A producer who’s sold to all the majors, Barri Evins created Big Ideas to give aspiring screenwriters what it takes to break into the business by sharing methods she uses with professional writers. Sign up for Barri’s newsletter and follow her on Twitter @BigBigIdeas.
Ugh. Ouch. Ick.
What can I say? I’m sitting at the computer for the first time in a month, and that very little motion which produces a click of the keys hurts a little.
Like the Tin Woodman of TheWizard of Oz fame, movement is so much effort that I can practically hear the creaking.
The first step is the hardest, right? Well this one feels so huge and looks so high, it seems nearly impossible.
In my case, illness tore me away from a seven-day-a-week writing routine that almost got me to the end of my book about story. Undeterred by a terrible head cold that had me using Starbuck’s napkins when my Kleenex supply ran out, I worked my way right into bronchitis, sinusitis, and laryngitis. A bundle of “itises,” topped off by an antibiotic resistant virus, without enough voice to complain about it loud and long.
Even if a germ hasn’t yanked you out of a productive writing routine, there’s a far bigger threat lurking out there and headed straight in our direction:
Whether it’s decorating, gift buying or candle lighting – be they Advent, Chanukah or Kwanza (Do they light candles for Winter Solstice? Seems like they should.) there is plenty to keep your hands away from the keyboard.
Should you not subscribe to any of these traditions, you’re still likely to be faced with the constant round of party going, complete with libations.
By the time New Year’s Day rolls around and you’re hit with the harsh realities of 2017 – its hopes, dreams and those relentless resolutions – you’re apt to have been away from the keyboard for long enough to leave you feeling rusty.
Make an action plan now for how to get back to writing before your “get up and go” has gotten up and gone.
The "Something New" Action Plan
There’s nothing like the excitement of diving into a new idea. If you’re planning on tackling a new project in the New Year, before you step away from the computer, make sure you have an idea that you are extremely excited to write.
I’m a diehard Idea File advocate. Before the break, pack your Idea File as full as your belly after a holiday feast.
Plan to have many exciting ideas. Whether you set aside a time each day for idea-generating, set a goal for ten ideas a week, or make a vow to your screenwriting buddies to reach a target, get your Idea Generating Muscle activated. To bulk up your Idea File, check out my Idea Generating Exercise here.
Up In The Air Action Plan
Choosing a stopping point that leaves you hanging in midair can be a surefire fire-starter.
It’s like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to follow later and get back on the right path.
Leave off somewhere you can readily pick up again. Whether it’s mid-scene or mid-sentence, it’s guaranteed to be easier than starting a cold engine.
What excites you most about screenwriting? That’s a big clue to your personal “oil can” that will get you moving again.
If you love structure, get the biggest beats down in an outline and you’ll be able to climb back onto the horse.
Does dialogue drive you? Set yourself up with a snappy scene or sequence, and identify the primary focus – the line of dialogue that exemplifies the purpose of that section of the script – and take off from there.
Does theme speak to you? Figure out where your hero’s arc begins and ends, what they think and believe at the outset, and how it has changed by the end of the story. You’ll be off to a flying start.
Goal-Driven Action Plan
Robert Browning’s “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” is an inspirational quote to be sure; goals are good. By all means, make goals for your writing career in the New Year in advance.
Whether it’s completing a script, placing in a contest, upping your networking game, or all those and more, think it through and list them. Just like outlining a script, you’ll know where you’re headed, which ups your chance of completing the journey.
Setting Yourself Up For Success Action Plan
There’s no worse feeling than finding that the only remotely productive thing you can manage at the computer is deleting spam – although that is satisfying.
Setting yourself up with goals that you can accomplish leads to a sense of satisfaction and gets things moving.
When I find myself stuck in a longing-to-do-nothing place, I play a game I call “Ten Things.” It’s one of my personal “oil can” tricks. A go-to action plan guaranteed to get me going.
The rules are simple. I only have to do ten things and then I can do absolutely nothing. The ten things can be small – taking out the recycling – or large such as tackling correspondence. For me, this game works because once I start doing those things that are hanging over my head I get to cross them off the list. There’s no better boost than crossing things off the damn list. In fact, sometimes it’s such an energizer, I forget about counting to ten, and accomplish even more than I set out to.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Completing a character bio, a scene, or taking a pass through your idea file, are all readily achieved. Success leads to more success. Everything you can mark off your To-Do list is a source of positive reinforcement.
Now we’re talking momentum, baby.
What's Your Oil Can?
The key to creating your own action plan is to know what gets your creative juices flowing, and to use that knowledge to combat the rusty feeling.
What gets you charged?
What clears your vision?
What gets your wheels spinning?
Just sitting there feeling numb is scary. And from there, it’s a mere hop, skip, and a jump to full on paralysis.
Take that first giant, intimidating step. And then another. A few more and it will get easier.
Already staring numbly at a blank page? Check here for Dr. Paige Turner’s prescription to fight it off.
Even when you’re feeling stuck, when you are not trying to be creative – in fact, especially when you’re not trying – you suddenly experience a slight burst of creativity. An idea, a line of dialogue, the answer to a story problem that you’ve had percolating in the back of you mind pops into consciousness.
Grab onto this!
Jot it down ASAP.
I’ve been known to email myself nifty phrases, a title for an article or a perfect adjective that eluded me earlier.
Often creativity works best when we aren’t forcing it. These little sparks can be fleeting. Don’t assume you’ll remember. And writing it down reinforces that your creative spark is still there and burning bright. Especially important when you’re having doubts.
I have no idea who said this, but it’s a great motto:
Don’t tell me what you can’t do.
Show me what you can do.
For me, I know from experience that routine is important, so my action plan is to focus on getting back to a set time and place. Putting myself into that routine is most likely to lead to forward motion.
If you have suggestions for what works for you, please share them below. Your action plan may inspire our action plan.
Whatever it is that gets you going, creating an action plan now, and making it concrete – not just in your head but spelled out in so many words – is indispensable to getting off to a great start in the New Year.
With your personal action plan in place, you can indulge in the holidays to the fullest, enjoy the break, and swap being immobilized for feeling energized.
Wishing you Happy Holidays and a productive New Year!
December Article: Done!
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