-hour writing session were longer... so I push it to three hours.

(Getting that much time to write every night is easy, by the way. Just give up some sleep. Or dating. Or, as in my case, both!)