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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

When Do You Stop Writing?

Okay, this may sound like a joke, but it's just as important as the earlier post of "How Do You Start?" Because as writers will tell you, the work never stops, the story is never finished, your work hours come to an end, but your mind is still in gear, as the rest of the work ahead hangs over you. This isn't a job where you punch a clock and walk out of the factory, or put your sales files away because the business day has ended and you can't cold call anyone anymore.

Writers take their work home, probably because they work at home, but even if they don't - most importantly because there is no clear end to the work day, and the work isn't in your desk, it's in your head.

Sure it's fun to talk story all the time, think of great ideas in unexpected moments, that's the way of life of the artist. Your pilot light is always on, and should be, it's why you're doing what you're doing.

But I've seen, and experienced myself, the guilt mind that winds up restricting life because you're punishing, demanding, insisting and rigidly holding onto the "work" and can't let go enough to allow yourself rewards, time off, nourishment for the soul, until you finish the script, finish those pages, etc. Now - if you're on deadline and this is a matter of weeks, that's fine. You need to hunker down. But as weeks stretch into months, and months into years (no joke) if this is a way of life for you, this is not healthy.

So here's some advice. Figure out a page count system, hit your pages then stop for the day. And make it something realistic. 5 when you start. 10 when you're in a good rhythm. Not 25, okay? Or create a macro schedule and feel like you want to hit a weekly count, or it page counts freak you out, you do it with time and put in hours a day - 8 a day if you can stand it - most can't - so start with 4 or 6. And when you hit the end of your time, come to a stopping place (like I'll tell my nine year old when she's reading) and then switch off the computer. And really enjoy your dinner and a movie. This is really important advice, okay?

Because as any athlete will tell you, you don't train the same muscle all day every day. You'll exhaust it, weaken it, and then damage it. Same with writing mind. You need to work it hard in the gym, and then take it to the shower, give it a massage, and a good night's sleep.

It's the only way to stay fresh and come back with Olympic strength for what is surely the decathlon.

I'm still working on this one, by the way, but I'm a lot better than I used to be.


Blogger The Moviequill said...

I try to do two hours in the morning and then another hour at night sometime. Usually the one at night is me with notepad working something out, and the mornings are typing it out.

Sunday, July 10, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

I find morning energy very powerful too, assuming I've had the neccessary 18 cups of espresso. But having always been a night owl, there's something to me about the quiet time that starts around 10pm and goes to 2am onward - that is magical. It isn't practical for a lot of people, and brutal for the family man with young kids (me), but I often find myself working in that zone anyway. It's like the collective unconscious on your side of the planet has gone to sleep - and there's just a quieter, stiller, energy.

Sunday, July 10, 2005  

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