Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Screenwriting Siesta

When you go freelance, full-time, one of the most important things to discover is your own comfortable routine; your own sense of when, where and how you can get your work done. Even more so as a screenwriter as you have to find that balance between the deadline scripts that you’re being paid to do (if you’re lucky!), and the more personal spec work that you hope will lift your name and career to a new level.

I’ve never been a good morning person. All of my office jobs have been a struggle to get up in time for a normal 8am breakfast. This isn’t because I’m lazy, I don’t think. It’s because when I go to bed, no matter how tired I am, it will take me at least a couple of hours to nod off, and thus extend my sense of weariness when the alarm bell sounds. Nevertheless, I’ve always tried to maintain office hours while I’ve been freelance as it helps me to focus and get work done, even when I’m not in the mood.

This week has been a bit peculiar. I’m a big football fan and the World Cup is a huge treat on my four year calendar. Ireland, my team, failed to qualify (which upsets me deeply) but it doesn’t prevent my excitement and anticipation of every World Cup game, from Togo to Tunisia. (This year, we’re trying to do Foods of the World to correspond with whatever game is on but it’s proving a bit trickier than we had imagined. Still, Holland’s chips with mayonnaise are an easy favourite).

Anyway, the games’ kick-off times are spread out from 2pm, 5pm and 8pm. That’s not so bad if you have to work, the 5pm and 8pm games obviously being easier to watch than the 2pm. I want to watch those games too but I can’t afford to let my work routine be damaged by indulgent football viewing. So I’ve been getting up earlier to get more work in before the footy starts.

6am. It’s actually not so difficult getting up at this time. Tired, sure. But a quick hit of water on the face then orange juice and tea/coffee (not on the face) usually does the trick. What is hard is the early onset of tiredness after a couple of hours’ work. A significant energy dip, especially as the computer drains away your effort and attention. Despite this, getting up earlier does have its benefits. You get more work done, and you can almost get six hours’ work in the bag by lunchtime. After a quick bite of lunch, it’s time to settle into the first football game of the day.

It’s day three of this new routine now and it’s taking its toll. But a good way of breaking the sense of weariness and tiredness is to take a little power nap. A siesta to refresh body and mind. And boy, does it work! Today, I went for a nap at 4pm, and I woke again at 6pm, just in time for the second half of Tunisia vs Saudia Arabia. Holy hell, what a couple of hours’ kip! It was like being hit with a brick, except without the bruising, or the blood…or the brick.

The experience was markedly different than the common sleep of bedtime. It felt significant, deep and wholly necessary. I don’t mean to bore you with tales of my working day and how well I slept, I’ve always tried to avoid those kind of posts, but the point is that maybe an afternoon kip is the way to go for tired and frazzled screenwriters. This only applies if you’re getting up at a normal time (7/8am) and trying to commit yourself to office hours to help keep you in a routine. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe everyone should have a sleep in the mid-afternoon, and just relax. After all, the Spanish know a thing or two, right…?

Sleep. Siesta. Nice…

(Staying with the Spanish theme - who beat Ukraine 4-0 during the 2pm game - it was tapas for tea!)


Anonymous said...

During the recent hot weather I found the afternoons totally unproductive. I work in my loft and the digital thermometer was at 32C until late at night. If I came downstairs for a drink I could never resist a peek at the TV - then before I knew it I was reclining dozily on the sofa with a cold beer and a match. What the hell, it's only once every four years. Or two years if you count the European Championships. Or every year if you add the Ashes/Wimbledon.

Dominic Carver said...

Power naps were all the rage at uni. A quick snooze after lectures and you were ready to go out and drink all night.

What did you eat when Ecudor won?

James Moran said...

That's dedication. My work schedule varies between "pfff, better get some bloody writing done", and "yes honey I realise the house is burning down, but I'm *just* about to finish this paragraph"

Elspeth said...

Agree about ideal writing times. I am a morning person, but only get time to write in the evening at the mo so find it hard. As for power naps - they say that 20 mins is the optimal time and not in your bed. I try to do it now and again but I'm too stressed about not getting to sleep! The Spanish adapt their work scedule in the summer, working from 7 in the morning till 1 or 2pm just taking a break for breakfast.

I would like to hibernate in the winter and not work at all in the summer!

Sal said...

Am still trying to find the ideal schedule - I did my best ever consistent block of work when I got up at 6 to write, but I'm not sure if it was the 6am bit or the deadline bit that was the crucial element. As for afternoon naps - yes please! I think despite being a pale northern European, at heart I'm Mediterranean (especially when it comes to tapas)

Anonymous said...

One thing good about my evening work schedule, (I'm a prison teacher), is I avoid the heat ... well, at least the outside heat.