Thursday, May 03, 2012

Finding your space...

Well, I completed my first Script Frenzy, and came out the other side with a fairly good screenplay. Now if I could just get good enough with the Query letters to actually sell one of the 4 full length screenplays I have under my belt, I would be set. For any Hollywood types that find themselves here by accidentally using the search string "Dogs & Atlantis" (and my more curious readers) the four (and their loglines) are:

GeoHunters- A group of misfits takes on their rivals in a high-tech scavenger hunt.
Criminal Wischief- A dying child's wish is to pull off the perfect crime (2009 Slamdance semi-finalist)
Lake Monster- Two slackers pull off the Hoax of the century; is it brilliance or are they just two idiots in a canoe surrounded by chicken wire?
The Moderator- (an adaptation of Dimensional Games) Jake Price keeps interdimensional LARPers in line and somehow keeps his dignity intact.

But enough self-promotion. Today, I thought I would write about an important topic that doesn't really get much screen time... Your writing space. Having a consistent place that you write is one of those tricks you can use to induce a Pavlovian style writing response in your brain. It doesn't have to be fancy, beautiful, or even quiet... it just has to be a place that when you sit there, you're showing up to write. To do that, you really only need two things... a comfortable seat and something to write with.

A famous writer when just starting out (Blanking on who, but I think it was Ray Bradbury), would write at his kitchen table every night amongst his screaming kids, loving wife, and attention seeking dog. It wasn't the ideal space, but it worked. Later, when he could afford an actual studio, with soundproof walls and a nice view, he found he had trouble writing there. Why? He had gotten used to the family chaos as part of his writing routine.

Your brain can be trained to write, and where you write is as much of that training as anything else. this is my writing space at my local coffee shop:
I know, I'm super high tech with the laptop, iPad and computerized stomach of doom. You'll also note that the plate to the right is empty. I have found it much easier over the years to write with a full stomach. (Good nutrition folks... not just a good idea, but the fuel for your creative spark as well!) I also have a notebook where I jot down various ideas.

The iPad has special apps for writing screenplays and blogging, but the laptop is my real workhorse... it's not even a particularly exceptional one either, it's a ten year old Dell Inspiron 6000 that was missing it's "X" key when I got it used from a friend, and doesn't have any battery life to speak of. If it's not plugged in to the wall, it ain't doing jack. I have similar software on it to the iPad, but the bulk of my writing gets done in Microsoft word 2003, which presents it's own unique challenges when trying to format things for publication

Jesus, I really need to upgrade my gear.

The point is, that my set up is far from what you would call the ideal writing space. I often complain on facebook how much the Musak at my coffee shop sucks, how other regulars here often interrupt me to ask what I'm working on, and how they keep the A/C on fifty below zero all the freaking time. (Silverfox won't even join me for lunch here without wearing a parka)

Still, I have written the bulk of three novels, three screenplays, countless short stories and blog entries in this very spot. Part of being successful at writing is simply finding out what works for you, and doing it over and over again until you have a bunch of words on the page. My set up works for me, and I discovered it mostly through trial and error. I once read a book on writing (The inner movie method-how to write a movie in 21 days by Viki King... I highly recommend it if screenplays are your thing.) that had a writing prompt in it about your ideal writing space. I wrote two full pages describing a beachfront studio, with palm trees outside, and a scantily clad intern bringing coffee to me at my antique roll top desk (once owned by Ernest Hemingway, no less...) while I grab ideas from the ether and arrange them delicately on my state of the art computer. When I was done I read what I had written, and could not help but laugh that I had written it longhand in my notebook, sitting in line at the DMV.

The chances of me affording a beachfront villa anytime soon, much less at team of scantily clad interns/barristas serving up an endless supply of coffee, is extremely unlikely... like getting hit by a crashing plane while getting struck simultaneously by lightning unlikely.

The point is that writers seldom have the financial freedom to create the perfect space to write in. Go with what works for you, and what makes you show up to write. My morning iced mocha tends to be tempting enough to get me to show up, but that's just me. Show up somewhere, write, and repeat as often as you can.

Now, if I could just do something about this damned Musak.