Work Like It’s Your Job

On Dec. 6, I sat in an uncomfortable chair at Heathrow Airport, munching on my last mince tart, and started outlining a screenplay.  Now, 46 days and three drafts later, I’ve sent it out into the world (via BlueCat’s Fellini Competition).  (And a massive thanks to Matt and Stuart who offered and delivered one-day-turnaround feedback for me — you guys are awesome.)

For the record, I don’t usually like to cram three drafts into six weeks.  I do, however, like to spit out first drafts in a month, and I wanted to challenge myself to meet an extremely ambitious deadline to start the year off right.  In short, I wanted to work at it like I’m already being paid to do this.

So I did.  I worked every day save two or three in that 46-day span.  I imagined myself answering to Very Important People at the end of every day.  The past two weekends have been dedicated entirely and solely to editing and rewriting.  I’ve been up past midnight (and up before six for the job that actually does pay my bills at the moment) every day this week.  I’ve spread myself really thin to get this done — and it’s been exhilarating to find I still have it in me after the creative quasi-slog of last year.  I needed to prove to myself I could still do it, and I have, and you can, too.

My point is, if you want to be something badly enough — like, say, a working writer — you have to be willing to put in the hard work.  It has to be a priority, and it has to be pursued every single day (and yes, sometimes taking a day or two to rest is part of that pursuit).  Because when we choose to be something, we’re choosing a state of activity — not stasis.  Even for those who “make it,” the pursuit doesn’t stop.  It’s constant motion, and you have to find joy in it.  As they say, it’s the journey rather than the destination that matters.

So, if you’re stalling because it’s still early in the year or you’re still recovering from the holidays or excuse 1, 2 or 3, take a moment and define your priorities.  January’s two-thirds done, and when February hits, that’s one-twelfth of the year gone.  Do you want to spend it waiting for perfect or at least comfortable circumstances?  Or do you want to get uncomfortable and triumph anyway?  The truth is, circumstances will never be perfect for any length of time that matters.  So, let’s suck it up and get to work on what we love despite the obstacles, all right?  Off you go.

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3 thoughts on “Work Like It’s Your Job

  1. Stuart says:

    Everyone should read this, especially the last two paragraphs. I think some people spend more time talking about how they’re a writer than actually writing, and I often wonder how much more of a back catalogue (or career) I’d have if not for those occasions when the day somehow went by without me doing as much work as I should have. Even those “Eh, I’ll stop an hour early” evenings all add up.

    And hey, well done 🙂 I bet you feel awesome now, as well you should. And the next time you’re stuck in the mire of deadlines, tangled plots that seem like they don’t want to unravel, and coffee on an IV line, you’ll know that you’ve been through it before and survived, and that you’ll get through it again. That previous experience always helps me immensely when I’m staring at a page filled with scatty ideas that look like they’ll never turn into a finished chapter, just like all the finished chapters that ever went before. This will be a great piece to come back and read when you are doing it for a job, too.

    If I had any sort of say, I’d tell you to take the rest of the week off from writing and come back Monday, but you obviously went right from finishing the script to writing this blog, you lunatic. Whether you can tear yourself away for a few days or not, to just relax, at least know that you’ve more than earned that right.

    • Elizabeth Ditty says:

      Thanks, Stuart. 🙂 I actually am planning on taking it easy this weekend, save a bit of podcasting, and on Saturday I am sleeping as late as my poor little brain deems necessary. And then it’s on to the next thing!

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