April brings its own special kind of spring fever to my neck of the woods. The little kid soccer team I coach starts their season back up. My youngest sister starts playing high school soccer again. The lawn starts needing mowing again, and there’s that whole spring cleaning business, too. And of course there’s the short film I’m preparing to shoot in May. And then, on top of all that, I’m supposed to write a brand new screenplay? Apparently so. I know things are getting out of hand when I start resorting to a to-do list, and I know things are especially bad when, at the top of that to do list, I decide to add a little bit of motivational pep talk.
But hey. “We are intrepid. We carry on.” Right?
So, if you, like me, are feeling a little overwhelmed this month, here’s how I’m dealing.
Make it concrete. The to-do list is not a joke, folks. Laying out the tasks you would like to reasonably accomplish is the first step to actually getting stuff done. When everything’s swirling around in your brain, it’s like staring at a bowl of alphabet soup. Nothing makes sense. Ditch the milk, take out the letters, and arrange them into something you can read. Plus there’s something really satisfying about marking off an item. When I get overwhelmed, I like to resort to the old-fashioned paper list, but there are some great online to-do lists out there, too. The one I use most often is gubb.net, but find one that works for you and use it.
Don’t forget time to relax. Put it on your to-do list. If you’re going a million miles a minute every minute of the day, your brain will stop working. Give it time to stop thinking for a bit, even if it’s only for 15-20 minutes. Read a book. Meditate. Watch a TV show. Catch a movie if you can spare the time.
Break the big tasks down. I ran into a tiny issue with my script suddenly developing a case of schizophrenia. I was essentially writing two completely different stories in the same script. The result is that, after having written 40 pages, I realized I pretty much needed to start over. I knew I’d be able to salvage a little from my original 40 pages, but the bulk of everything would be new. So, after a good push this weekend, I’m looking at writing 70 pages in the next 11 days if I want to have a complete first draft by the end of the month. That sounds like a lot. However, when I break it down, it’s really only about 6½ pages a day. That’s much easier to swallow.
Focus. I don’t usually have a problem using IM and twitter when I’m writing. I’ve got the weird Gen-Y thing where a little distraction usually helps me. However, I found this weekend that, with everything else already swirling around in my brain, adding IM and twitter to the mix whilst trying to write was not working. On Friday night, I wrote about one page in the course of two hours. Not good, folks. Finally realized I needed to sign off, and I managed to kick out about 5 pages in 40 minutes. Much better. Lesson? Focus on whatever you’re doing, and, if you’re having trouble doing that, eliminate any could-be distractions.
Be healthy. Don’t forget that you need your body in order to do this whole writing thing. Don’t give up eating well, and, if you’re in the habit of working out, don’t let it fall by the wayside. Additionally, as Tony Horton says, “Drink your water, people.” You can have your caffeine, too, but make sure your not letting your brain dry out.
Now, when we make it through the month alive, if you’re still jonesing for more screenwriting action instead of, I don’t know, a margarita-filled beach vacation, there are a couple of workshops happening the first weekend in May.
Here in Kansas City, the BlueCat folks are holding a full script workshop on May 1. I attended a 10-page workshop last May and came out of it having learned a lot. The chance to mingle with your fellow, local screenwriters is really valuable, so it’s definitely something worth checking out. As I’m writing this, there are just 3 spots left, though there is also an audit option (where you attend and get to take part in the discussions but don’t get your own script workshopped). Check it out here (along with a list of upcoming workshops in other areas).
Secondly, Julie Gray of Just Effing Entertain Me (formerly The Rouge Wave) and The Script Department is conducting a series of classes/workshops. On May 1 & 2, she’s got one in San Francisco. Julie’s blog is a wonderful source of information and motivation. I personally have used The Script Department’s services, and my phone consultation with Julie was extremely helpful. I’m hoping she’ll make it to Kansas City one day, but, for you lucky folks in the San Francisco area, her workshop is definitely something worth checking out. You can find all the pertinent info here.
That’s all for now. Keep on keeping on, as they say. April will be over soon. But not so soon that you should worry about not being able to finish your script. Right.