Onward and Upward

This weekend we finished post-production on a short film, No Time for Romance. It’s a fourteen minute short about a pregnant wife who must decide to stay with her live-in boyfriend or prepare for the end of the world. It’s really about much more than that though: the rising nuclear tensions and the effects it has on a relationship with differing views.

My producing partner and I shot the film earlier this year. It’s been a long time coming. The production didn’t go as planned and the audio was a mess. There were disagreements on the script (that never fully felt complete by the time of filming). In short, we learned a lot.

Upon finalizing and exporting the film, my partner expressed how much he liked it. How good it felt to be done. I felt the same way, but differently.

I replied, “No one will watch it and we’ll make more. Onward and upward.”

He agreed. This might sound complacent but it’s the opposite.

The film won’t win Oscar. And it most likely won’t launch our careers into quitting our jobs and becoming full-time moviemakers. We had a story and we wanted to tell it. Did it come out EXACTLY the way we wanted? No. But that’s okay. Few things do.

I have boughten into this idea/advice from filmmakers like Mark Duplass (and others) whose motto of “just make movies.”

Every project is another lesson for the next one. We have other projects in the works, both together and separately, my producing partner and I. Writing is the same way. With every project you learn something, you get better, you home your voice, your practice.

And as much as we’d love the fame and attention for our projects, the likes and the shares and the views—we know it’s not about that. It can’t be. If it was, we would have quit a long time ago. It’s about the work, the process, the collaboration, the storytelling.

Just write. Just paint. Just workout. Just sew. Set your goals but know it can’t be about the outcome. It has to be about the work.

When facing that lurking feeling of creative self-doubt, born from resistance, waiting to devour all of your dreams and ambitions—Theo Roosevelt said it best:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Come join us in the arena.

This isn’t our first film and it won’t be our last. The next one will be better, and the next one better than that. Fail again. Fail better.

Check out the film here:  No Time For Romance

Thanks for reading. Always be writing.

 

-REH

Journaling = Perspective

Around this time last year, I began to use a online journal called Penzu. Not working on my screenplays on the weekends, this fulfilled a promise to myself to write everyday. This was to be my first journal.

You all know what a journal is, right?

Your thoughts. Pure prose. Free writing at its finest. I found this process liberating — especially after writing scripts.

Now, I don’t just journal on the weekends, but instead whenever I feel the need to write.

It’s like therapy. I write down what I want to say. These thoughts aren’t always deep confessions. Sometimes they are just observations or pep talks to keep myself working hard.

I keep a notebook near my bed. In my phone there’s a memo pad. A few lines here and there. The notebook is the same. The days are spread about. I’m always sure to date each entry for reference. And then on my computer, there’s a folder titled “Free Write”. This is where most of my journal entries gather. Most are only a few sentences, but all just as meaningful as anything I’ve ever written. They’re personal.

All of these entries, either in my notebook, computer, or phone, are moments, thoughts, and feelings, from a day in my life.

One journal entry even inspired a screenplay that I’m still working on today.

Recently, I went through and read some entries. There are a lot of low moments. Moments of despair and confusion. There are also moments of confidence and ambition. And even looking back, especially at the low moments, I sometimes don’t even remember feeling that way – the way my writing comes across. I was then enlightened to the fact how time can change you. How moments change and just because you feel a certain way now, does not mean you’ll feel that way forever.

That’s perspective.

And all this should give you hope. Things change. Feelings change and sometimes when you feel low, that over time it can get better — and it will.

That’s why dating your entry is important. You can read what you wrote, grab a calendar and go back in time: “This is where I was that day” and “This is where I am now”…”Look how far I’ve come”.

Everyone should be writing. Everyday.

-REH

It’s time to Regroup.

It’s a common tactic in almost every team sport.

Things are going bad. Nothing is working as planned. So you get together as a TEAM and you regroup.

Now as a writer, regrouping can be difficult. Mainly because you’re a one-man team. In a normal regroup, everyone on the TEAM puts their heads together and comes up with a “new plan”. As a writer, you don’t have this luxury. Unless, I suppose you’re co-writing with someone. But I will assume you’re solo, like myself.

Sometimes you reach a point, where you’ve worked really hard for a long period of time. I’ll also assume you’ve been working really hard for a long period of time — because to be successful you need to work really hard. And through all this hard work, you’ve seen little progress. Sure you’ve written a lot more, you’re writing is better, but you still feel like you’re treading water.

When you reach this point, and begin to lose focus and confidence.  Most people quit. Most people give up.

Through out the last two years, of really working hard, I’ve come this point various times. And I believe I’ve figured out the secret.

CHANGE. That’s it. Change your ways and change your habits. Regroup and come up with a new strategy. Mix it up and try something new, but with the same goals as before.

The changes can be simple. I for one wrote in the mornings and then always worked on other things, like this blog, sending out queries and various platforming in the afternoon. But after awhile, writing became stale. I realized I needed a new plan. I just switched things up. I wrote at night and then worked on the platforming during the day. This is tough if you have a day job. I have the luxury of creating my own work schedule as I’m now self-employed. But simply, listening to music before you write, or reading a book before you dive into your work, can change your productivity for the rest of the day.

Now you may say, that’s not that much of a “change” let alone and new “strategy”. But I think that’s also the other secret. We get in a habit of doing things a certain way. And sometimes we forget that despite all the agony of the struggle, we must realize we’re always progressing to our goals — just as long as you are writing. The changing of your habits just gives you the idea that you are AGAIN making progress. A simple illusion that can trick the mind and help you gain confidence again.

It’s simply something new.

Change is good. Change is good. Now, go regroup.

 

Always be writing.

-REH

 

The day I broke the chain.

2 years, 3 months, and 13 days.

It was a Monday. April 14th.

When I started this blog more than two years ago, I blogged about something called “Don’t Break the Chain”. It was a writing technique practiced by comedian Jerry Seinfeld. It was simply a promise to oneself to write every day. Using a calendar and a red marker, you cross days off that you wrote, creating a chain… Hence DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN.

And on April 14th 2014, I simply forgot to write. And now the chain is broken.

I woke up that morning I realized what I had done.

Before I get into what followed, I should put some context into why I think I broke the chain.

It had been two months since I had worked on a specific project. There were a lot of changes in life and for some reason I was hitting walls with creating anything new — thus I had very little inspiration when it came to writing. Early drafts of scripts sat on my desk, and I couldn’t find any ambition to do rewrites. Perhaps the two years of striving, had worn me down — that’s my excuse anyways.  Without the inspiration of a new fresh project at hand, I began to journal to continue my goal of writing everyday. But then one day, I forgot to. Writing seemly took a backseat — something that didn’t occur for over two years.

I woke up that morning feeling nothing by guilt. I began to over think the reason why…

Perhaps it was sign to give it all up. Stop all struggling and realize I’ll never make it. And that’s how I felt.

“What do I have now?”

There was a blank space on my calendar and I felt broken. The feeling didn’t last for long though. Because I knew, I had to be tough. It was just one day. I had still conquered quite a bit and achieved what I wanted for those two years.

I simply kept writing the following day. I started a new chain on April 15th.

I’m still struggling to get back in the groove of things — and quite honestly don’t know why that is. Some days I’ll work on the rewrites that I have put off for so long. Other days I’ll journal just to cross off the day.

Since breaking the chain that one time, I’ve done it three more times. It doesn’t hurt so much anymore…

And that hurts that it doesn’t hurt so much anymore. When did the writing become so stale and when did the dream of being a successful, working screenwriter become so distant?

It’s hard to say I suppose. But at this point, there is no turning back.

It’s like I’m waiting for that break and that inspiration again. I’m waiting for that moment of rejuvenation and reason to start working hard like before.

I don’t know when that will be, but I’m confident it will come sooner than later.

Or I could just not wait and make it happen myself…

We shall see.

But what I have is two years of major progress in my work. What I have now is another streak to continue, another goal to reach, and another reason to write more and better. I just have to sit down and do it.

Always be writing.

 

-REH

 

Don’t write to live. Live to Write.

It’s not easy to write. Don’t get me wrong…

But it is easy to sit in the chair, sip coffee, and type some dribble into a word document.

I think I’ve been in this desk chair for the majority of the last two years. Sure, my writing has improved and I’ve gotten a lot done…but I’ve also missed out on a lot. And I’m just now realizing this.

Some of the things, I’m glad I missed out on. Choosing writing was the right choice. Other things, I regret missing out on. Finding the balance between writing and life can be difficult. Both need effort.

Recently writing has become hard for me. I have hit more walls than I ever have. My routine has been off and my work has slowed.

BUT I still write everyday. And all those walls have forced me to approach writing a different way…

Now, I write on a whim. With no real schedule. Now it’s true, I haven’t gotten much work done. But the work I am getting done appears to be really good — for my standards anyway.

Let me go back to where I started hitting walls: Now I must state that I don’t believe in writer’s block — mainly because it has never been an issue for me.

I finished a first draft of a script in October. I usually always have another project to move onto next, but this time, I didn’t — that was my first wall. So I began to search out other alternatives for writing. I realized I was bored with writing screenplays, so I was open to anything — perhaps a novel. Or I was going to blog more. Writing short stories or opinion pieces…

None of which I did. Instead I began to journal everyday. And eventually through the journaling a new story started to appear. For the past two months I’ve been working on a new story.  Notes here and there — pages are starting flow and I feel good about it. But my approach is way different than my previous 17 screenplays.

Not only do I think the writing is good. But this is the most personal story I’ve ever written, and I’m enjoying the writing to the fullest extent.

I have changed my tactics for one reason. I was bored.

Now with this new tactic, writing on a whim and writing a story that’s personal and meaningful…I have more time to live. More effort is put into my life outside this desk. I feel alive when I write and before I write.

The work shows that.

Writing less. Writing better. And living to write. Not writing to live.

There was no doubt; my writing was becoming numb writing. It was a job and I treated it like a job. My passion was fading. And my change of tactics couldn’t have come at a better time.

The pressure is limited. The pages are slim. My routine is seemly fucked, but suddenly the passion for writing is back.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH

Go back to where it all started.

When a good idea comes, I write it down. Eventually the really good ones are turned into a screenplay.

But all these “good ideas” are placed into a folder on the computer.

Often when I begin my outline, I copy and past the very first notes into another word document where I can continue to build the idea, thus leaving the very first starter note as is.

So one long night….
I went back to the starter ideas that were turned into screenplays…

What I found:

Most of the time the notes don’t even apply to the screenplay anymore. But I did find that they are filled with meaning and substance.

On the good screenplays I’ve written, that meaning and substance stuck.

On the bad screenplays, the meaning and substance was clearly lost. Probably in the shuffle of structure, characters and the basic to-do list of a screenplay.

I was also inspired by a lot of the notes. They actually brought on new ideas, which I quickly wrote down. I realized that these starter notes were crucial. I wrote them down for a reason. It’s what inspired me in the first place. And when I write a new story, I need to remember where it all started — where it all came from.

Go back and review your free flowing thoughts. I think you’ll find something. I know I did.

Always be writing. Everyday.

Have a reason to wake up in the morning.

Sleeping is great.

I need at least 10 hours of solid sack time. And without my alarm I could go all day.

But work doesn’t get done while you’re sleeping. But as of late, the holidays and all, getting work done was awfully tough — goal achieving was slim.

I slept a lot.

In many ways, all that sleep felt great. But I knew I was quickly falling behind. All that drive to get up and strive was fading quickly. My routine was slipping and I felt inadequate. I was having a tough time deciphering why.

And then it hit me…

I had no reason to wake up. Besides writing, my day job hours were slim. My days were filled with nothing. I had nothing to do…and this how time gets wasted. And wasted it, I did.

What I needed was a new project.

I was in between projects. Waiting on coverage for a screenplay. I hadn’t outlined anything new in about two months. SO I had nothing on the slate. This was the issue. I know it was. I don’t remember the last time where I didn’t have something to dive into every morning… It had been at least two years.

Why? I don’t know.

But the point is, we all need something to wake up to. This is the very reason why staying busy is important. We set goals to meet them. We meet them by working everyday. Waking up is the first obstacle in achieving those dreams.

I’m currently still trying to get back into the old routine that I relied on so greatly.

Eventually, things will be back to normal.

Always be writing. Everyday.

-REH