Welcome to April 2017, everybody.
I’m three-and-a-half months into typing up my novel’s rewrite. Today, I broke these two milestones: 180 pages & 34,000 words. The main thing I’ve gathered from this process is the freedom in pushing forward. I wouldn’t have the length of my manuscript, the discoveries in my current draft, or the excitement to finish this book if I didn’t turn my censoring brain off.
I gave myself permission to write crap. I noticed weak sentences and fast pacing in the segment I wrote today, but I told myself that I would revisit it when I do the first rewrite. I want my novel to be the strongest representation of the time and energy I’ve poured into it. However, I remind myself that I’m trudging through the first typed draft. Now’s the time to be messy, make mistakes, take risks, and mix up the writing style. I believe I would be about 15,000 words behind if I were worrying myself with complex, global writing concerns as I’m trying to find the path. To put it in an analogy, you wouldn’t try to make a scale-sized map of a national park while trying to find your way back onto a path.
SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels famously said, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.” Recently I’ve been living by this motto more. There are always reasons to convince yourself on why you’re not ready to take on or finish a project. There is more freedom and accomplishment when you just do it.
My friend Kelsey and I recently submitted our first TV pilot for an original sitcom screenplay contest. We found out about the competition a month before the submission deadline, wrote a half-hour episode together within four weeks, then forked over $65 to submit with a “why not?” mentality. And you know what? It felt awesome. One, we accomplished something like that in a short time frame. We committed to seeing the project through, even if we didn’t win the contest. Should we win the contest, we get our screenplay sent out and consulted by three different production company executives on top of a staged reading of our episode. Kelsey and I went into this and finished the project with the notion of “what do we have to lose?” It was freeing and moved the focus from perfection to genuinely enjoying the project. At the end, we had a pilot that represented both of us as a creative team with our own comedic voice. At the end of the day, regardless of contest results, we’re proud of that, and we still have that pilot to work off of or pitch ourselves. In the end, if you cast external criteria or motivations aside, you still have your work, finished and true to you.
To recap, I highly recommend setting your censoring, perfectionist-geared mind aside when working on the first draft of any lengthy project. This allows you to make new discoveries rather than limit yourself to the initial concept. Lastly, like Lorne said, don’t do or share your work because it’s ready, share it because you have a reading/gallery/show/screening, etc.
Good luck out there and enjoy it!