Monday, March 28, 2011

Tightropes and Acrobatics.

"People of the sidewalk! We can't give up on the written word! We need stories--because I don't have a Plan B!" - Liz Lemon, 30 Rock

When I was an undergrad, I had a few problems with time management. Or, as I like to think about it, I knew what my priorities were. Sleep was never a high one. Dorm living, while delightfully appealing to my social side, is probably not the most ideal situation for me. There were definitely nights where I'd hang out with my friends--building relationships, I like to call it--until they went to bed around, oh 1 AM, and then I'd go back to my room to work on my homework.

Before anyone judges me, I graduated with honors. I think I did ok.

Since becoming a REAL person, I find myself with an abundance of free time. Probably because I'm unmarried and childless. I'm not saying I do nothing. But after I come back from work... I have no obligations. I have plans, friends to see, activities, but... no homework.

It's probably the thing I like best about being a grownup.

But in the last couple months, my schedule has exploded. And without the painfully delightful confinement of syllabus deadlines, I have to make sure things get done on my own. And I do get the things I need to get done. It's the extra stuff, baking, finishing books, phone calls, etc. that I have a problem finishing. Or just doing.

When I get off work I'm exhausted, and I still have to make sure I'm juggling keeping in touch with friends and family back home, seeing friends here, church activities, doing dumb grown up stuff like my taxes, baking for birthdays and bridal showers, and--occasionally, when our conflicting work schedules allow it--going out with the Hockey Player.

Oh, and writing.

Back when I wasn't working, I eventually developed amazing discipline. I'd write 8 pages a day. I could FLY through a draft. Now I consider it a victory if I can write a full page of fiction or three screenplay pages. And sometimes it's stressful, like today, when I finally finished a page, and I realized that with my current pace, to finish the first draft of a novel it'll take me a year. At least. And whenever I think about screenwriting, my mind balks at the amount of craft I know that I don't know. I just keep plugging away, hoping that this time personal passion will help me get a lot of things right just

And it's not just making sure I have the time to write--it's what I'm writing. I currently have a screenplay and a couple fiction pieces I'm working on. I don't usually get to work on more than one piece a day. I have to split my writing time among them, as well as any research I need to do on the business side of things.

To be honest, it'd be a lot easier
not to write. Not only would I have hours of my life back to read, bake, or enjoy the slowly brightening weather out here in Michigan, but I could finally stop fighting the tiny voice of discouragement that I have to confront every time I sit down and open a story. I could stop trying to power a dream with my laptop extension cord. I could stop supporting a dubious hope with black tea and sugar cookies. I'd have less weight if I could stop carrying my laptop with me everywhere.

But I don't see that happening anytime soon. I may not have the most amazing discipline, but there is something definitely ingrained in me when it comes to writing. Maybe it's the conviction that comes when you don't have a Plan B.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm Back.

Well, maybe. We'll see how it goes. Blogging should probably be the least of my priorities...and yet it always seems to be the thing that gets done. Probably because it's pretty narcissistic.

How are you? What's going on? Things have been changing a lot out here. I don't think I realized it at first. Here's the run down--it involves a lot of cake--

I interned on a film called The Giant Mechanical Man in December. The film stars Topher Grace, Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina, and Malin Ackerman. It was rather surreal, seeing Jenna Fischer walking and talking in our production office. All the actors that I interacted with were so nice. But, over all, it was a very educational experience. Being an office intern, I got to observe a lot of the inner workings of the production office. The office staff was great at their jobs and willing to answer any of my questions. I did a lot of menial work, running errands, ordering lunch, data entry, and yes, getting coffee. Perhaps my favourite story is the time I had to take a producer's cat to the vet to get his health certificate for their flight home.

But when the film wrapped, I was broke and burnt out. It was an EDUCATIONAL experience. And, while I love working on set, I was no longer sure it was a career path that I wanted to pursue. When you're working on production, it's all consuming. I was interning, and I was still working 8-10 hour days, 6 days a week, doing airport runs at 4 AM. The other things that were important to me, my friends, writing, church activities, were pretty much cut from my schedule. I have a strong desire to live a balanced life, and maybe I'm in the wrong industry entirely for that, but I know at least working production doesn't allow for real, day to day balance.

One of my friends is working on Ides of March, George Clooney's movie that's in town. I asked her if she was having fun. Her face tightened up and she said, "It's stressful." I don't think I want my work to make my life stressful like that or at least not to be the first comment I make on it.

So, since I had gotten a small taste of (indie) film production from the two films I worked on, I decided to try the other route and take a non film job. I have a job in my fall-back career, childcare, and have (barely) enough time for writing, friends, church, and everything else I just enjoy doing.

I don't think I'll do any more production work for a while. Mostly because our new governor is adamant about shutting down the tax incentives (too bad about all those studios that are just opening here). But I am glad I got a chance to work in production. And when The Giant Mechanical Man comes out, look for my name in the credits.

Part of the reason I took a non-film job was to get more time to write. I definitely don't have the discipline I had this fall when I wasn't working (what a blissful time that was), but I'm slowly getting back into the groove. My writing focus has shifted a little. While I'm still plugging away on my current draft of The Exit Strategy (which, if I ever mentioned this story before, now has a completely different articulation), I'm starting to spend some time back in fiction. The goal of this year is publication, even if it's a tiny e-zine or an online newspaper. Baby steps. I think I'm just tired of being a writer who's always writing and revising and never seeing the end of any work. Also, I keep talking about how I can't wait until I can write for a living, but I spend all my time in a specific field of writing that is the most unstable for a real career. I'm not saying I'm going to be making my income solely off writing, or that fiction writing is more lucrative than screenwriting. Basically none of it's lucrative. But I've spent the last couple years focusing on my craft, not on business. Now that I'm supposed to be a real person with a real job and a real life, it's time to think about how this really pans out into a career. IF it really pans out into a career.

And the rest of life is going pretty great too. Winter is (supposedly) over, my roommie and I are talking about staying in Michigan another year together, and I'm dating a super great guy. He's in school and working at the ice rink driving the zamboni, which means when apocalypse is upon us and climate change causes Michigan to freeze over for real, we'll still be able to get around.

I'm not where I thought I would be six months ago. But I'm finding out, it's not so bad here either.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oh life.

Get ready for an update soon. It's coming.