So, I’m right in the middle of this Six Week Spec thing. Actually, I’m well into the second half.
And it’s really interesting. I think Geoff put it in place to not only see if the ten writers he selected could complete this feat, but how we do it. What we learn from the experience. How we navigate the panic and stress that the deadline creates. And I don’t want to speak for him, but I feel like the main goal of this is not to write a masterpiece, but to just write and complete something. The process seems to be more valuable than the finished product. At least, it is for me.
It’s been really nice to have a deadline. And it’s a strict one: I’ve told friends, family, and the internet that I’m doing this, giving me absolutely no choice but to finish. So I’ve been writing more than ever. And although I’ve heard this a million times, now I know it to be true, the great secret is: just get something on the page. If I’m stuck, or don’t feel particularly funny or creative – who cares. I just write the scene even it’s the worst version of it, because having something to edit and work with is leaps and bounds easier than staring at a blank page. And because of this accelerated writing period, I’ve had to KEEP GOING no matter what. A couple times, I reached a point where I know I would’ve gotten frustrated or discouraged and given up, had I just been working on this script in my own time. But I kept going. And what it’s allowed me to let go of, is that fear of the work being bad. I don’t mind if the first draft of this thing isn’t the best thing I’ve ever written, because once I have a draft done I have an eternity to refine it into something I am proud of – I plan on working on this well after the six weeks is over.
I’ve learned what I need to do to get the writing going. It involves blocking the internet, putting on some non distracting tunes, and freewriting before I begin on 750words.com – this helps me get my thoughts together, and really hone in on what is going to happen in my upcoming scenes.
One thing that I feel almost… guilty about, is that I work in pretty much a haven for writers. theOffice is a shared quiet workspace with ergonomic chairs, coffee, wifi, and silence. It’s the most comfortable, least distracting place to write on the planet, and I would not be feeling as positive as I am without it. Okay, I don’t feel that guilty. Very, very lucky though!
Let me know if you’re doing the Six Week Spec, or if you’ve done anything similar. I’d love to hear your experiences. If you’d like to hear how the other writers are doing, Geoff’s blog has our weekly updates, and search #sixweekspec on Twitter to see progress and hear stories from tons of writers that are taking on this challenge.
Happy Monday, isn’t this quote nice?
“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”
-Agnes de Mille
“You can’t hold a computer in your hand like you can a book. A computer does not smell. There are two perfumes to a book. If a book is new, it smells great. If a book is old, it smells even better. It smells like ancient Egypt. A book has got to smell. You have to hold it in your hands and pray to it. You put it in your pocket and you walk with it. And it stays with you forever. But the computer doesn’t do that for you. I’m sorry.”
-Ray Bradbury, from the Paris Review
A few weeks ago, I decided to apply for screenwriter, Geoff LaTulippe’s Six Week Spec challenge. Here’s the challenge in Geoff’s own words:
“Starting 1 September 2014 – professional duties allowing, I’m going to begin writing the first draft of a brand new spec screenplay. I’m giving myself six weeks to complete it. I want you to come along with me on the journey. But not just in the passive way that you might be thinking. Here’s the deal:
I want you to start a your own brand new spec too. The one you’ve always wanted to dive into but never did. The one that’s kept you up nights tossing around scenes and dialogue but that you never had the drive to actually crack. The one that itches and burns and crackles, but life has kept you away from.”
Basically, Geoff is challenging writers to complete a spec – from start to finish – in a crazy short amount of time, and providing an online community, his blog, where writers can encourage and commiserate with another along the way. To add to this, he decided to pick ten writers to focus on, to document their journey on his blog, and to give them a little incentive for completing the spec challenge. The prize: a few months of free hosting and 4 script evaluations from the Blacklist (personally, it’s the only site I trust for professional level script feedback). To apply, we had to submit a one page essay on why we wanted to write this spec, with no mention of what the spec would be about. So, I gave it a go. I talked about the struggles of being my age, and how I wanted to tell a heartfelt, funny, authentic story about it. Then, a few weeks after I submitted, I found out that he picked me. And ten other writers. He calls us the Selected Ten (it’s actually eleven people, but two of them are a writing team). And now we have to write a feature screenplay in six weeks. Omg.
It’s daunting, and the pressure is on, but that’s kind of the fun of it. Geoff will be posting our weekly updates on this crazy process over on his blog. Follow along if you’d like. Or, even better, write along with us. We start September 1st. Are you in?
For a writer, the questions, “What are you working on?” or “What is your script about?” can be very daunting. Especially if you haven’t practiced saying out loud what your story is in a succinct manner. Or if you’re having doubts about what you’re writing. Or if you just finished something and it’s just not what you wanted it to be. Then, “What is your script about?” isn’t as harmless as it sounds.
I’ve noticed a lot of writers (new writers, mostly) who, when questioned about their work, will sort of shrug off an answer, and completely downplay their writing. Or they’ll give a half assed version of their story and their voice will trail off towards the end of the explanation, then they’ll kind of apologize for the whole thing.
“It’s about this girl who’s, like, well, I haven’t really figured it out yet, but she’s having problems, so she moves back in with her parents and then like, yeah. That’s about it. I don’t know, it’s dumb, I just started it.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a version of that. I’ve also SAID a version of that myself.
But I realized that one of our main jobs as writers is to be excited about what we’re working on. Because so much of the job is convincing others that our writing is worth their time. So here’s the cliche: If you don’t believe in your own work, no one else will believe in it either.
What I do now is, right when I start working on a new idea, I talk about it with people I’m close to. I practice explaining what it is, so when someone asks me about it, I can rattle of the story confidently. Instead of fumbling to explain it for the first time.
And when the time comes to finally let other people read what you’ve written, don’t downplay the work then, either. So often, when friends and acquaintances give me their scripts to read, it will come along with the disclaimer: “It needs a ton of work. It’s a really early draft. It sucks. I hate it.”
Friends have sent me their recently finished scripts and wrote as the subject line: “UUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHHHH”.
I understand where this comes from, it’s a way to protect yourself against criticism. If you tell the reader that it’s an early draft, then you’re kind of protecting your ego if they don’t like it or if they have a ton of notes.
But what about saying, “I worked really hard on this and I’m proud of it. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it.”?
Give yourself credit, admit that you worked your ass off. Love your work. ‘Cause if you don’t, why would anyone else?
“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”
Tina Fey, Bossypants
“I’d just say to aspiring journalists or writers—who I meet a lot of—do it now. Don’t wait for permission to make something that’s interesting or amusing to you. Just do it now. Don’t wait. Find a story idea, start making it, give yourself a deadline, show it to people who’ll give you notes to make it better. Don’t wait till you’re older, or in some better job than you have now. Don’t wait for anything. Don’t wait till some magical story idea drops into your lap. That’s not where ideas come from. Go looking for an idea and it’ll show up. Begin now. Be a fucking soldier about it and be tough.”
The quote is from this Lifehacker piece. It is part of a series called “How I Work” which “asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more.”
“There’s such a stigma around the adult film industry. These actors are looked at as lesser – like they’ve taken some cheap way out. But Frankie never, not once, shied away from talking about his career, his life choices. There was never an ounce of shame around it. He owned it, just like he owned this new role. And I’m not sure there are many of us who could shed our slick personas, our egos, those very parts of ourselves which have protected us, paid our bills and defined us for so long. But Frankie has created a character in Tiger Orange who is beautifully vulnerable – sometimes weak, sometimes ugly and very often unlikeable. And it’s an absolute joy to watch.”
A fascinating read from theOffice manager Wade Gasque, on his experience directing adult film star, Frankie Valenti, in his indie drama: Tiger Orange.