Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pages Per Day

The problem with New Year resolutions is that although they are genuine attempts to make our lives positive and affirming, they fall by the wayside because there’s a lack of will and hard work to put the promises into place.

Give up smoking. Lose weight. More time at the gym. Drink less. Eat healthy: the common ambitions of the New Year reveller.

The wave of euphoria and enthusiasm will see people put in the effort for the first few weeks or even first couple of months but most will revert to their normal habits because of the particular demands that their lives create (“I don’t have time anymore”, “I’ll just have a fag at the pub”, “I’ve got two kids, why do I need to go to the gym?”).

For all New Year resolutions to work, they have to become an integral part of the daily routine, an essential element of your emotional and physical lifestyle. It’s coming up to the end of January already so I wonder how many New Year resolutions have been broken or just haven’t clicked?

Most screenwriters will probably have promised themselves that they will write something every day, perhaps a minimum of 5 pages per day. With this routine in place, you could have a first draft of a new script every month.

Sounds good. But there’s a problem. Writers have an automatic filter between their brain and their typing fingertips which forbids them from expressing any old rubbish. The new ‘five pages per day’ rule may suffer immediately because the writer is unwilling to release the incomplete or half-baked ideas in their head.

To paraphrase Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos: “I got that book ‘Write a Movie in 21 Days’. That was six months ago.”

This is where preparing your story in advance certainly helps to successfully transcribe five pages per day (or whatever self-imposed minimum is chosen). And there are those that are disciplined and secure enough to let their imagination go, and type five pages of any old dross to see what comes out. It may be a completely new set of characters and premise to yesterday’s 5 page exercise but at least it’s sticking to writing something every day.

But most, I suspect, have in their mind’s eye that if they do write 5 pages per day, then they’ll chip and hammer away at a spontaneous story that unfolds as they write. And in three weeks, a first draft.

However, the system seems to be flawed. Like a pesky New Year resolution, the good intention is there but the creative impetus to follow through falters because of the actual effort required to get words on the page.

If the idea of a small amount of pages per day appeals but it’s not exactly fitting to your schedule, well, don’t give up. Strive to make it part of your routine so that it gets to a stage that if you didn’t write that small amount you’d feel incomplete and dissatisfied.

A writer friend of mine told me that she’s broken her day into half-hour segments of activity (a little like Hugh Grant in About a Boy but a lot more proactive). You’d be surprised just how much can be achieved, and how quickly it can be done, when you just sit down and do it.

This week, with three scripts to work on, a lengthy book report to submit and two script editing gigs on the go, I imposed a much needed schedule for my reading and writing. It’s been a busy but hugely rewarding work-load and has invigorated my one and only New Year resolution: work harder.

Whether you write every day or whenever the muse strikes, what’s important is that you impose the discipline and determination to your daily routine to ensure that some work is actually getting done.


Shawn said...

Breaking up the day into segments is something I've been toying with for a while. And thanks to your post, by Jove, I think I'll do it. I've already got the five-pages-a-day thing down; this should take my writing to the next level.

Good blog, btw. Long-time reader, first comment. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

you know a GIRL SCREENWRITER?!!!!!!

Asa said...

Great post. I read and re-read it and I'm convinced that it applies to pretty much every resolution I've made and the one's that I've succeeded at keeping, I've been able to following this recipe.

- A