Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Feeding the beast

If you're like me, often the hardest thing to do when writing is actually making yourself get started. It doesn't take much to persuade me to rewrite, and I will pre-write, chart, outline, muse, card out, and do every brainstorming trick known to man.

What's my problem? Sitting down and ACTUALLY WRITING - especially when I've still have yet to get started on the script. Even though they're usually the easiest 30 pages for me to tackle once I get going, forcing myself to start on that first act. Then I usually go, "That wasn't so hard... but Act Two is going to be the killer." This means I drag my feet even more in getting through Act Two.

I gather that a lot of writers have the same problem, so I thought I'd share something I discovered working on this blog. Because I'm working on something that has to be updated daily, there is never a good excuse NOT to write. And on the rare occasion that I take a day off, I really have no excuse not to write the next day.

Yes, somehow I managed to trick myself into a regular schedule. Every weekday must have a post. Sometimes they're long, sometimes they're brief... but that beast that is my blog must always be fed. I admit, there are weekends now and then where I buckle down and write a week or two's worth of posts ahead of time, thus buying me a few days off. But no matter what, this blog is always here and it must be updated.

I need to adapt that sort of obligation to my other writing. Right now I've got at least three feature ideas and two TV pilots gathering dust. I'm getting ready to start one of them, but I need to force myself to make the time so I can finish the new projects promptly.

Writers are always told "set deadlines and stick to them" but that advice is meaningless if there are no consequences to breaking it. I know that if I take off too many days, my readers might get out of the daily habit of coming here, thus causing a dip in my daily hits.

So don't just set a schedule - get an enforcer and build in penalties if you miss your marks. Have your roommate penalize you with extra chores, have your significant other withhold sex, or make the neighbor kids force you to watch The Secret Life of the American Teenager. The specific torture isn't important - all that matters is that you suffer when you fail to produce.

Feed that beast.


  1. I've pondered away many of hours on this problem. One solution I have, and it may not be acceptable or reasonable for some, is to have a partner. Yes, I am fully aware that many of us are loners and many of us grasp our ideas so tight to our chests we don't want to share them. Whether it is due to possible creative conflict or because we just don't want to share the basket. However, I argue that having a partner adds essential goal achieving weight to the process. You're no longer simply letting yourself down, you're letting your partner down.
    Granted... again, many of us prefer to work alone. Which is fine. So long as we get the job done. And in counter-argument to my above statements, yes, we are only letting ourselves down, so if we take 5 years to write something, nobody else is left hanging. (clearly an exaggerated, or is it?)
    For instance, I share the same sentiment, almost to the letter of TBSR. I can get so many pages out, then sit on my hands. I personally, am not against partners. Should you find a good one, that is. My suggestion, is to take an idea that you are willing to share, and work with a partner on it. I will be doing exactly that when I move back to L.A. Hopefully this will improve my writing schedule on a specific project. From that, I also hope to find myself in a groove to continue forth when working on an individual effort. Along the lines of it being something I am useful. Will it work? No idea.

  2. I love to think about writing. It's exciting to envision the scripts I'm going to write. But actually buckling down and getting something on paper (or virtual paper) can be overwhelming. Because it's never genius. It's sometimes good enough but mostly going to be re-written.

    I just tell myself that writers write. They don't talk about how much writing they're going to do, or how fantastic their idea is. They sit down, alone, in my case at the dining room table with the blinds pulled against the searing SoCal sun, and write.

    Because nobody's going to buy my hot air.

  3. Withholding sex?! That's just wrong, I thought we didn't advocate torture in this Fine Nation.

    Procrastination is the bane of the creative mind. Or anyone 'on their own schedule' perhaps - it seems all too common a problem. Not much help maybe, but an interesting article on just that (yeah, like you need another excuse NOT to write) here :