WRITING SPACE + WRITING PRACTICE
Setting up a sacred writing space is crucial for setting yourself up for success. It sends a message to your psyche from the outside in that you are prioritising your writing and it’s a visual reminder of your intent to finish this project for yourself. A well laid out writing space is also key in your general well being and your mood which is incredibly important when undertaking a big writing project.
It’s important to take the time to create an environment that is going to encourage creativity and mental well being. Lastly, it keeps you organised which will allow you the freedom to be inspired and to collect lots and lots and lots ideas and details and bits that you can later turn into a script that you really enjoy writing and represents your voice as fully as it can.
If you’re able to designate a desk or half of a kitchen table to just writing, that’s great, but if you don’t have that option, that’s okay. If you are going to be writing at a table that is used for different things at various times of the day and need to be a bit mobile, keep your writing tools in a box or a backpack that you can unpack and then pack up pretty easily. It’s best if you have a wall next to wherever you’re writing where you can tape up things for the next six weeks, but if that is not the case, get creative, find some card board or a framed poster you can take off the wall to create a wall that you can take with you.
You’ll needs, notecards and/or post-its, tape or blue tack, lots of pens or pencils whatever makes you happiest, make the effort to use pens/pencils that you enjoy using, that spark joy when you pick them up, a shoebox or a small box of some kind, sheets of blank paper and your notebook. You’ll also grab what I call unblocking materials which I’ll explain. But first, let’s talk about what goes on your wall.
First you’re going to have your Writing Calendar is only for Screenplay Related scheduling, only. This is where you’ll put all of your deadlines for the workshop, but for now, I only want you to decide of your “Protected Writing Time.” This is 2-4 hours everyday, or 6 days out of the week when you are going to sit down and work on this project. This may mean you have to give up time when you’d normally be watching tv or scrolling Instagram or twitter or whatever, but it’s really crucial, that you block and protect that time for yourself. Some days you’ll be working much longer than 2-4 hours, some days you might feel like you didn’t get much done, but because you are going to finish a feature script in six weeks and you want to write the best script you can
write, you need to commit to workIng on it everyday.
Next on your wall, I want you to tape up your cinematic values in a spot you can see them.
These will remind you of what you care about and what your intent is with your script. I want to you to also tape up your tactic for when you feel like quitting or when you don’t want to write. I’ve put “Do it for future Erin” on my wall because I frequently look back at “past Erin” and think ah, I wish I would of just kept going to yoga, I’d feel so better now, or more pertinently, I wish I would of just finished my rough draft sooner so I didn’t feel so shit about this second draft that I don’t know what to do with. Finally, on your wall, I want you to put up a quote or mantra that reminds you to take things a day at a time, trust the process, or to be kind to yourself and gird your loins from perfectionism. I have “One bird at a time” which is a reference to Anne Lamott’s book on writing, Bird By Bird in which she tells a story about her brother doing a project about birds when he was about 10. The project was due for 3 months and he had waited until the night before to finish it and he was panicking, in tears with all of these bird books in front of him and he didn’t know where to start, and then their father put his arm around him and said, Bird by bird, just take it bird by bird.
THE NOTECARD SYSTEM
Once you are committed to your Screenplay idea, these are for organising all of the ideas for your script. You can write a scene idea on a card, a bit of dialogue, an idea for a character, a specific thing about a character, a song that you want to play under a scene, anything that comes up for you with your script. As we continue, they’ll be times when your brainstorming specific things to put on the cards, like set pieces which are big memorable scene sequences, to specific scenes to characters, but the idea is that in your pre-scripting time, you are fishing for ideas within your brain.
When you write something on a card, put it in the box.
The reason for this doing it this way, is that this allows for ideas that aren’t strictly attached to a plot progression. You want your scenes to dictate the plot progression. Collecting ideas this way will allow you to come up with more ideas to choose from. You can better the ideas that really grab you, and let those dictate your outline.
This useful in all genres, but especially in comedy, because the trials in a comedic screenplay, the scenes that show your protagonist trying to get the thing they want is where most of your comedy is coming from. You’re creating a process where you can pitch lots of ways to tell the story you want to tell. You are in charge of the story, don’t put yourself in a position where you feel slave to a choice that you don’t love.
I also have a couple big pieces of blank paper for when I have a flow of ideas coming. I just write them down randomly on the page, randomly so I don’t start to connect them too too much and then I put them on cards afterwards.
Unblocking materials! So, these can be whatever you them to be, but their purpose is to get you out of your head and to change your train of thought and maybe even inspire you. I have a couple old lifestyle magazines from the 40s, a Dublin Guide from last year a David bowie biography a pictorial pocket dictionary and an art book. I chose those things because they all bring me joy in some way and they are full of specific things that I know will spark ideas. My old magazines for example: because they are so old, I feel a little removed from the stories so they’re really easily inspire character ideas or they remind me someone I’ve met who I would have otherwise forgotten about. I have the Dublin Guide because part of my script is set in Dublin, so I have that there to look through to spark memories of experiences I’ve had in Dublin, or locations, the art book is just random visuals for if I’m feeling stuck and I like to imagine David Bowie as my spirit guide, so that’s why I have that there. SO gather things that mean something to you or light you up some how. This is different from research for your project, and you also don’t want to have a text that is what you aspire this screenplay to be necessarily. If you’re writing a western and you have butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid in front of you, it could easily paralyse you if you it makes you feel like you need to make your script like that script and can actually narrow your ideas because you’ll be trying to make that thing.
LASTLY, I want you to name your space. What is your personal writing space called? It is the Helm, The Mainframe, Mission Control? Mine is called the Beacon as in the light of a lighthouse, guiding ideas to safety. SO the more dramatic the name, the better.
Putting together your Workspace is an assignment. And on your idea form which is due on Friday, at that bottom, you’ll be filling out the name of your workspace and you’ll need to upload a picture. You will get a bonus 3 points if you post your writing space on instagram and announce to your friends that you are writing a screenplay by June 1st which will make you even more accountable and will also mean your friends will support you, which is important.
Happy Writing-Space building and good luck finding the inspiration for your idea!