Pro-Crastination

Pro: short for professional, shorthand for positive (as opposed to a con), and also the first three letters of a word I have been living for the past week and a half.

Yes, January 1-7, a time when millions are kickstarting their life goals with resolutions and plans – and arguably the time during which they will be the most faithful to those plans out of this whole year of 2013 – I am procrastinating. Like a pro. But in a positive way.

I want to write. I love to write. And not in the way of the classic Dorothy Parker quote (“I hate writing. I love having written.”) I genuinely enjoy the act of writing and I don’t know why I would want to put it off. In this post I hope to explore that phenomenon, in case there are other doers of fun things that put them off sometimes and wonder why.

Today is Day 16 in the Outlining module of my screenwriting class, although technically it has gone on much longer than that. Coinciding with Christmas, New Year’s and one or two other unusual things, this supposedly 10-day module has lingered about 22 days. I suppose it must end sometime, but it just hasn’t yet.

With all the hubbub of this time of year (especially this year, as it’s the first Christmas I’ve had to travel to get home and then spent days seeing all the family and friends I’ve moved away from), my assignments have piled up. And it seems with each deadline I miss, it’s that much harder to motivate myself to catch up.

At this writing, I’m only 3 assignments behind. Attainable. I can even fudge a bit and do today’s assignment, then backtrack and do the last 3 during the break between modules.

That’s what I’m supposed to do right now, is tidy up my outline so I can post it online and solicit opinions from my classmates. That sounds fun. I look forward to it. And so you see I’m writing this blog post instead.

What are brains made of? Why are we so weird in our heads? If you read books and articles on the craft and business of writing of any kind, from scripts to poetry, you will find some words dedicated to overcoming our writerly reticence. I mean, isn’t that bizarre? This is our dream, this is what keeps us up at night, these stories and words and exciting images that we alone can see and so we have to capture them and share them with the world. And that is a super cool thing to do. Why do we suddenly have to do anything but that?

I’m open to suggestions.

Meanwhile, here is a gif I found on Mental Multi-Vitamin’s blogspot:

This is gross, but it speaks to me.

Part of the problem in my situation is that in this phase of creation, I’m still in outline mode. I’m not brainstorming new concepts or writing scenes. Outlines are basically blueprints, so it’s like I’m spending 22 days on the plans for my glorious screenplay skyscraper, but I can’t start building it yet.

I like planning. It’s helpful. I don’t love it as much as writing, but I see the benefit of it and I’m willing to do the work. After all this time though, I’m getting antsy. Oh well. I guess that’s what separates the pros from the amateurs, is the willingness to persevere.

So I will persevere. I will click ‘Publish’ on this post and then turn on some music and then finish my outline. Right after dinner. And maybe check email. Actually, I have a load of laundry that needs changing too.

Never mind, I will procrastinate tomorrow.

Brain Training

A year ago, I was sitting in a workshop with Marilyn Horowitz, a film professor at NYU. She remarked on the challenging journey that is screenwriting life and encouraged us to tip the scales by writing ourselves “a happy little story” every day.

Not a happy story for some character. Not someone else’s happy little story…
A happy story for me!

Bob Ross photo from BuzzFeed

Happy little trees aren’t just for Bob Ross anymore.

Because believe it or not, we writers are not by nature the cheerfullest bunch. At least, not generally. I tend to be quite cheerful in person, perhaps annoyingly so at times, and I have the highest confidence in friends and acquaintances who confess to me their aspirations to greatness.

But when it comes to my own screenwriting goals, all my cheer can go right out the window. And it’s winter, so the window’s not even open. So now I have a bruised ego and a broken window.

See how quickly this can get ugly?

This module in my screenwriting class has been all about training our brains with a philosophy of success. Any creative endeavor is sure to generate criticism and even rejection. As part of the learning process, this is tough to take! Our best defense is to cultivate a healthy mindset and believe that these months of brainstorming concepts and outlining characters and choosing plot devices will not be spent in vain.

A screenplay is a big deal to write! It takes a ton of organization and structural awareness. You change something in the second act, it reverberates through the first and third as well. And woe to you if you make it past page 110 and suddenly realize your concept is all wrong.

What keeps us going is faith. And faith has to be based on something solid. That’s what separates Confidence from Wishful Thinking.

So write yourself a happy little story today. Think about all your wildest dreams and what it would take for them to come true. Look at new things you’ve tried successfully in the past and what it took to achieve those goals. Make a plan and stick to it.

Perseverance, my friends. That is what it’s all about. NOT the hokey pokey.

Frankenstorm

Life. Ain’t it fun?

My screenwriting class officially started two days ago, with a 3.5 hour teleconference. Very stimulating, motivating and inspiring. And even though I have a huge backlog of work to catch up on, a house to finish cleaning and painting, and a few carloads of stuff to pack and move by Thursday… I can’t wait for my first screenwriting assignment!

To make things more interesting, we’re having some unusual weather in the northern Virginia/east coast/entire right half of the United States area.

The hurricane that went a little too far.

I just called my landlord in Virginia Beach to see if I can still move in Thursday, and everything appears to be right as rain down there. Which is great because I have really been looking forward to moving.

Now to be productive for the next three hours, just in case the 40-55 mph winds don’t knock out the electricity and keep me from receiving the email with my first writing assignment. Because I just can’t wait to find out what it is.