Thursday 13 October 2011

Shut Off

When I'm writing, and I mean really writing, not almost writing or trying to write -- when I'm really onto something, I go into shut down.

I was never really aware of it previously, but now I've been thinking about it (I'm currently writing a 1st draft of a screenplay), my life virtually goes into shutdown mode.

I get distracted watching movies, I get short and moody around friends --- the only thing that works for me is writing.

Not that the writing is always flowing. Sometimes it's not, yet my mind fixates on the story, on the world I'm creating.

Right now I'm finding I write best in coffee houses. I have a specific one I go to. But only certain tables work for me. The good tables all share traits: privacy, electric supply, a mystical aura!

I like chatter around me; but not loud people, not film industry people, and not Americans. I hate Americans in coffee houses.

This morning I had a bad table, and a group of loud Americans talking about a film project. I couldn't focus, so I went and watched a movie. But I couldn't focus on that.

I did the thing I hate other people doing: checked emails. But I was hidden down in the front row and no-one could see me. I got an email about another project, about how it's definitely going ahead. My brain focused on that momentarily but then back to my script.

And I'd arranged to meet a friend at 4 which bugged me because I needed to write. Then she flaked out, and I was nowhere. But I went back to my writing zone and got onto it. And the pages flew by and characters came to life.

And this is the best writing I've done. Whether producers will feel the same I don't know, but by my own barometer, I'm rocking it.

I'm three quarters through the screenplay. This is where all scripts go bad. I took a walk to Trafalguar Square, stared out at the tourists and saw how the script will end.

Tomorrow I'll continue. Same place, same time. No choice but to write.

The rest of life fades from focus. I'm not a great friend or family member during this. I can only stomach supportive people; the ones who get me. The rest can too easily shake me out of creativity. I've learned that the hard way.

Creativity is about the art,  but its equally about learning how to reach a flow state, how to block out the world and do what you do. And this is a spec screenplay, an idea I had, I'm not being paid to write it. So I have the pressure. You hold on to the belief that you work now and get paid later.

This is me and if you see me typing away, think twice before talking to me :p

Care to share?


  1. Do you find that you write while you are asleep? You wake up with a character speaking to you or a line of dialogue following you to the bathroom?

  2. Unfortunately, I have no idea what you look like. Therefore, if I am ever in London, I will leave all writers in coffee shops alone and sit far away from them. Unless they're on fire. Then I'll throw my coffee on them, being careful not to hit their computers.

  3. hmmm at times u write as thou.u werrre reading my mind. bytheway do yu ryt on paper or just type on the laptop?

  4. Even with "in coffee houses" after it, it's hard to read "I hate Americans" (or any nationality) here and not feel a little put off. I get the sentiment and I'm sure it's true in general terms, but that little cluster of words still stings.

  5. This rings so true for me - when I'm in show (or, as I like to call it, in the Void of Production) I become a terrible correspondent, friend and family member. All I can focus on is the show and my time is spent either working on it, recovering from working on it, or with the cast/crew. I think to some extent that's true of all artists, regardless of discipline.

  6. Bruce -- not really; I mean, dreams do influence me in various ways but I don't dream of characters I'm writing. And I wouldn't say dialogue follows me either -- for me, it's just a feeling, or a vibe, or a longing-- something I feel basically, which tells me I need to get writing.

    TB - I want to see you throw coffee on people.

    Anonymous - You're right. If I had written "I hate African people in coffee houses" it would be seen unquestioningly as wrong. Here, most readers will be okay with it because they know me, and on any occasion other than this I speak lovingly of America, Americans, Hollywood, etc -- because it is a country I adore beyond words. But yeah, you're not wrong.

    On the other hand; many people, of many nationalities, find Americans to be very abrasive and oppressive; because they are innately louder than everyone else, and rarely aware of the people around them -- this would perhaps be prejudice if not for the fact that nearly all Americans I know believe this to be true :P But if I offend you , I apologise, I appreciate what you're saying.

    Unemployed Actress - I really feel you should start a differently named blogged. Do you really want the label of 'Frustrated Unemployed Actress'? Even if you're having fun with it -- I think you should shed the name! You are better than that!

    Aside from that, I'm really glad you relate to what I'm saying :)

  7. TEBOY - I always think I write on laptops, but often am surprised by how much of a paper trail I leave behind.

    However, this current project, aside from a few little notes, has all been written on a laptop, on Final Draft.

  8. I'm a coffe house writer also, except I don't have the luxury of choosing if I'm around Americans, they are all around me. I have to say if I could choose I would be around All Italians I feel most creative with Italian influence

  9. I know a memoir is a far cry from a screenplay, but do you have any advice on how to properly make decisions about writing a memoir? I have been working on one for several years but I am so indecisive. I know it is worth something; it's great. I just can't answer my own questions like "should it begin with the present and do the whole flashback thing?" or "is this detail important enough/entertaining enough to include?"

  10. HOLLY - It's your memoir. You're leaving the world with your voice, your fingerprints. So start it however you want!

    Have you read Michael J Fox' autobiography? He starts it in 1991, telling in graphic detail the minute his finger started shaking -- the moment his Parkinson's began. It was extremely vivid. Then a few chapters later he went on to fill us in on his childhood.

    If you're thinking "This isn't important to include" it probably is! The things that bother us are the most fascinating! That's where the juice is.

    You say you're indecisive! Great! Maybe you could start your memoir that way: "There is something you should know about me, if you're going to read my memoir. I'm indecisive. It's plagued me all my life. In fact, you could call this, a memoir of indecisiveness".

    Don't be blocked by who you are; embrace it! Write!!!!!

  11. Point taken, but that's why I have the subtitle that says "Someday, this title will be ironic." :)

  12. Know what you mean about Americans bothering you in coffee shops I do that to people sometimes especially when they aren't American only because I have not been over seas since I was very young and I like talking to them. I hope that they enjoy the experience of America.

  13. The part about not being a good friend or family member struck a chord with me. That's how I've been lately. I think only someone who is involved in a creative project can understand the struggle to balance some aspects of life with completing a creative task.

  14. Well, okay. As long as most people don't like Americans just as much as you - and as long as you've had bad experiences with them/us - then sure, it seems fine to say you hate the whole country.

    I like to think of artists (meaning fine artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers) as being more open-minded than non-artists, but there are always exceptions.

  15. I understand what you mean about supportive people. There are several people in my life (who shall remain anonymous) whose only aim in life would appear to be stifling my creativity. It even seems at times that they get a kick out of this..?!

    Like you, I push them firmly away during creative phases, even though they often resent this...


  16. Anonymous -- re; this American stuff, are you joking? Really -- I don't hate Americans.

    Here's some quotes from the article and my comments here just to remind you..

    " I hate Americans in coffee houses."
    -- I just hate Americans in coffee houses. I love Americans and America -- I blog about this regularly.

    In the comments I wrote:
    " Here, most readers will be okay with it because they know me, and on any occasion other than this I speak lovingly of America, Americans, Hollywood, etc -- because it is a country I adore beyond words."

    You said: " it seems fine to say you hate the whole country." -- I don't hate the whole country! That's insane. I LOVE AMERICA MORE THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. I JUST MADE ONE COMMENT ABOUT BEING IN STARBUCKS AND NOT LIKING TO BE AROUND AMERICANS when I'm there!!!!! Lighten up, I love you guys!

    "I like to think of artists (meaning fine artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers) as being more open-minded than non-artists, but there are always exceptions." -- same goes for you! Please accept that I said it as one instance, how Americans have a tendency to be loud in Starbucks, this is all! Maybe there is some truth to it. Maybe I don't hate all of America?

  17. The other anonymous person; re; pushing people away!: Yes, it's tricky! But necessary, I think. They grow to understand our weird nonsense :)