This time last year, I had no idea where or how I was going to get work. I put in place a few objectives and motivational attitudes to help steer me right. Actually, I put them in place a few years ago after my previous routine/approach had seemingly hit a plateau. I’m all about practical application so when things don’t go according to plan, I try to look to myself as much as possible in order to take responsibility and change things accordingly. So, if you’ve lined up some New Year resolutions, here are 5 tips that may help you as they have helped me.
1. Effective change is gradual
Don’t try to splurge into a whole new regime based solely on New Year euphoria. Work up to what you want to achieve. If your goal is to write 10 pages per day but you’ve never done that kind of routine before, it would be better to start with a more realistic target, perhaps writing 5 pages per day, or even fewer, 1-3 pages. You’ve a better chance of maintaining your New Year resolutions past January if you don’t over-burden yourself with unrealistic demands.
2. Be In The World of Story Every Day
If you can’t write every day (and let’s face it, sometimes it’s not practical), at least try to ‘be in the world of story’ every day. Read a script, doesn’t matter if it’s produced or if it’s another person’s spec. Think about what works and what doesn’t, and why. Watch a film, and break it down with a similar analysis. Read a chapter of your favourite (or even most hated) screenwriting book, or refresh your memory on a subject matter that’s always niggled at you. Basically, keep your mind involved in the mechanics of story, and let it fuel your inspiration for your own writing.
3. Pick a time, start a routine.
You know your diary better than anyone so identify key times to help you stay devoted to your resolutions. Get up earlier. Stay up later. Whatever works for you. Write in your lunch break. A free half hour in your schedule shouldn’t automatically mean ‘check the internet’. Instead, it could enable you to brainstorm a few ideas, or work out a character’s backstory, or prompt you to got outside for a walk and clear out the brainhole. Get into a groove of creativity, and before long the fresh behavioral patterns will establish a new routine.
3. Time Management
There are more distractions than ever before. Mobile phones constantly feed us pointless notifications, and we immediately respond or engage. Twitter/Facebook can suck you in and waste a morning, or a whole day (or more?!). However, whether you’re freelance or still holding down a full-time job, your writing day can still be broken down into productive chunks. Two-hours of focused activity is a good way to go, with 15 min breaks to divide the next set, and 30mins or an hour for lunch. There are time management tools like Mac (PC) Freedom that turn off the internet for however long you want and that’s a good way to start managing your time.
4. Mind, Spirit & Body
Sitting down for 6-8 hours a day by yourself in isolation is not entirely healthy. Physically, it’s bad for the back. Emotionally, it can be quite draining. Take care of yourself and your body. Eat well. Drink lots of water. When taking a break, get up and move around. Find an exercise you can at least tolerate and make it your new hobby (revert to tip 3 but keep in mind tip 1). Socialise with writer friends, someone who can understand and relate to your tales of writing joy/woe. Read a book for pleasurable purposes, or something well beyond your genre tastes. Similarly with TV and film. Don’t close yourself off. Keep your mind open.
5. Think Long Term
It’s not just a New Year, it’s a New You. Resolutions don’t need to be temporary or just for one year’s purpose. When done well, your routine could establish a whole new era of opportunity and productivity. To bolster this notion, think about where you want to be in two years’ time. Set realistic targets. For example, in two years’ time (or before), you could aim to get an agent. In three years’ time, you could aim to write for EastEnders. In five years’ time, you could aim to write/direct your debut feature film. All of this is achievable (and more) with the right application and approach. Tempus fugit, people. Use it or lose it.
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