Sunday, May 04, 2008

Thinking Vs. Typing

I deal every day with a particularly unhealthy but alternately helpful affliction. A curse, possibly, passed to me through genetics, or perhaps stemming from some strain of OCD. In short, if I go a day without putting some time into my writing I'm struck with such an extreme feeling of guilt that I just can't enjoy anything else I may be doing.

On one hand, this makes it hard for me to take the occasional day off, but on the other it helps keep me productive as a writer. It's a necessary evil, I guess. I wish I could take a day every now and then just to relax without falling into a miniature and short-lived bout of self-loathing, but I'm afraid if I wasn't like this I would become much more lax in regards to my writing.

The last week has been a very productive one for me. From Friday the 25th through Thursday the 1st I was able to write 27 new pages on my current project, putting me just into the final act of my screenplay. Twenty seven pages in a week is A LOT for me. I'm a slow writer - I wish I could write at fellow Leaguers Cake Man or DOA's pace (we all wish we could write as quickly as DOA, I'm sure) but everyone's different. I'll take what I can.

I hit a wall this weekend, though. Friday, half a page; Saturday, half a page. This morning I'm awake at 6:30 and staring at Final Draft, just unable to move my fingers to the keys. I've hit a point in my screenplay where I need to hunker down and figure out how I'm going to tie off my remaining loose ends. Where it stands now, there are three hanging threads I need to explain, and I'm not 100% sure. Not to say I don't have ways to solve them - it's just deciding which I like best and which will make the most sense to people who haven't had these characters in their heads for six months already.

I ended up taking my coffee out to our balcony and sitting out there for a few quiet morning hours, making notes and putting a lot of deep thought into my script. I feel like I got a lot done and solved a few problems I'd been struggling with, but I never actually typed a word.

Part of me feels like I had a productive writing session, but another part (the more neurotic part) just sees that my page count hasn't gone up since yesterday.

I guess my question to you guys is: do you still feel like you're writing if you're not actually writing anything? Is a writing session that doesn't produce pages still time well-spent?


Jeff said...

I spent years wrangling with this very question. The easy answer is there's no easy answer and, annoyingly, like everything, it's all about balance.

I have learned this. Eventually my writing stagnates if I place too much emphasis on productivity and forget to see, touch, smell, and speak with the world around me.

Many of us who have been chosen for this lifestyle (it's not like WE chose it, right?) sometimes attempt to treat it like a real "job." While admirable, it's just not. We're the weirdos. I mean, let's face it, unless you're in L.A., how many other screenwriters do you commisserate with in your daily life? I keep this hobby/career choice/obsession to myself as much as possible. Unless I feel the other person is a producer or agent (or related to one!), I pretty much clam up.

What I'm leading to is this. I go through productivity streaks where the pages pile up. Prior to that, though, I'm pretty much "researching" and "gearing up" for the Act 1,2,3 battle, y'know? This entails long walks at night with my greyhound, reading, dining out, going to a favorite tavern, playing softball (all of which gives me dialog and character stuff to steal from my fellow man!), and the favorite activity of us crazy writers... sitting in a chair, staring into space.

Great topic, nice blog, I'll be back!

Zombie said...

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and advice, and for the compliments! I hope we see you again! :)