With a chance to finally catch my breath after a ridiculously busy year (more on that in a bit), I came across this article being shared around the web, from Sci-Fi writer, Jamie Todd Rubin.
The article details how he kept a more than a yearlong streak (that is still going) of writing everyday.
Not only is it inspirational, but to me it also verified what I discovered over the past year.
First, I get tons of emails, questions and forum threads from and for writers about curing writer’s block or being productive or joining writing sprints – I don’t normally respond because I’m too busy… writing (and reading). But for those behind the correspondence I receive about my next script (or novel) will be done in a couple of years, or even those writers who have been asking for help in selling that one work of art – their baby, that they cannot possibly consider moving on to the next project until they do – I feel compelled to jump in and challenge those writers by asking a lot of questions about why they started writing if they think one piece of work is all they have in them. For anyone who falls into these categories of excuses, I beg of you to read this post and write something — today.
Jamie’s story is not only impressive because of the volumes of work he has produced but also the data he has to back it up, here’s a snippet of what he did:
1 novel draft (~95,000 words)
1 partial second draft of a novel, including several restarts and do-overs.
3 short stories, consisting of a total of 7 drafts.
1 novella consisted of 2 drafts (so far).
7 nonfiction articles consisting of 12 drafts.
About 6 guest posts consisted of about 12 drafts.
He used google docs to actually help tabulate word counts and bar charts… I don’t have all of that, but I do recall (mostly) of why I’ve been so busy this past year:
- 5 feature length screenplays (including the outlines, treatments, loglines, pitches and synopses and countless rewrites that go into the development)
- 3 rewrites on already written screenplays
- 1 novel rewrite
- read over 700 scripts for coverage, consults, production notes, competition judging and even a few for entertainment. All except the later needing a considerable amount of constructive criticism.
“How can you see straight? I don’t have the time to write more than ten minutes and day and then I’m tired.” You may wonder and make excuses.
I’m here to tell you, the more you do, the more you can do. Flex your writing muscles and the more you work them the better they work – I’ve been amazed at how I just keep getting more prolific and not burnt out — and you know what? It results in even more work coming in. Jamie’s article verified this theory for me.
Yes, I’m good at time management, as I’m sure he is. But Stephen King and Neil Gaiman have pretty much said the same thing – get your butt in the chair and write – it’s that simple and that hard.
I’m not going to tell you I’m not exhausted most of the time, but when I feel like I’m going to fall asleep, I shift gears to a different project or I get up and exercise for a few minutes and I’m ready to go. Yes, I need eight hours of sleep but rarely get it. Yes, I have the usual disturbances; kid, dog, errands and appointments, just like everyone else. Fact is, I’m up at 5:30 and don’t get to bed until after midnight EVERY NIGHT or rather morning. (I write better at night, but I don’t wait for night.) Like Jamie, I don’t expect this streak to last forever, and but I do see it happening again after a respite. If I learned anything from my studio production days, it’s that it’s far more productive to work existing resources with overtime and crunch time, than it is to hire additional ones, or not produce as much. So, I look at this past year as an extended crunch time, that will no doubt come again.
Jamie offers his routine, one of which is to have a stock of scenes you know will be easy to write because you’ve got it all mapped out. I like the idea of the stored scene and I’ve done similar, but more often than not, I’ll start by going over what I did the night before or in the previous session if I’m picking up a project after a few days away. Which brings me to those writers that are harping on that one bit of material they have to have closure on before starting something else…
If you really are meant to be a writer, you must get comfortable with stacking projects. I’ve written about this before — here.
Fact is, this is how you become so prolific that you always have something to work on so you don’t have to worry about not having time, time will come. Pilar Alessandra has a great book on carving out just 10 minutes a day.
Trust me when I tell you that 10 minutes will grow into much more if you just stick to it.
UPDATE: I completely forgot to include this classic post from Chuck Wendig and his terrible minds blog. The infographic below is his that he encourages sharing on — but the post from 2013 is worth a look here.