Even when your full-time “day job” is working on a writing project (as it is for me), chances are there’s something else you would like to complete on the side, “on spec.” I’ve often commented that the phenomenon of having one thing that pays the bills, and something else you’re pursuing “on your own time” doesn’t end when you begin making a living at writing (or directing, or acting, for that matter). The “day job” might be a gig that doesn’t represent your true passion, or the area of the business you most aspire to now. Or maybe it does, but you still have other ideas, other projects you’d like to develop. But finding the time and focused energy can be hard.
At least that’s the excuse I’ve used.
A few months back, a writer friend encouraged me to work on a side project that was outside of what I was focused on every day — in my case, a spec feature — and told me about a writing teacher of hers who advises “twenty minute writeaways.” I decided to take her advice, and began applying that easy-to-achieve time goal to this feature, KNOWING I could find twenty minutes every day somewhere.
What I’ve found since then has been pretty amazing. In twenty minutes I can outline a scene. In twenty minutes I can write the first draft of a scene from an outline. If I do these twenty minute blocks five days a week on a forty-scene feature, I can outline the movie in two months, and then have a first draft in another two months.
I’m a big believer in dividing work into short, achievable tasks — and to know the task exactly before you sit down to write. This helps me get into the right frame of mind where I’m not resisting the work to be done, or tempted to procrastinate. Usually, the actual carrying out of the task (once you know exactly what it is) is a relative piece of cake.
And a project you might never have gotten to (because the amount of work seemed overwhelming, and the amount of “free time” so scarce) begins to move forward — continuously, significantly, and with very little drama.
I also recommend my "Ten Key Principles Successful Writers Understand", and my series of audio downloads. And if you'd like me to read something you're working on, check out my consulting page.