Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...

“Do not put off till tomorrow what can be put off till day after tomorrow just as well.”

Mark Twain

For the past few entries I’ve been meaning to talk about…Procrastination.

But I’ve been putting it off…

It’s not like I haven’t been busy…My day job has acquired 30% more work because of some shifting around of personnel and it’s the crazy month of the year before the new budgets, blah blah blah…And I’m organizing this regional meeting for The Dramatists Guild of America, and I do actually want to spend time with my wife and my dog and have drinks with friends and see movies and plays and enjoy the sunshine, if and when it ever appears again…so it’s not about being lazy…it’s just about putting things off…really…

This is not about finding the time to write, which is difficult and could be the topic of another blog. Because sometimes you sit down to write and find yourself doing other things, like checking email and surfing the net (I like to call that “research”). In your fast-paced life, there are just too many things going on that eat up your time. Carving out time to write is difficult but can be done. I can bitch and moan about having to work 50 hours a week and have a family life, etc. but others have paved this road before me and been successful.

When it comes to writing, procrastination can kill. A project can be put off and putt off until the impulse to write, the desire to express something or tell a story just fizzles…

That’s one good reason I like the theatre—it gives you a hard deadline. At some point an audience is coming to the show and you have to be ready. Sometimes you are, but usually you need two more weeks. But opening night always looms over your head.

Before any production, though, you’ve got to write the play. And to do that, you also need a deadline. You need to set an “opening night” for yourself. That could mean setting a date for writing “Fade out” or actually setting up a reading yourself with actors to hear your finished script.

The key to battling procrastination is to create deadlines and stick to them by setting small goals, breaking things down into little chunks. To finish that play or screenplay, say to yourself, “I need five pages a week for twenty four weeks—that will be a 120 page screenplay. The deadline for that would be…” And put it on your calendar. Stay on track, even when you don’t feel like writing and especially when it seems you don’t have the time. You never have the time. No one ever does. That’s just life. So find the time. Take the big chunks and the little chunks and see what you can do with each. Sometimes I’ve done some great work when I’ve had to write a scene under the gun. You just have to think about what you want to accomplish and aim for that goal.

Writing happens word by word. We string words together and make sentences, then pages Simple, right. If you only write a one page scene don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ve done something.

A writer writes. So stop procrastinating.

Oh, and if you’re really looking for a challenge, the National Playwriting Month, inspired by the idea of National Novel Writing Month, which gets people to write a novel in one month.

Go here to check it out.

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