I have a cold. I also have about fifty pages of a script we’re working on that I need to rewrite in the next couple of days. Because of the cold, I’ve taken caffeine—my usual jumpstart—off of the menu. So, as a way to ramping into writing, I thought I’d hit you with a quick post about ramping into writing.
If, like me, you’d rather be watching TV or reading a book or doing just about anything but writing, then sitting down to do it is immensely difficult. Especially when it’s on a project you’re not excited about (of which, especially coming up in the business, there are often many).
My friend David Slack made some great remarks about using your time: “You remember that thing in high school where you learned about gas, that it expands to fill all volume? Writing is sort of like that. If you have three weeks to write a script, you’ll get it done in three weeks. If you have three months, it cannot be done in less than three months. If you have three days, I can get it done… I think the sad truth is we all write a little better with a gun to our head.”
So is my problem that there’s no deadline for this project? That I don’t like it? That I have a cold?
Sort of all of those. So, how do I fix it?
Typing helps. Sending emails, getting things off of my plate. Sometimes we call it “producing,” but mostly it’s making my hands work in the way I want them to work when it’s time to do the real work. Reminding them what it is to type on a keyboard, so they won’t need to re-learn when I dip into the script. Someone (maybe on a panel) advised against reading what you’d written the day previous. I agree with this, but not because you’ll be filled with doubt or second-guess yourself. Reading is passive. Writing is active. And if you’re reading to ramp into writing, then you’re not really ramping up.
So, I return emails, write blog posts, sometimes even update Twitter—just so my fingers are working on the keyboard. The idea is that if I do this for long enough, and enough times in a week, just hearing the clacking sound of writing will lead to writing itself.
Alternately, there’s Jeff Greenstein‘s method. He describes working on a pilot in 2010:
There was a point where I was on my way to the little writer’s shack where I write, which is behind our house, and I was standing on the path crying, and my wife was like, “It’s okay, just go in. It’ll happen. Even if you only write a page today, it’s alright, it’s gonna be fine. It’s gonna be fine.” But I cried like a schoolgirl in the woods behind our house.
Actual photo of Jeff preparing to get started writing.