Begin Your New Year WRITE!
With My 5th Annual
2013 SCREENWRITING CHALLENGE
Why The Challenge?
Let’s face it, the holidays are a brutal time for writers.
We all do our best writing when we get into a rhythm. But during the holiday season that rhythm can be impossible to maintain. Schedules get jammed with Christmas parties, gifts to buy, family visits and a little too much vacation time and the next thing you know you haven’t written for a month.
But that’s not the real problem. The real problem is starting up again.
Ideally, writing would be part of your daily routine. As natural as brushing your teeth, getting dressed for work, or drinking your morning coffee.
But for most writers this is rarely the case. Many of us write in fits and starts, waiting desperately for moments of inspiration, and spending most of our time beating ourselves up when that inspiration doesn’t come. And then, just when we get started on a rhythm, something happens to interrupt it.
I’m always amused when I participate in writing panels. Invariably, an eager young student asks a question about building a life as a writer. “What real writers do is write” insists one panel member after another, striving to out do each other as they speak of their unceasing dedication to their craft.
Having worked with writers for most of my professional life, I know the truth. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Academy Award Winner or a first time writer. Most of what writers do is NOT writing.
What writers really do is PROCRASTINATE.
Writers are brilliant at finding “important” tasks to interfere with their writing. Set aside a couple hours to write, and suddenly those dirty dishes start to call to you. The next thing you know you’ve cleaned your whole kitchen, scrubbed your shower tiles to a sparkling shine, reorganized your closet, updated your facebook photos, and still not written a single word.
You’re furious at yourself. But at the same time, a part of you feels like you didn’t have a choice. Time just got away from you. “I’ll write for twice as long tomorrow,” you reassure yourself. But tomorrow comes and four hours seems like an impossible amount of time. Even if you do manage to bang out a few pages, it’s impossible to derive any joy from them. And the next thing you know, you’ve gone a whole week, month, or even year without writing.
Under these circumstances it’s easy to doubt if you’re really a writer at all. You may even be tempted to give up on writing entirely. You feel so blocked that you don’t see any way out. But at the same time you know that giving up on writing would be giving up on the best part of yourself. So what are you supposed to do?
The difference between successful and unsuccessful writers is not that one group never gets blocked. The difference is that successful writers know how to maintain their creative rhythm even when inspiration is not flowing.
Start the New Year right by getting back into the rhythm of writing with this simple challenge.
2013 SCREENWRITING CHALLENGE
On January 1st, go out and buy yourself a nice journal. Find something that speaks to your personality, and makes you feel like a writer. It’s okay to spend too much. Think of it as an investment in something you’re going to use every day.
On January 2nd, set your clock to wake you up 15 minutes early, and as soon as you open your eyes, grab your journal and start writing. You have 15 minutes to write as much or as little as comes out. Don’t worry about editing, planning or even thinking. Just go ahead and write whatever comes out as quickly as you possibly can. It may be a scene or parts of a scene. It may be a line of dialogue, or a monologue, or just thoughts about your character. It may flow together, or it may not flow together at all. Don’t even try to make it good. Just allow your first instincts to find their way onto the page. And don’t worry about finishing– you only have 15 minutes– so whatever you leave unfinished can become the starting point for the next day’s writing.
You’re going to repeat this process every day until January 30th, writing 15 minutes every morning until writing is such a natural part of your daily routine that it occurs without even thinking about it. You may find yourself continuing one storyline, or writing a new one every morning. If you get stuck, rewrite the scene from the day before from memory. It’s not important what you write. It’s important THAT you write.
It’s this rhythm that is going to make you a writer. So, if you sleep through one day, find 15 minutes to catch up later. Take your journal with you on the subway. Lock yourself in the bathroom at work. Stay up 15 minutes later that night. And notice how that 15 minutes in the morning sets you to thinking about your writing all through the day…
On January 31st, you’ll complete the challenge, and read back through your work over the past month. You’ll be amazed at the growth in your writing you’ll see!
Finally, on Thursday, Feb 7th, as part of our monthly Cold Cuts Reading Series we’ll have a party to celebrate the work of everyone who is participating in the challenge, to share our experiences, and to make some new friends. (There will also be a raffle for some super screenwriting prizes!)
Happy New Year! And Happy Writing!
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