Day Fifty – Powering Through

19 02 2010

Writer’s block is an interesting concept. It’s an excuse for an excuse to not write. It’s true that sometimes I have a hard time coming up with something to write, but that’s because I’m thinking of something less hard to do. Still, writer’s block is basically not wanting to write. There’s only one solution:


Write whatever is in your head. Just start writing, get all the junk out of the way and eventually you’ll find what you wanted to write about. Today is Day 50 of 365. I could have claimed I had writer’s block on at least 30 of those, but I just powered on through. 

This was my ideal writing space for a while, until policy changed and my time in here was limited.

By forcing myself to write every day, I’ve found writer’s block to become less and less of a problem. Using this blog as a way to get my finger tapping the keys, I get my mind working. The brain is like a muscle, and until lately, it hasn’t been getting much exercise. Much like the rest of my body.

Up until a little while ago, I lost my willingness to make that push to get something down on the blank page. I had a million excuses. I was too busy. I should be looking for a different door to get my foot in. I was waiting for the inspiration to hit my like a dodgeball in gym class.

My most productive time was when I was working projection at an old movie theatre. There were only six screens, so once the shows were started, I had about an hour to myself. I would have only the light reflecting of the walls from the projectors to light my pen and paper. I would have tons of ideas for screenplays, TV shows, novels, comics.

I actually managed to get a couple of specs done, too. I sent them out to Hollywood with such hope and the rejections were sent right back. That was a first excuse of many to wait for something better to appear.

Management changed at the theatre and that productive writing hour was now taken up with running up and down the stairs doing two jobs. I never wrote as much as I did then.

The good news is the intention of this blog is starting to take effect. That constant drive to have something down has spilled over to Final Draft. I haven’t been this excited to write since I was in film school. I’m starting to write more and more. I have 25 pages down on my latest screenplay, with more to come real soon.

Thanks to the 5 of you who manage to visit the site every day or so. I started this blog to exercise my writing and didn’t expect anyone to check it out more than once. Thanks for sticking around. Makes it even more worthwhile to drive towards that arbitrary goal I set for myself.

Hopefully by 100 posts, the screenplay will be done and these habits I’m developing will stick.


Day Thirty-Seven – Better Late Than…

6 02 2010

So it finally happened. I wasn’t able to keep up with my deadline of having a new post everyday, after doing so for 36 days.

Though I was pretty busy today, not with anything important, but with movie-screenings and UFC 109. The main excuse for not having anything ready was I hit a case of Writer’s Block.

Straight out of the dishwasher.

The Mug hissed at me today, feeling the irony once again.

I hit a wall. I couldn’t convince myself to do anything at all, so I did nothing. I wrote about Telefilm, the NFB and the UFC, but nothing seemed good enough. Nothing seemed like it was right.

And that’s the main thing that you need to get over Writer’s Block. Just give up on trying to write something that feels right and just write through it. Sure, you won’t write anything too spectacular, but you’ll get the train rolling again, and that’s what’s important at the end of the day. Getting words on the page. Or, in this case, on the screen.

The fear of not being good enough is enough to cripple anyone into submission. Yet, that’s the key right there. Don’t give into the fear. Just keep pushing forward. It’s something I’m still learning to do today.

The year I finished film school, I wrote two spec scripts, one for Entourage and another for Smallville. Reading them today, I can tell that I’ve improved from then. Still, back then, this was my ticket to Hollywood. My first try, I would be called up and on the WB lot in no time.

I sent my screenplays through Canada Post the day they were due and waiting with anticipation for my letter to come in the mail, inviting me to hang out with Spielberg and Scorsese. Instead, I got a kindly worded letter telling me I needed some work.

I took that note and stored it away, thinking it was just a small stumbling block. Instead, it was a road block. Deep down, I must have let it get to me, because I never completed a screenplay beginning to end that I didn’t scrap immediately.

I’m learning to power through it. I’m learning not to let the kindly worded rejection get to me. I’m learning to get over my fear and just do it.

Just write…like that.

Day Twenty-One – I Hate the Evening News

21 01 2010

I hate the Evening News.

This war between broadcasters and providers gets dirtier by the minute. CityTV just laid off a bunch of news people and they’ll surely blame the lack of funding. I would blame it on the lack of something new to offer. They have 4 hours of news per day, not including their morning shows. Is it all really necessary? Was there not a time when the news was no longer than a half-hour? If I wanted in-depth reporting, I’ll move to the net, the newspaper, the radio or the 24-hour news networks, like CNN.

It sucks that people had to lose their jobs over a political battle for cash, but there are things that can improve all networks news ratings and have them bring money in on their own.

1. “News Voice”

“Why fantastic bars may not be so fantastic – for your health.”

It’s hard to portray in writing, but for some reason, everyone on the news feels the need to randomly emphasize words.

CityTV has cut a bunch of jobs from the network, blaming the lack of funding to support their 4 hours of news shows.

It doesn’t add any drama.

It doesn’t add any clarity.

It’s just annoying.

I doubt they talk to their friends and family with such silly voices. Is it because they read in sections? I can watch something like Attack of the Show and they don’t seem to have any problem reading the prompter naturally. Still, there are worse problems than “news voice”.

2. Everything is going to kill me

“If it bleeds, it leads”

But if it coughs and aches, it takes up weeks of coverage. The panic caused every year by some new flu virus is sickening in itself. H1N1, Avian Flu, West Nile Virus, SARS or whatever the hell comes next; watching the news alone, you’d expect the bodies to begin piling up, but almost always less than a couple hundred country-wide contract whatever virus they’re selling this year.

According to the evening news, I have a 200% chance of dying from cancer. Everything I drink, eat and breathe is causing some type of cancer to grow inside me. They don’t seem to understand the concept of diminishing returns. If everything is going to kill me, why should I bother worrying about it?

Regardless, most cases come down to common sense. If I eat a bushel of tomatoes every evening, I will undoubtedly get sick with something, but they don’t tell you that until the last line in the report.

3. Exploitation without shame

Watching coverage of the devastation in Haiti, I’ve seen how sad some reporters could be. Shoving the microphone in the faces of people who just got the news that their family has died, asking “How does that make you feel?”

We don’t need the explanation. We don’t need to see such a private moment to understand that things are terrible in Haiti.

Have a little shame.

4. Blaming technology

If I smash into a pole because I was speeding on the highway, it’ll probably be blamed on my love for video games. Midnight Club doesn’t make me drive like an idiot. Grand Theft Auto doesn’t compel me to steal a car and beat hookers.

Not every 12 year-old is sexting. Most girls don’t have a phone good enough to do so and if they do, that’s easily manageable. You’ll notice when your bill has $300+ in MMS all to some guy’s number.

5. Spending an hour telling me 15 minutes worth of news

When I watch the news, I just want to know what’s going on without being forced to sit through melodrama. What happened where and why. That’s all I want. I don’t want to watch a recent widow crying. I don’t want to know that we all may die of something, that probably won’t even get near us, and watch a five minute video created by some kid who just learned to use After Effects on how it’ll attack my immune system.

I just want an update and to get on with my day.

I doubt that any of this extra padding is bringing in any more ratings than just reporting the news would.

Day Seventeen – Movie Theatre Etiquette

17 01 2010

I go to a lot of movies every year. Enough that I should get a golden AMC Moviewatcher card. There’s nothing that matches the experience of sitting in a dark theatre with the good flick.

Until the crowd around you ruins it.

I feel like people have got worse in the movie theatre. They leave common courtesy at the door and take a seat right next to me.

There are some basic ground rules that people seem to have forgotten. I’d like to take this opportunity to lay them out for all.

1. Shut off your cell phone.

This one should be obvious by now. They’ve made special pre-movie clips to remind you that “Silence is Golden”. Everyone knows it’s a bad idea, yet every screening I go to, someone gets a call and distracts the theatre.

My experience with "Up in the Air" was nearly ruined by impolite movie-goers.

2. Really, shut off your phone!

People can’t seem to let go of their friends for a two hour movie anymore. Texting during a movie is just as bad as talking during one. The reason for going to a dark theatre is so my focus is drawn to the screen; not your cell phone.

3. Pick your seat early or sit up front.

So you show up 10 minutes into the movie and can’t find a good seat for you and your friend. You notice there are two spare seats separated by a group of people. It is not okay to ask everyone to move over. You were late, therefore you separate. I shouldn’t have to move due to you poor time-management skills.

4. Eat with your mouth closed.

Popcorn is crunchy. It makes noise when you chew it. If I’m missing important information on screen because you can’t breathe through your nose, maybe you should eat after the movie.

5. Even if you think you’re whispering, we can here you.

What can’t wait until the end of the movie? If you want to have a conversation, save it for the lobby. Better yet, head across the street to Starbucks and chat away.

None of these are too hard to follow. Most rules are ones you would follow in any other similar environment. Is it because the performers aren’t present that people have lost their courtesy?

I’m sure there are some I’ve missed, but these were at the top of my mind since I went to a screening of Up in the Air and experienced all these problems first-hand.

I don’t go to the movies on Friday or Saturday nights. I made that mistake this week.

Day One – The Ironic Mug aka The Useless Writer’s Challenge

1 01 2010
Straight out of the dishwasher.

The Mug that laughs at the irony with each sweet sip of Timmies.

Every time I sit to drink a coffee, I stare at my ironic mug as it laughs back at me. Proudly exclaiming “WRITER” on either side. The mug, though it was a gift, originally gave me a sense of pride and purpose. Now  it’s just a sad reminder of how little I’ve done in the past 5 years.  I’ve taken classes, online and in person, read books and magazines and even joined writers groups. All while never really writing very much.

To date, I have two scripts which I’ve completed thoroughly enough to permit sending out.  Both of which were promptly sent back with a “thanks, but no thanks” from the Warner Bros. Writer’s Workshop. Just a small stumbling block in what would become a budding career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles.

Clearly, that has not been the case. In order to have any forward movement, I would need to try again. Instead, I allowed excuses to get in the way. I gained weight, I dug myself deep into debt and I wrote next to nothing. A short story here or there, but nothing that to get me to that once so attainable goal.

Which brings me to this blog.

A writer must write. Not when I have time. Not when I’m inspired. Not when I have something to write about. Just when it’s time to write. Therefore, I’ve set a goal for myself:

Write a post for every day of 2010

I realize this is no easy task when I’m motivated like an over-fed house cat, but that’s what makes it a challenge. In most cases, I am unwilling to commit to anything that doesn’t involve a steady pay-cheque, therefore I feel I need to set some ground rules:

  • Daily posts can be written ahead of time, set to post on the next free day. This will leave no excuse for the inevitability that I will need to stop writing for a day or two.
  • Text-based posts will be no shorter than 350 words. Shouldn’t be hard to do as I tend to ramble on and on.
  • Topics can range from anything to editorials, diaries, reviews, short stories and screenplays. Basically, keeping everything wide open to keep things fresh.
  • Posts can originate from anywhere. If I post a review on Yelp!, The Movie Marathon or any other website, I must include a link to the original post, which must be written on the day that it is posted on this blog.
  • A new post must be up for every calendar day of 2010.

These rules are easy enough to abide by.

I’ve always dreamed of doing a web-comic, a tv-pilot, a spec screenplay, a short documentary and some type of video game. Now I’ve given myself the excuse to go through with it. With a little luck and fortitude, this little experiment will give me the confidence to go through with these projects.

If nothing else, my mug will be slightly less ironic.