Saturday, March 27, 2010

Do you need to write every day?

Tony writes: Writers always say "write every day." What if you haven't found an idea you want to stick to and write yet? What do you write about every day then? I really try write every day, but some days I simply don't have any ideas. Do I just need to work through it and squeeze some creative juices out of my mind...or find a new profession? 

I don't write every day. Maybe I should, but my system seems to be working for me right now. I think the difference between professional writers and aspiring writers, though, is that pros don't wait for inspiration to strike. They can sit down and force themselves to write even when they don't feel like it, even when it's really really hard and Swiffering the kitchen floor would be way more fun. So if you're concerned that you don't have the determination to be a professional writer, make that your test. Can you write even when you don't feel like it? You're going to have to if you want to make writing your livelihood.

I do think that working through your inspirational dry spells is something you get better at with time. I haven't gotten paid to write scripts yet, but I've heard that it's easier to write when you know you're getting paid to do it. From my own experience, I do know that it's easier to write when you know people like managers and producers are waiting to read your material. 

There's also more to being a writer than churning out pages. In addition, you should be devouring scripts, shows, movies, etc. If you're having a tough day, catch up on some reading and watching. Watch actively and break down an episode or movie for structure. It's still productive.

I also find it helpful to be working on a couple things at once. If you're stuck - or if you're waiting for notes, jump over to another project. This way, you won't start to hate all of your projects and you'll be able to look at things with a fresh perspective.

If you're having trouble coming up with ideas, think about your favorite shows or movies. What inspires you about them? What things in the world really bother you, or make you want to learn more? Who in your life is an interesting character? What is a story that only you can tell?  Being an avid reader of newspapers, magazines, even Craigslist ads might also spark ideas (the feature I'm currently working on is inspired by a CL ad).

Lastly, writing scripts is impossible if you don't have a solid plan/outline/etc. Are you just starting with a blank screen and jumping right into the script? Fill in a SAVE THE CAT beat sheet first. Write a character bio (more on that later). Clarify your theme. I always want to jump into writing the script immediately because I like dialogue best, but you'll save yourself a lot of time and heartache by doing adequate prep.


(And by the way, writing every day is kind of lame. People with more "normal" jobs get weekends...why shouldn't we?)

3 comments:

Kristan said...

"I think the difference between professional writers and aspiring writers, though, is that pros don't wait for inspiration to strike. They can sit down and force themselves to write even when they don't feel like it, even when it's really really hard and Swiffering the kitchen floor would be way more fun."

Exactly.

I'm an aspiring novelist, and I do write pretty much every day. (Yes, I hear you on the weekends thing, but I like writing daily. And I think weekends are sort of earned, when you're an artist...) But bottom line: it's not about every day, or X number of hours, or whatever. It's just about being professional -- in mentality, if not in actuality.

Dan Williams said...

I think you've covered the subject and its issues about as well as it can be done.

It helps the writer if he or she has a particular issue in society that they are following. Then their research produces stories for them.

For instance: all of America, and the world, is moving from carbon fuels to green fuels, and to green energy. One such project is electric cars. So if the writer is passionate about the goodness to society of getting this industry up and moving forward at a fast rate, then by collecting the news stories, the writer is building up an archive of stories to draw upon when a TV assignment might pop up. The writer will have a file full of relevant stories that can be adapted to pretty much any subject.

Similarly, what part of the TV business do you like most? Suppose producing fascinates you. So you collect "producer stories" and read all the books you can on producing. Then you're the "go to" expert on the subject in Hollywood.

Writing everyday--no. But organizing stories and research every day--yes. If it's in your blood, it's a blast!

Evan said...

Yeah I think sometimes professional writers who tell you to write every day forget what having a day job is like.

I would love to write every day, but sometimes it's just not feasible. And on top of just writing, you're supposed to be submersing yourself in books, scripts, movies, TV shows... Seriously, who has time?

If I choose to watch a movie, that's pretty much what I'm doing that night. Or I can write. Or I can watch a couple episodes of a TV show. I would kill to have all day to do this stuff, but I don't.

I think you have to establish a pace that works for you. If you're making progress, there's no need to feel bad about yourself because you only wrote 5 days one week.