“I make my films because I have to! I have stories I have to tell and I won’t be satisfied until my movie is done, and out.”
– Kelley Baker
“...writing is survival. Any art, and good work, of course, is that. Not to write, for many of us, is to die.” – Ray Bradbury
Ok so we’re already seven days into 2015 and between your routines of trying to lose 25 pounds, attempting to stay warm, creating a new habit of writing ‘2015’ on your checks and homework (because you really didn’t even get use to writing ‘2014’), and already making amendments to your ‘new year resolution daily planner’, you’re a writer and you’ve determined to be that. So I want to offer you a few tips to help kick your new year into full gear.
Let’s face it, the beginning of the year is one of the best times to kick yourself into gear and start training yourself to cultivate new and better habits. Why? Because our minds are already in this ‘new year, new me, new life, new choices’ kinda thinking. Why not use the time to examine ourselves: get rid of old habits that are not working and start some new ones that just might.
With ‘new year habits’ in mind, I’m going to break this list into 10 habits: 1 – 5 are HABITS TO STOP and 6 -10 are HABITS TO START, maintain or re-cultivate.
I enlisted two amazing experts to help with these 10 Tips: The legendary Ray Bradbury, ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’, and The Angry Filmmaker, Mr. Kelley Baker, ‘The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide, Part 1: Making The Extreme No-Budget Film.’
This is a longer post than usual so lets jump right in…
Tip 1: NO EXCUSES
“I never waste my time lecturing people who claim they ‘used to write.’ You either write or you don’t”. – Kelley Baker
Truth is truth: To be a writer you have to write. No more excuses for not writing. It takes work to sit down, and writing is not for everyone. It’s for writers. If you’re not a writer and won’t find time to write, then stop telling people that you’re a writer. If you are a writer, then by nature you must write. You have to make it happen. As the old saying goes: ‘Where there’s a will there a way’. Find it.
Tip 2: NO DISTRACTIONS
To be a writer you have to write. You cannot write if you’re allowing yourself to be distracted. Netflix is one of my big distractions. I love having sound in the background as I write so, I turn on some movie to play and before I know it I’m fully enthralled in the show, having wasted all my writing time. I had to realize the problem and put a stop to it. Now I turn on Pandora, the music works to my creative advantage.
What distracts you? Is it music, friends, your local coffeehouse, social media — do you have to check your Facebook and Twitter feed every hour? Social media can be great but they’ve been the reason many writers never finish their WIP (Work In Progress). Many writers let their ideas waste away in their minds, or leave them locked away in a first draft in some desk drawer or filing cabinet for years, because they allow distractions to take all their time. It’s time to turn the TV, radio, social notifications and text messaging OFF. And WRITE.
Tip 3: NO FIRST DRAFT EDITS
This is a really hard rule to follow, but it’s important. Allowing yourself to look at the screen and see the red underlining from autocorrect will not only slow you down but it becomes a serious distraction that’ll pull you out of your creative flow; this is the most important element to capture in your first draft. Creative flow: Passion, and firestorms, and literary hurricanes. The first draft is for explosions.
Ray puts it like this:
“Tomorrow, pour cold critical water upon the simmering coals. Time enough to think and cut and rewrite tomorrow. But today–explode –fly apart– disintegrate! the other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, reading your story, will catch fire too?”
Tip 4: DON’T WRITE WITH PUBLICATION IN MIND
To be a writer you have to write. Putting this limitation on yourself is a sure fire way to extinguish the creative passion-flames that your Muse desires to help you consume those blank white pages with. The biggest ball and chain we writers weigh ourselves down with is writing for publication alone. Not only is it impossible to stay on top of what sells today, but writing for publication alone keeps you from exploring what’s in you, what you have gathered over your life; trading it for a short-lived space on the ‘Today’s Trending Reads’ shelf. Which is nearly impossible to get on anyways. Don’t sell yourself short by writing only to sell.
“Do not, for money, turn away from all the stuff you have collected in a lifetime. Do not, for the vanity of intellectual publications, turn away from what you are — the material within you which makes you individual, and therefore indispensable to others.” – Ray Bradbury
“I don’t believe you write something because you know that it has been tested and it will appeal to a certain group. I know, I am in the minority here. But if you’re going to go to all the trouble to create a story, write it, and rewrite it, again and again, then you should be passionate about it! Don’t do it because of a marketing survey!” – Kelley Baker
I don’t know about you, but if being in the minority puts me in the company of guys like Ray and Kelley, the minority sounds like a pretty freakin awesome place to be. Count me in!
Tip 5: TALKING ABOUT IT ISN’T WRITING
To be a writer you have to write. It’s way too easy to get caught in a coffeehouse or Barnes & Noble sipping on coffee with your laptop or ipad in front of you with the best ‘intentions’, but lets be honest: how many times do you end up hooking up with friends and telling them about what you’re gonna write, and by the time you leave the place, you had a great chat with your friend and not a paragraph to show for it?
I’ve been caught in this situation too many times and, I just about fell out of my chair when Kelley basically called me out — from his book — while in my favorite coffeehouse trying to write, read, and chat it up. Multitasking has NO PLACE at the writer’s first draft desk. Here’s the words the Angry Filmmaker used to pimp-smack me straight out of his book;
“Talking about your great script idea is not going to get it written. You can sit in all the coffee shops and cafes you want and tell everyone about your movie, but until you sit down and write it, your idea doesn’t mean squat. You’re a poser.”
Tip 6: READ TONS
If you hate to read you’ll never be an effective writer. We learn our craft, learn about ourselves, learn writing styles, and learn the meaning of literary flow, or as I call it ‘read-ability’, as we glean from those who have paved the literary pathways before us with the yellow-brick-road of a billion stories, upon which we travel.
“Books! that’s what I’m afraid you’re going to have to start reading. that’s right, books. They’re not evil, and they won’t bite. They can actually teach you something. Like storytelling. Storytelling, what a concept…I just don’t get people who don’t like to read.” – Kelley Baker
Tip 7: WRITE DAILY
To be a writer you have to write. Let’s go back to the Angry Filmmaker, Kelley Baker, for this point because he ‘gets’ it. He not only understands the importance of creating the daily habit as an exercise as Bradbury mentions in the quote below, Baker also shares the simple, practical and effective side of writing daily. Even if that means sitting in front of the computer screen for an hour or writing one page and calling it success.
“A screenplay doesn’t write itself. You need to sit down, clear your desk and your mind. Then start writing. It takes commitment. Personally, I make myself sit down every day to write. I psych myself out. I only have to write a single page, then I can stop. And why not? If I just write a page a day, then in less than four months, I have a screenplay. How easy is that? …”
And Baker’s money quote…
“Sitting down to write is not rocket science. If it’s a habit, and you set up the same time every day or every other day to do it, then you feel bad when you don’t. So you do it. Simple, right? Make writing a habit!”
Bradbury reminds us of how important this daily habit is as well,
“The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory. Remember that pianist who said that if he did not practice every day he would notice, if he did not practice for two days, the critics would would, after three days, his audience would know.”
Tip 8: WRITE FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH, YOUR SANITY
I’ll let Ray take this one…
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you…The horrors are not to be denied. In my own circle , an aunt, and uncle, and a cousin, as well as six friends, have been destroyed by the car. The list is endless and crushing if we do not creatively oppose it. Which means writing as cure. Not completely, of course. You never get over your parents in the hospital or your best love in the grave. I won’t won’t use the word “therapy,” it’s too clean, too sterile a word. I only say when death slows others, you must leap to set up your diving board and dive head first into your typewriter.”
Tip 9: The Angry Filmmaker’s ‘3-Easy-Steps for Writing a Screenplay’
I hate giving away too much, but I believe that the Angry Filmmaker wouldn’t mind me sharing his ‘3-Easy-Steps for Writing a Screenplay’ and they are brilliant. Perfect for ALL writers of ALL experience levels.
Step 1. Put Your Butt In The Chair!
Step 2. Put Your Butt In The Chair!
Step 3. Put Your Butt In The Chair!
[ NOTE: These 3-Steps are from ‘The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide: Chapter 2 ‘Scripting, Scripting, and more Scripting’. This is one of the highest recommended reads I could ever encourage any writer to eat up. It’s a 6-course steak dinner. Get it, read it, devour it, read it again. Then repeat the process until it’s apart of you.]
Tip 10: WRITE BECAUSE YOU MUST
To be a writer you have to write.
“I make my films because I have to! I have stories I have to tell and I won’t be satisfied until my movie is done, and out.” – Kelley Baker
“…writing is survival. Any art, and good work, of course, is that. Not to write, for many of us, is to die.” – Ray Bradbury
I plan to go for the Gusto in 2015. Hold nothing back. Give my best. Write more than ever before. Get to know myself better. Write never before ‘as a man on fire’. I want to encourage you to do the same. If you’re a writer, WRITE! Examine yourself and discover those habits that hold you back as well as those habits you want to maintain and cultivate. Begin new habits. Find time to be productive, to cultivate YOU the Writer!
This post’s featured quotes come from books by Ray Bradbury and Kelley Baker. Both books mentioned below I highly recommend. If I had the money I would honestly buy a copy for anyone seeking to be a better writer. There’s thousands of books out there that are marketed as ‘Writer Help Resources’ that end up being a watered down writer’s devotional, but no meat, no practical application advice.
Bradbury’s ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’ is full of amazing essays that truly get you into the mind of one of the greatest writers to ever live. Get a copy at Amazon.
Baker’s ‘The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guides Parts 1 & 2‘ are exactly what they’re branded: survival guides. In my opinion these guides are ‘The Survival Guides’ and could honestly replace almost every ‘Writer’s Help’ book in my library — had I known when they were first published I would have saved hundreds of dollars.
Get your copies NOW at the AngryFilmmaker.com. Let him know that SamTheWriter recommended you.
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