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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quality Writing Time

So you've made the time to write which feels terrific except have to write. And you stare at your computer screen. And you they have wireless at this cafe? I should check. You check. They do. Your finger hovers over the "accept this sketchy wireless connection" message. You click it. You get wireless but it's pretty bad. You check your email and the weather and it takes forever to load so you give up and click back on your script. You tweak some dialogue and then scroll down to the next blank page where you need to write a new scene. You type EXT. and then start sweating. You open your outline. Where were you? Ahhhhh, right. Right, right, right. But - is this outline really working? You spend ten minutes going over it. A terrible feeling starts to overwhelm you. You put your chin in your hands and stare around the cafe at the other writers. They all seem so busy and immersed. But you - but - this script - this is terrible. The outline is terrible. The pages are terrible. You know what? Let's see if the weather page finally loaded. It didn't. Just write, you idiot, you think to yourself. Back to the blank page after the terrible page on page fourteen. EXT. - FBI BUILDING....oh man is this scene DAY or NIGHT? You know what? Your coffee is getting cold. You go get another latte. And as you stand at the counter waiting for it, you look around at the cozy scene inside the cafe and you feel suddenly quite writerly. Look at all these writers click-clicking away. This is the life! I am part of a community! A silent one, but still! We are all here creating. You get slightly high from that feeling mixed with the sound of the espresso machine and clink of coffee cups and the sharp scent of coffee.

But every step back to your seat is like walking the green mile. There's the blank page again. But this time, fueled even momentarily by your this-is-the-life thoughts, you sit back down and start writing. Click-clicking away, you write a scene. And it's beyond bad. It's awful. But you don't care. Two terrible pages flow out of you when suddenly you are gripped with the realization that now you have to go back to page two and explain something. God writing is awful! You fix the thing on page two. Huh. This is starting to feel okay. These pages are not bad. The outline is carrying you forth like the yellow brick road. You get in the groove. You feel like you can't stop. You look at the time - oooohhh man, gotta wrap up. In just a few minutes. Just a few....INT....more....OPERATING ROOM....minutes....NIGHT.

Two hours later and you pack up your computer. You've written five whole new pages and worked on previously existing pages too. You've run the gamut from self-loathing to self-congratulatory pretension and back. You've had two lattes and then bought a water because you feel guilty about how the cafe owner is possibly making enough money with all these writers perched like trolls, occupying tables for hours. You think, if this cafe owner charged ten bucks for table rental, you'd pay it. You hope this doesn't occur to the cafe owner. As you walk home you think to yourself, what Woody Allen said is true: 80% of success is showing up. Even if showing up for your script is a hero's journey filled with doubt, pitfalls, horror and highs.

And you know what you've just had? A great writing day. Because this IS what writing looks like. If you have some sort of fantasy in your mind that other writers experience anything much different than this, you're laboring under an illusion.

Like the 7 circles of hell, the wireless checking, the going to get more coffee ploy, the loathing of your pages, the checking and re-checking of the outline - this is all normal. It's what we have to do in order to get to the good part.

Here's the biggest secret to writing. Ready? Ass + chair + time. That's it.

Now get back to work.

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Audrey McKenzie said...

Oh, Julie! You could be writing about me. lol I guess misery really does love company. I'm glad to hear that it isn't just me.


Julie Gray said...

That's the funny/depressing part, right, Audrey? We think we are so unique but actually writers are writers and we have more in common than we think. Have a great writing day :)

Jon-Luke said...

Its true, its true! that is exactly what its like... although sometimes, not often, but sometimes inspirations grips and ideas flow and you write without question; the words flow and a few hours later you have 10 or maybe 12 pages and you actually think its good. I know this is rare, but when it happens, man what a feeling!

Then you wake up the next day and you are back to the computerized grindstone and you may only produce 2 pages, 2 bad pages... and hope that tomorrow may be inspired - May inspiration find you all tomorrow

Mike Scherer said...


Here's my tip of the day;-)

Check your email BEFORE going to the coffee shop and when you get there turn OFF your wireless. This does two things:
1. Makes it harder to go on-line.
2. Extends your battery time.

Just my two-cents ;-)

Keep Writing!

Joe Public said...

For me, I have a best time of the day to write:5am to noon. For whatever reason those are my magic hours. And I too pack it up and travel to a writing spot every day. I guess it's just a feeling of "if I'm going through all this trouble to get there: pay for parking, beating somebody out of the best parking space, being first or near first in the coffee line, something better happen."

Of course, I sometimes have to sit across form some people who don't believe in tissue paper and are hell bent on recycling what's up there, and do their best to just snort it back up... Of course being a North easterner, I am just rude enough to slap the old mini tissue pack on the table and ask them to use it or take it outside.

But, most days are pretty good.

This quote showed up in an e-mail today.

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."
-- Jack London

MovieGuy76 said...

That was text book "Me". I'm fortunate I've been able to find a co-writer since then. We push and motivate each other. It has made all the difference in the world. But I sure remember experiencing those same feelings you mentioned. That's why eventually we'll all go crazy and wind up bald. Well, I sure hope you don't go bald Julie.


Writing is rewriting! Peace

wenonah said...

To the LETTER today, that's exactly what my morning looked like. Five pages, two hours, a half inch of cold latte and some muffin crumbs. This is the life, eh? See you tomorrow, then?