Sunday, 12 June 2011

Journey of the Self: The Evolving Scriptwriter

During the process of writing a script, new things are learnt, new layers and ways of doing things are found. Upon completion, each draft, revision, and finished script brings you closer to identifying and employing the various elements that a script comprises of and to creating a well executed story, plot and characters. But just as important for new writers is the friction created between ourselves and the outside forces, and importantly what is learnt in the ensuing conflict, before and after embarking on a script. 

With the first draft of an overdue and long TV Drama Spec complete (the follow up script is well under way) and the process and writing experience faded somewhat from my memory. Fortunately I had pre-assembled a list of the main self-development points that I encountered and rediscovered along my journey in the beginning stages of this project.

1) Putting Things Off

For sometime early into 2010 I held the view that my life is a measure of time in which to write everything in. So I would write everything, in time. What's the rush? I thought. I had more patience than a saint - probably even Gandhi! It was comforting because I adore all of my projects; they are lifelong companions and ambitions, but it was nice to relax knowing that I had the freedom to write, ability to learn, and know-how to realise these projects in my own time and way.

"But would you get around to writing as much as you should because of all this time you have?"

Good point.

"What if you were in an accident tomorrow and could no longer write, or see the page or screen?"


At the time I was generating new ideas and developing projects but I wasn't actually scriptwriting, pushing myself too much, or putting myself out there. Part of this approach is because I wanted a break from the pursuit and to find my way. I didn't want to get too bogged down with all the pressure of post-university and the label that comes with wanting to write for the screen (any screen that is).

But after taking it easy for awhile, it didn't take long to realise that the relaxed and putting things off approach was completely wrong and counter-productive. It made me too relaxed and too reliant on the future. I should have been more concerned with the present. It did help in the lull of post-university and to gather some momentum into the future. But as a guide to live by it's pretty useless.

2) Time Waits for No One

In fact it'll happily go behind your back on the matter and wave to you as it flies by, probably even bust a move or moonwalk you into obscurity. It doesn't care either way, but we should.

The truth is it's relatively easy to miss writing sessions and lose a hold on current progress and momentum going forwards on a project, when life and the world outside of writing calls. This is because it's something that has an immediate consequence and so often has to be seen to first. But the other side of that coin is the writer and his/her duty and ability to make time, and being assertive to others and themselves in keeping it.

Through some of the planning stages of TV Drama Spec and a small amount of the exploratory draft, my writing suffered a little at my inability to preserve and make proper use of my time. But I soon realised the importance in keeping the progress train of a project moving forwards because when it stops or delays, time has the ability to just zoom by, and within each hour, day, week, even month, learning opportunities, confidence building, and writing progress are passing by. Not to mention it takes even longer to finish something and the feeling of wasted a opportunity is a horrible thing to bare.

But the trick was to start respecting myself as a writer and to respect my writing. To turn my passion and love for the project and its characters - the craft and screen - into action, self-belief, and an assertive campaign to see it through. I realised the past is the past and that tomorrow is another opportunity to learn, make progress on a project, and develop in some way. And if I want to get where I want to go, that should never be overlooked.

If we want to get anywhere, we've got to help ourselves.

3) Self-Discipline can be Difficult

At the end of a mentally and physically tiring working day it's easy to opt for a relaxing and fun evening, than take a seat and apply ourselves to a different set of tasks and mental challenges. Even for the most passionate and dedicated of writers some evenings are just a write-off because of the unpredictable day or week you may have had. But what is certain is that once the mind caves in on a writing session and displaces the responsibly over to the Yourself of Tomorrow, it's even easier to do again, and again.

But everybody works differently and has different levels of motivation, support and availability to write. But we just need to go through the motions and figure it out for ourselves. If it's something that we enjoy and truly want, then we'll find a way and in our own time. But remember that " in your own time" can sometimes be a counter-productive thing.

"Write, or get written off." - Ray Frensham

What I found was that I was faced with having to confront the truth on why I write. I needed to understand why I did it. Why did I enjoy it? Why I felt that I couldn't live without it. What I realistically expect of it. With this knowledge it helped to approach writing and each session in a new light, with a renewed energy, motivation and understanding. It also helped to alleviate some unnecessary pressure placed on myself by being realistic about goals and re-evaluating them.

"I write because..."

Why do you do it?

4) The Power of Staying Involved

It's said that you should write everyday because writing is like training a muscle on the body, and so it needs constant exercise. That makes sense. However, like a lot of things can be easier said than done. But is something that you have to realise, explore and act on by yourself.

When writing you feel the importance of regular sessions and staying connected because you understand first-hand the art and mechanics of writing. It's when you've been away from it awhile that you're a little out of touch and it doesn't all come as easily as it once did. But if you were constantly involved and writing something then there would be no need to re-educate yourself because it would be ingrained in your mind. But breaking the momentum and learning on a project or on the craft in general only sends you backwards in your writing and development.

This is something that is rediscovered, often met, but always aspired to with every project I have. Whilst writing I am aware that I'm in the front lines and understand the importance of staying there. But it all comes down to each individual situation, self-discipline, and the root of it all: Why do you write? and knowing how to power ourselves into each writing session and not put things off.

Naturally this is also true for reading relevant scripts and screenplays because an understanding of the craft and its experience is developed and strengthened with each script. The more we do and read, the more knowledge, experience, and understanding we will have: the better we will be able to apply ourselves and the more effective writer we will become.

It's about capitalising on the time we do have and potential we can reach.

5) Redefining Success

Success can be an elusive thing and complicated by low self-esteem, a lack of support or encouragement, and made worse by self-comparison with others, especially those currently in a desired professional position, or those with achievements, as well as competition with peers, friends and pressure from family.

But what can easily be forgotten in the midst of that is not only a personal enjoyment in our own work, learning and achievements, but that each professional or someone who has achieved something desirable all started somewhere - it didn't happen over night for them. Hard work day-to-day is the reason they are where they are today. It's important to remember that we are all on our own paths with different abilities, resources and time put in, and should stay true to that road.

When writing a script intended for the screen, success isn't getting it optioned, or seeing it on television, or on sale in a shop or website. Not for me, or for many other aspiring writers. It's nice to dream about that happening and it's motivating, but it's not a realistic achievement right now. It may be for a more experienced writer but that's something that he or she has put a lot of effort in to earn, and so rightfully, that is their next point of success. But for the rest of us it makes sense to start with small goals and achievements, and build momentum, learning, and confidence effectively.

What is success?

The Evolving Scriptwriter

With this first draft and return to actual scriptwriting (this post is long overdue) it brought home the importance of breaking through these five barriers once and for all. At the time, it was frustrating that I still had some issues and unresolved problems in these areas but that made me even more determined to reach the next step by facing them.

But only through action can we achieve what we desire. Only through writing, reading and engaging with others can we grow into confident and effective writers. But it's best to be moving (writing, networking, collaborating, learning, etc.) and not feeling so confident, underdeveloped, and a little unsure about certain things than to be doing nothing at all, and standing still.

Above all, love what you do because happiness is the key to success.

Only forwards.

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