6.08.2009

TGIM - Taking Breaks

It's tough to be on all the time. We all need breaks, distractions and, most importantly, rest.

I forget these things. I try to have the creativity faucet flowing 24/7, so whenever I sit down to work, it's already on. And when I don't make the progress I want, I get frustrated. I question myself, I get angry, I stare at the screen.

And then I always remember the same thing.

You can't force it. Creativity happens when it happens. You might be brushing your teeth, out on a run, running errands, or sitting in front of a computer. But as much as you can try to plan for it, it's not a fool-proof system. Just getting the most out of your allotted work time is all you can ask for. And when you can't get anything out of it... take a break.

Go for a walk, watch some TV, read, exercise, call your mom, hang out with friends, etc. It doesn't matter what it is. No one is on 100% of the time. And you can't force it. Some days it'll feel like you can, and others it'll be like pulling teeth with nothing to show at the end of hours in front of a blank screen.

I've made shit progress the last two weeks. I've had things in the works, made notes when I had ideas, but I've been having a really hard time fleshing out full stories. Bits here and there, moments, themes, openings... But not stories. And that's fine for future use ideas, but not when people need you to turn in a pitch or a synopsis. It all needs to be on the page, or there's no gig.

Today was no exception. I buckled down in the afternoon and tried to get something going. I put all my notes into Scrivener for easy access, opened up a new document in the same folder for the pitch, and started to write.

Nothing came.

So I wrote a title. Then started looking up synonyms for it. Nothing came. So I made a second document. There are two stories I'm whittling down right now for the same project. A commercial version, and the version I want to do. If I can't write the one, I'll put down some thoughts on the other. Maybe that'll work.

Nothing came.

So I copied some stuff out of my notes and tried to write. It was agony. I looked at the clock. Running short, needed to eat something and then take off. I had promised friends (and been bribed into going) that I would join them for a movie. Great. Just what I need to do, reward myself for a day of nothing.

But I came back, ate some grub, watched the remainder of Kung Fu Panda on the DVR, and got to work. Nearly 500 words later, I've gotten something done. It's not done, it's not even close, but it's coming along.

It's progress. And I wouldn't have gotten there without taking a break for a few hours and breaking the dead end loops of my earlier attempts.

Writer's block may or may not be a myth, but there are such thins as negative thought loops and frustration. And when they kill your flow, just stop. Take a break. Come at it later, tomorrow, or next week. Give it some time to breathe.

If only I could remember this the next time I get frustrated with a lack of progress.

1 comment:

wereviking said...

I am feeling a very subtle kinship as I read your notes. This is the sort of writerly stuff I have been after on the Internet, all the writers and comic dudes I follow (who don't follow me back unsurprisingly). A writer's reward is always subtly pushed ahead of him into the future, there's no payback for any one day, any one week. It's like the carrot on the stick. And it's no wonder writers are the maddest or (perhaps in my case) most maddening ppl. I have spent the whole day turning my beautiful family upside down because it's Sunday and my "work" day (I'm a journalist M-F, an aspiring spec fiction author at nights and on the weekend). Battling constant interruptions I spend more time playing 140mafia on Twitter than actually getting anywhere with the spec scripts I am working on at the moment because I know the moment I get on a roll someone or a little kid will wander into my sanctum needing me -- and hell, I am a dad/husband/human being so that's probably fair enough). I have today decided I shld no longer expect myself to be productive during the days and night is better for me. The pressure, the constant self-imposed pressure to "be productive," though, which I think you captured in what you wrote, is pretty soul-destorying and horrible.