Saturday, 18 July 2009

Writing Full Time In your Spare Time Pt 2

So last time we left out intrepid hero (me) at a turning point - having to give up writing full time and get a proper job. That was late 2007, and disappointingly no one has given me any large sums of money not to work since then (the selfish swine.) So I write part time.

I work from 545am till 3pm,* which in theory gives me extra time to write. In practice, getting up at 5 every morning (and sometimes only getting a ¼ hour break!) is surprisingly tiring, so more often than not I tend to flop and/or sleep in the afternoons.

I aim to write 20 hours a week. I don’t succeed very often. When I was really fired up, after last years Screenwriter’s Festival, I blogged every week how many hours I did. It was kind of motivating to think I‘d have to report failiure to the blogosphere if I didn‘t get it done, and to get all the “wow, well done” comments when I did.

Of course it didn’t last. Last week was the first time in ages that I managed to get 20 done in a non bank holiday week. It’s hard enough dragging my sorry arse up every morning to work for T***o. If you factor in the writing then that’s a 60 Hour week. Every week. It doesn’t leave much time, or energy, to have a life, a relationship, or mooch around watching cricket/ DVD‘s.

I don’t say this looking for sympathy. I know there are people who work even longer or more unsociable hours, who have long commutes and family commitments who manage to write. Adrian Mead’s story is an inspiration - he managed to write while working two jobs (hairdresser by day, bouncer by night) six days a week. If that’s possible, anything is.

Quitting the day job and writing full time really isn’t practical for most people unless they have a private fortune, or a rich and very understanding partner they can sponge off, or they go live under a bridge and write. The latter option is the only one open to me, and then I’d have nowhere to plug in this battered old laptop so that wouldn‘t work so that wouldn't work.

Bottom line is if you want to write, you’ve gotta write. I remember someone at the first Screenwriter’s Festival asking what if you had a really good idea, but you didn’t have time to write it? I can’t remember the exact answer, but I’m sure it wasn’t ‘get a note from you mum and we’ll give you some money to write it. No actually we‘ll give you money and write it for you.”

We’re all grown ups here. I’m sure we all know the world doesn’t owe us a living. Screenwriter Dan Reed, also at SWF 07, said he remembered getting up to write at some ungodly hour when had the flu, thinking if he didn’t do it, then there was someone else out there who would. That really stuck with me.

It’s a competitive business out there. There’s a lot of talent around. Last time I checked the BBC writersroom get 10,000 scripts a year. I’m sure not every un-produced writer sends a script in every year. I’ve sent scripts in 2 out of the last 4 years, so using this ever so slightly unscientific sample lets say there’s 20,000 of us out there. And then there’s the season pros you’re competing against…

Now you could rely on being better than them, or luckier than them. Trouble is, you can’t control how talented or how lucky you are. What you can control is how hard you work.

You might say that this is easier said than done, and you‘d be right. Next time (Sorry I didn’t intend for this post to turn into an epic 3 part trilogy!) I’ll answer the $6 million question - How?

In the meantime, how do you do it? What motivates you? Do you set yourself targets? If so, in pages, word, hours? Is there anything you’ve changed that’s increased your productivity?

Now, all that talk of working hard is tiring, I’m going for a little lay down. ;)
* I’m a Space, Range and Merchandising team leader for Tesco. “Working at Tesco” seems to have reached the culture as a kind of nadir. There was an article in the Mirror a while about those teenage suicides in Bridgend. They asked a lad what it was like being young in that town, why so many kids thought the only way out was to top themselves. He told them that it was crap, there was nothing to do, no future, and the topper was that the best he had to look forward to was working at Tesco. The Observer had an article about the credit crunch where some posh bint who’d lost her job said “I’d even work in Tesco!” as if it was like going on the game. (Actually if you go on the game the pay’s better, and you get to lie down while you’re being fucked ;)

1 comment:

Piers said...

Page targets.

I get to the computer, and I write* until I hit the target.

*(some procrastination may be involved during this process)