Making Time to Write

When you’re a beginning screenwriter, actually finding time to write can be the biggest challenge. You’re not getting paid for your writing at first, so you have to balance your desire to write with your need to make money.

If your job is incredibly draining, but you’re serious about being a writer, you might need to find a job that is more compatible with your writing. Or, you might have to commit to being a morning person – or a night owl – and get your writing done before or after work. I am naturally a morning person, and my job starts in the afternoon. So, the best part of my day is reserved for my passion.

“Iliad Bookshop” in North Hollywood, California

Once you decide whether you want to write before work, after work, or during your lunch hour, you must make sure you keep your appointment with yourself. My cell phone alarm has become indispensable. When a habit is new, the toughest part is remembering to do it. Having an alarm that pops us and says “WRITE!” is a great little tool to have.

For some people, writing on the weekends is the only time that will work. This can be challenging, since it’s easy for other things to pop up and challenge one’s commitment. You’ll have to be firm with everyone – friends, family, children, and your own laziness. The weekends are your writing time, period.

The other potential problem with the weekend is that you will have to binge-write. Instead of writing daily, which would allow you to stay in touch with your story throughout the week, you’re playing catch-up on the weekend. If this is your issue, all you have to do is read your story during the week for a few minutes. Even if you don’t have much time, reading parts of your script will keep you engaged until you can sit down and write on the weekend.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Trees in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA

There is no right and wrong time to write. You may have to experiment with different days, times, and places to find what works for you. Don’t give up! Experimenting also helps you get to know yourself as a writer. I know I’m a morning person, for example, as I mentioned, and I prefer to have a block of time to write – at least an hour, preferably two. However, I can sneak writing in for a few minutes here and there if I’m writing a non-fiction piece. For fiction, I need time for my mind to wander without the pressure of the clock. I’ve learned this about myself over time.

I’ve also learned that threats and rewards can help me keep my butt in the chair. If there’s something I want to do (or eat, or watch), I tell myself that I will reward myself with it as soon as I finish x-amount of writing, or as soon as I write for x-number of minutes. This increases my motivation to start. Once I start, I’m fine. Or, sometimes, threats are more effective. If I fail to get x-number of pages written, I will smile and initiate conversation with (fill in the name of someone I really dislike), for example. Rewards tend to work better for me than threats. But just the thought of the threat is enough to make me do what I’m supposed to do!

Most writing gurus recommend that you write every day, but the best plan is whatever works. If Monday/Wednesday/Friday is a schedule you can do consistently, do it! It’s better than pressuring yourself to write every day and failing. Don’t beat yourself up if it takes a while to get into a regular flow. But don’t give yourself too much slack either. If you don’t hold yourself to your commitment, your dream will never become a reality. Once your book is published, or your script is optioned, you will be expected to continue producing lots of content. So you might as well get into the habit now.

Happy writing!

Have a blessed and beautiful weekend,

Raven

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Creative Jealousy

Creative jealousy is something that can strike a writer at any stage of his or her career. It can hit anyone, but creative people seem to be especially prone to it. Art (of all kinds) comes from deep within. So,  it’s easy to become insecure when you see other people “soaring ahead,” while you’re sitting in front of your computer staring at a shitty first draft or struggling with writer’s block.

You know this feeling is counterproductive, but you can’t seem to help it. I’m here to let you know that you can help it. With practice, we can train our minds and manage our emotions. As writers, we want all the drama to appear on the page, not in our heads. Here are five things we can do to kick creative jealousy to the curb:

  1. Practice self-care. Daily, not sporadically. Meditate, exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep. You cannot get mileage out of a car with dirty fuel or no oil. Take care of your body and mind, and they will take care of you. You can’t afford to blow this advice off. At birth, you’re only given one body, one mind. That’s it. Everybody has time to meditate for 5 minutes and eat quality food. Exercise can be as simple as 10 minutes of calisthenics or a walk around the block. Sleep is trickier. But, a little known fact is that the more you meditate, the less sleep you eventually need. But, regardless, sleep debts must be paid. If you don’t get proper rest, the deficit will show up in other ways – shoddy work, short tempers, belly fat, and diminishing returns. Take good care of yourself.
  2. Realize that social media is a “Best Of” version of that person’s life. Most sane people do not post about how terrible their lives are, or how poorly their careers are going. People post what they’re proud of, what they’re interested in, and what they want others to see. The only way to really know how someone is doing is to personally follow them around 24/7. A better use of your time, however, is to view other people’s websites and timelines like movie trailers. Have you ever seen a great trailer for a sucky movie? Me too. Keep that in mind.
  3. Create, don’t consume.  If you are a creative person, your goal is to make content for others to enjoy, not sit on the internet worrying about what other writers are doing. Writers need to read, of course, but following other people’s careers online is not necessary. If looking at someone else’s work is part of your research, that’s fine. But if you struggle with jealousy, work on your own stuff before you look at what others in your field are doing. Even if what you’ve made is not wonderful, it’s yours. Creating your own stuff shows you that you’re moving in the right direction. Anyone can be a critic, and most people are. Few people, however, have what it takes to keep grinding out material year in and year out. Be one of those people.
  4. Channel your jealousy. Rather than focus on how much better someone else is doing than you, be mindful of how destructive that negative energy is. Instead, put yourself in their shoes. Think how happy they must be to have achieved x,y, and z. Be happy for them. Or, if you can’t manage happiness, go for imitation. Learn from them. Find out what they’re doing right. Befriend them, if you can. Offer to help them in some way. It is said that we are the sum total of the 5 people we spend the most time around. So, it can only help you to be nice to people who are where you want to be.
  5. Appreciate the Self. Realize that each human (including you) is unique, with a special set of pros and cons. No other person has exactly the same package to offer as you do. Get rid of the scarcity mentality – the idea that there’s only so much work out there, and you have to claw and scratch, and step on other people to get ahead. That old idea has never been less true. New distribution outlets have expanded our opportunities. Only you can do what you do, the way you do it.

No one ever knows what will be “in” at any given time. So, be yourself. Make what you make and do it well. And don’t worry about what other people are doing. Besides, they’re probably worrying about what you’re doing.

There’s power and magic in you. Focus on that, and let the world see you shine.

Peace and love,

Raven

 

The Best Writing Advice

The best writing advice I ever heard was just to write. Very non-sexy, right?  But that’s it in a nutshell. Write.

There are lots of tips out there about how to write compelling characters, how to structure the plot, and how to market your finished work. But the advice that has helped me the most is this: sit butt in chair, and…go!

And read. That’s the second best writing advice I’ve ever gotten. As I read, I get a growing feel for what works and what doesn’t. Reading also informs me on what has already been written. That still leaves the problem of time.

Time is, and always will be, a problem for everyone. For artists, who are often trying to balance day jobs with their real passions, time is a big deal. There are no fancy tricks to finding time to write, either. Figure out when you’re at your best, then find a way to write at that time. I’m best in the morning. So I peel myself out of the bed and write in the mornings. Nothing fancy, nothing sexy.

But it gets that first draft written.

Emphasis on first draft. The only way to get anything written is to just write. The first things that come to mind will usually suck. I write them anyway. I hold my nose, and write them anyway. I wouldn’t dare show anyone, not unless I were being held at gunpoint. Then, yes, I would reveal my first draft. Other than that, first drafts are private, secret territory. The next few drafts will probably be better. Nevertheless, putting words on the page is the goal.

I wish I had juicier advice. But I don’t. If you want to write (or paint, or start a business, or do stand-up comedy), just do it. Don’t ask for permission. Don’t worry about money, fame, or critical acclaim. Just do a whole bunch of it. And repeat.

Have a beautiful, creative weekend.

Peace and love,

Raven

Developing a Writing Habit

Despite what you may have heard, there is more than one way to do almost anything. People who believe strongly in one way will foam at the mouth and insist that their way is the only way. After you give them a little napkin for their foam, please reassure them that there is more than one way to (Fill in the Blank).

As a writer, developing a writing process is one of those things that can be done many different ways. Should you write every day? Should you use a computer? Should you outline? Are writing prompts useful? There are endless questions that one can ask about one’s writing habits. Mulling over these things for too long will only keep you from writing (I see you procrastinating. No, really, I see you. Get to work!)

The only thing that really makes sense is to try everything. Try writing every day. If it doesn’t work for you, try writing only on the weekends. Try setting page goals. Try setting time goals. Use the computer. Use a notebook. Use sticky notes, if it helps. Only through knowing yourself, and engaging in trial and error, will you find a process that works for you.

Here’s what works for me:

I write every day. I get up around 6:30 a.m. and meditate for 10-15 minutes. Then I make coffee and read a novel. After reading the novel for the time it takes to finish my coffee, I read some kind of writing instruction book, but only if the book truly motivates me. If it’s a pain in my behind, I choose another book, or watch a YouTube video on writing. Then I do a little free-writing to drain my mind of drivel, inner-conflict, useless facts, and more drivel. After that, I eat a quick breakfast while I listen to a podcast on writing, or while I read a little more of the novel. Once I finish, I usually have a solid hour or two to write.

Yes, I could just jump in and start writing, but I’ve learned that all that other stuff makes me write better and faster. Once I’ve done it, I feel great. If I’m on a roll, I keep writing. But I usually put it away and get ready for the gym. After I work out, I shower, eat, and get ready for work, which starts at 1p.m. I work straight through until 8 p.m. after which I’m exhausted. Sometimes, if I get little breaks, I’ll sneak in some more reading or writing. At the end of the day, all I have the energy to do is talk to my boyfriend and go to bed.

Then I get up the next day and do it all again.

My writing schedule works for me because I have factored in all the other things in my life I need to do. This also works with my personality because I’m a morning person. Everyone has to play around to figure out what works best for them.

Happy writing!

Peace and love,

Raven

The Benefit of Morning Pages

If you’ve never read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, it is a book that many artists have read. It helps artists of all kinds to release creative blocks and get re-inspired. Cameron has many helpful suggestions, but the crux of her program involves two things: Morning Pages and Artist Dates.

Morning pages require that one write in a journal first thing in the morning. You do three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing where you simply write whatever comes to mind, non-stop, for three notebook pages. Even if you have no idea what to write, you can just write “I have nothing to say” over and over again until something comes to you.

I actually start my day with meditation and then do morning pages. But I believe the two practices are complimentary. I find that I don’t have to meditate as long when I do morning pages. It’s actually better if I start with Morning Pages, and then meditate, but it’s not always practical. (I find it hard to hold a pen first thing in the morning).

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much benefit. But I have found morning pages to be extremely helpful – not only with my writing, but with life in general. There are a lot of things we suppress because the people around us don’t listen, or because we’re busy, or distracted, or simply not deeply in touch with our feelings on a daily basis. Morning pages force us to confront ourselves by filling up those empty sheets of paper.

What this does is clear out inner debris, allowing us to access more authentic levels of our own consciousness. Once the surface-level inner chatter is spewed onto the page, what’s left is clearer and more intentional. I find that it helps me sort out all kinds of problems and puts things in perspective.

If you haven’t tried morning pages, regardless of whether or not you’re an artist, I urge you to give it a try.

Have a beautiful, creative weekend.

Peace and joy,

Raven