Writing Every Day

Normally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, or at least I don’t strictly hold myself to resolutions I make at parties or around the dinner table on New Year’s Eve. At the very least, I usually resolve to write more often. Often, that doesn’t happen.

For the first eight months of 2014, I was still in film school and got a lot of writing done—feature screenplays, a TV spec, short scripts—because it was assigned and therefore had built-in deadlines.

At the end of that year, I moved back to Wisconsin. When 2015 hit, I got two jobs and poured most of my energy into balancing them. Yes, I still made time to network and work on a handful of film projects, and yes, I wrote from time to time.

Ultimately, though, as I looked back on the year in December, I realized that I had spent a lot of time not writing. Instead, I wasted time and made excuses.

I worked both jobs today.

My friends want to hang out.

I’m going to a film festival.

It’s ten p.m. and I just got off work.

I’d rather spend time on facebook before work.

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

It’s easy to make excuses. I looked at all the time I spent on social media, or complaining about how I never had time to write, or doing anything instead of sitting down for 30 minutes before I left for work or after I got home and writing a few sentences, and I realized that I had plenty of time to write. And despite my busy work schedule, I had that time every day.

So as 2015 drew to a close, I quietly resolved to write every day.

Over five months later, I haven’t missed a single day.

I don’t hold myself to a certain word or page limit each day. With my current schedule, that would be very hard to achieve some days. But I write something every day. Some days, it is one sentence. Some days, it’s a little revising work. Some days, it’s several pages. Most days, it’s something in between.

I hold myself accountable by keeping a writing log on my computer. All I keep track of is what project(s) I worked on each day. I still have days where I feel tired, or work a lot, or get distracted by social media for hours. I still make myself write on those days.

I have wondered if something will happen that will trip me up, or if a day will come when I find an excuse to skip writing. For example, in March, I directed a short film that shot for two days. I wondered if I should allow myself to skip writing because I was directing a film that I had written. Does doing something creative that is not writing allow me to take a break from writing? Not this year. In the future, it may. The truth is, on the days that I was on set for 12 hours, I still felt compelled to write something after I got home. So I did.

I didn’t write this blog post to brag, but to simply say that if you want to do something creative, you can work toward it every day if you put your mind to it, and, most importantly, if you hold yourself accountable.

Last year, I would tell people that I was “working on” several projects. What I meant was that I had several projects that I had started but not finished. I hadn’t touched most of those projects in months.

This year, I am literally working on several projects. I have some features in the works, as well as short films and a web series. I’m collaborating on a project with another screenwriter. I revised a feature film that I started in film school and sent it to the PAGE Awards screenwriting competition. I have written countless pages.

Most importantly, despite getting distracted from time to time, I don’t want to stop writing.

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A Year Removed from Vancouver

A year ago, I left Vancouver to move back to my hometown of Madison, WI.

A few months before, when I was still in film school, this had been a viable option. My main options at the time were to:  get a work permit and stay in Vancouver, move to LA, or move back home for a few months to get organized before I moved somewhere else.

As soon as I graduated, though, this changed. I didn’t want to leave Vancouver. This was where I had made my first short films and where I had written my first feature screenplays. Vancouver was a hub for film production and a beautiful, progressive city. Besides, most of my friends were staying. We were a group of young filmmakers eager to help one another succeed.

My study permit allowed me to stay in Canada for three months after my graduation, and I figured I’d have a work permit and a job in no time. Unfortunately, as some of my other non-Canadian classmates and I found out, the process for securing a work permit after graduation from VFS (a private school) was not simple.

As fall set in, my mom urged me to just move home, but I resisted. Moving home meant failure, admitting defeat. I wouldn’t be able to make movies in Wisconsin.

I went to bed with my thoughts whirling one night, but in the morning, I knew my mom was right. My study permit was up at the end of November, only three weeks away.

I looked at one-way plane tickets, but couldn’t bring myself to buy one. I had recently sent a feature script of mine to a producer and was hoping that he would get back to me saying that he wanted to produce it, and that would be my reason to stay in Vancouver.

On Halloween, I told my friend and former roommate, Shelley, that I had decided to move while we were standing on the sky train in ridiculous costumes, heading to a party. Shelley was surprised, but understood. At the party, I talked to TJ, a fellow American, and Cristina, from Mexico; they were still looking into work permits but knew it was a long shot. They would likely move home soon, as well.

The next day I bought my plane ticket.

Two days before I left, I went to dinner with my friends. It wasn’t the expected reminiscing about our year in film school. Instead, we played a film trivia game for most of the night and enjoyed one another’s company.

On November 20, I woke up early, packed up the rest of my things, and got my luggage ready for my 8am cab to the airport. I didn’t have time to so much as write a Facebook post saying goodbye to Vancouver and my friends. Having said most of my goodbyes in person, I quietly left the city behind.

In Minneapolis, I was greeted by my sister and a real Midwest winter. We went to dinner and talked about my plans, which were muddy at best. That night, as I went to bed in her guest room, I felt hollow. I didn’t know when I would go back to Vancouver, or if I would ever live there again. My optimism had momentarily left me.

The next day, my sister and I drove to our aunt’s house in northern Wisconsin for the beginning of deer hunting season. Not having a job, I was able to relax and spend the entire nine-day season there, with my parents and extended family.

Back in Madison, I relaxed into the comforts of home and family. I reconnected with some old friends. I went back to the yoga studio where I had done my teacher training. I began to rediscover the city that I grew up in. I went to a film networking event at the end of December, and began to make connections in the Wisconsin film industry, which is much bigger than I thought it was.

When I first got back, family members and friends would ask if I missed Vancouver. A year later, they still ask from time to time. The answer is: yes, of course.

Of course I miss Vancouver. It’s a beautiful place, where I made amazing friends, created art, and began to discover myself as a writer and filmmaker.

Even though they seem silly when I see others post them, it felt odd that I had never posted a Facebook status saying that I was leaving and that I would miss Vancouver and everything about it. After I got home, though, I realized that not posting anything might have seemed like I didn’t miss it, like I didn’t care about the place and people I was leaving behind. And that wasn’t true.

I think of Vancouver all the time; all types of things will trigger my memory. But I don’t dissolve into a puddle of tears every time. I smile. I still keep in touch with many of the friends I made there. I know I will go back eventually, to visit or to film something. And, as I’ve said before, I know that not being there doesn’t mean I won’t write or make films.

A Year After Film School

I have officially been out of film school for a year. (Well, a year and a month and a couple days. Who’s counting?) The burning question all my blog readers most certainly have is this: What have I done since I graduated from VFS last August?

After moving back to Wisconsin and doing…mostly nothing for a few months, I started writing current event articles for Geek Happy Network, teaching yoga at Prairie Fire Yoga, and working part-time as a manager at Teavana. It’s a packed schedule, but I dig it.

I found time to work on several film projects over the last few months. In April, I helped out as an assistant director on a local music video produced by Project Famous Films. In early August, I was a first camera assistant for a locally well-known web-series entitled The Ethical Slut. At the end of August, I co-wrote a short film for Madison’s 48-hour film project. Unfortunately, I was only able to be there for the writing and not for the filming due to my work schedule, but I had a lot of fun working with my co-writer, Max, and I think my team made a fun film, which you can watch by clicking here.

My short film, Smile, Baby got accepted into the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival and will screen on Thursday, October 8th at the St. Anthony Main Theatre! I am going to Minneapolis to see its world premiere and I am so excited! I have submitted the film to six other festivals and I look forward to showing it at many more.

Writing wise, I have not been as busy as I’d like to be, but I still have several projects that I am working on. I have a short film that I am working toward getting produced within the next few months. More on that later! I also have some feature films in the works. My biggest struggle is creating a writing regime for myself. I really need to start writing more often and not making excuses to not write, which is incredibly easy to do.

But those excuses end with this blog post. No more excuses. It’s time for me to eliminate distractions, put in the time, and let the words flow. It is time to write. Now and always.

What am I Doing with my Life?

I graduated from film school six months ago. So what have I been doing since then? Not much blogging, obviously.

I spent the first three months wandering around Vancouver, applying for jobs here and there, and writing when the mood struck me. This sounds boring, but it was actually pretty fun, considering I could see movies or hang out with my friends whenever I wanted to. We even had a couple of writing workshops, which was fun in addition to being useful.

After failing to secure a work permit (which is nearly impossible for Americans who graduate from VFS) I moved back home to good old Wisconsin at the end of November. The worst part was going from Vancouver’s tropical-seeming 30-degree fall to Wisconsin’s freezing dead of winter. But the weather wasn’t that hard to get used to since I’m a native and because it’s colder here, so we have better methods of staying warm: wool, fires, down-filled comforters.

I spent the first few weeks home reading and going to yoga classes. I also started making some film connections here, thanks in part to my cousin, Tony. I even made these nifty business cards!

Here's my card

Here’s my card

I’ve been reconnecting with old friends, which has been really nice. It’s so interesting to see someone after a number of years and notice how both of us have changed, yet we still have things in common.

I have also been writing, of course, though not as much as I’d like to. I’m working on a number of scripts at the moment, and in January I started writing articles for my friend Mike’s website, Geek Happy Network.

I got a part-time job selling tea a couple of weeks ago, and so far that’s been going really well. And in March, I’m going to start teaching yoga at a new studio in Prairie du Sac. I’m so excited!

Other than that, I’ve been seeing a lot of movies (gotta keep up on what’s out there) and getting ready to promote my short film “Smile, Baby.” A Madison production company, Frozen Stage Films, is going to host a screening of the film on March 15 at 2pm at the High Noon Saloon. After that, my lovely producer Amanda and I will be sending “Smile, Baby” out to film festivals. I’ll share more details as soon as I have them!

I’m also working on another short film that I’m going to make this year. I have a full script that I’ve rewritten several times, and I also have an actor who’s interested in being a part of it. So the next step is getting crew on board. I’ll share more details soon on that front as well.

So in conclusion, despite the cold and the snow, I’m doing things. And it feels good.

2014

Ah, the obligatory “looking back on the past year” post. On December 31, of all days.

In all seriousness, 2014 was an amazing year.

I spent most of the year at VFS, writing all kinds of projects. I saw my writing produced on two occasions–two episodes of a web series that I co-wrote with Dan Christensen came to life through the Film Production program, and I directed my short script “Smile, Baby.” And, in case you missed it in the last sentence, I directed for the first time! I also learned to produce through a new part of the VFS writing program, and with my team–Connor, Sarah-Jane, Michael, and Sasha–brought Sarah-Jane’s script Infect Me Not to life.

2014 was the year I got an IMDb profile.

I solidified a number of great friendships with my classmates in 2014. I met and worked with some very talented people.

This year, I wrote more than I’ve ever written before. I made my first film, and I helped to make several others. I submitted my feature screenplay and had at least one producer read it. He decided not to option it, but said it was “well-crafted.” I’ll take that!

2014 was the year I graduated from film school.

I gained confidence through these experiences. I know I can write a feature screenplay and finish it in a timely manner. I know all the work that goes into making a short film. I know that I can network and be smooth when I need to be. I have faith that my ideas are good. I know that I will write and make films wherever I go.

Happy New Year!