Developing Creative Discipline – part 10

August 26, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Well….

I never thought we’d get into double figures with this series on developing creative discipline but here we are!

And for this tenth blog in the series,  we return to something posted on previously which is about understanding ourselves and the best time of the day where our creative mind is on full tilt. Note: this is a great time in which to find solutions to resolve those problems with plot/script/series ideas/character issues that are hampering your writing.

Now – just as we are all different – one thing that unites us is sleep – and with that,  the ability to dream as this has a unique function of utilising the right-hand side of our brain with all its imaginative, creative and problem solving aspects. And although some may not remember their dreams in the morning, the reality is that for the majority of us, our brain with be right-hand orientated and ready to be creative – through also note the warning posted at bottom of page.

As a result, when we wake – particularly if we find ourselves in a place of semi-sleep – our brain is aligned perfectly to unleash our imagination which in turn will provide ideas and solutions to the issues in the script we are struggling with. I have found this to be so effective that I now keep a large A3 sketch book beside my bed in which to make notes – see photo above which is this morning’s jotted ideas for a TV series ‘Elodie’ and the character issues which came to me in a 5 minute window.

[REALLY IMPORTANT – use a pencil rather than a pen as nothing stifles the creative process more than a pen that dries up when writing in an inverted position for longer than a minute (especially if it elicits anger as you shake it vigorously]

I also use a hard covered A3 book as it offers plenty of room to write (without turning on to other pages) while also allowing me the space to hold it upright while lying down.

Okay, over to you. Be creative –

WARNING – if you start thinking about all the things you need to do when you wake, the creative muse will disappear from you in an instance! Make notes- then worry 🙂

ps photo inspired by Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’  installation  but somehow I just couldn’t manage that degree of untidiness 🙂

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 9

August 19, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

…and welcome to part 9 in this series of Developing Creative Discipline. I must confess I never thought there would be this many things to suggest but I just keep finding resources which I think are really useful. Today, I offer you a way to utilise your screenwriting notes to organise yourself with a start to finish system for planning, writing and editing screenplays (and other formats!)

Initially, the idea came to me when writing up notes taken at screenwriting events. My problem was how to file them as the nuggets contained within the notes would often be an amalgamation of:

  • what to do at the start (planning your screenplay, research, developing characters arcs, plotting ideas),
  • tips for writing it (visceral v vicarious, midpoint, show don’t tell, etc)  and
  • editing with a view to presenting your work flawless for when sending it in to others (tips, dos and don’ts, active verbs, punctuation, etc)

So…one summer…I determined to print off and place into a (physical) folder system  that which was currently stored on my hard  drive and seldom referenced. The result being a systematic storage of useful information in 3 folders to accompany the stages of:

BEFORE: Every note and idea taken that is relevant to planing it out – in other words: the ‘before’ stage of writing a screenplay

DURING: Every seminar/course attended and book I read about problem solving your screenplay – in other words, the process that occurs ‘during’ the writing of it.

(and lastly)

AFTER(WARDS): Every session attended where I made a note or left with a handout as to the different things to watch out for when editing a script. Plot holes? Unresolved arcs? Active verbs over passive ones, Spelling etc – everything  you need to address before even thinking about sending it out.

For myself, the process of organising the material into a comprehensive system of planing, writing and editing has been an invaluable experience. A means by which I am more confident these days that my creative endeavours – however they fare in a competition or submission – are better planned, executed and edited.

I know this post won’t appeal to everyone but for those of you who are serious about stepping up as a writer and having a more professional approach, I do believe creating an organisational file/system that keeps you true to the process of planning, writing and editing, is a positive step forward.

All the best and (without the split infinitive this week) boldly go!

Developing Creative Discipline – part 8

August 12, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

Following on with our series in developing creative discipline, we look today at  ‘the edit’.

Obviously, there is a lot more to editing then what I am going to say here but I think (for myself in particular) this is an area I find myself continually having to return to.

You see, the problem is while I love to write the story, the nitty gritty of tidying up the script afterwards – particularly grammar and vocabulary  – is not something I relish. Truth is, like all disciplines in life, there are some we take onboard quickly and others we don’t.

Recently, I have been getting down to the nitty gritty of the final edit – in particular, making sure I avoid the careless error of settling for verbs like ‘walk’ and ‘look’ in my script when a wealth of other ACTIVE VERBS might be used to convey a greater depth of meaning and emotion – for example (walk) could be ‘strides, creeps, edges, marches’ and (for look)  ‘peers, squints, gazes, stares’

Now, in my search for active verbs, I did come across a useful resource on the writers helping writers website which you can find by clicking here.  

If you have read this far, I now designate you as active verb editors (first class) and commission you ‘to boldly go!’

(ps split infinitive intended)

 

 

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 7

August 7, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi

Sorry for the late blog but it’s been a busy week. Obviously- with it being a Friday – it’s likely this blog won’t be read by many. Apparently, Wednesday is the day to post blogs for maximum views but it’ll be there as a resource reference that I can link to in future.

Okay, I came across this really helpful blog by Screencraft’s Ken Miyamoto on ‘Five things to remember before starting a screenplay.’

Now, while most people at this point will roll eyes and yawn at the prospect of being offered yet another blog in the ‘How to’ series, I did find this really useful.

And while, it is not a practical thing like putting up white boards  in your room, keeping records of competitions entered and work sent out, etc I do think it offers something in regard to the discipline of not just writing but editing afterwards.

If I tell you I was so taken with it that I immediately condensed it down into a 2 page guidance sheet for checking my scripts before sending them out, you’ll get an idea of how useful I believe it to be.

Obviously, what with it being  another writer’s work and without  permission to copy, edit and share my notes this time round, I am providing the link to his short article which can be found by clicking here. Personally, I think it may well revolutionise the way I prepare to write and edit in future. You can decide for yourselves.

Til next time…

 

ps His blog is rather wordy (sorry Ken) so I edited mine down to that which was useful to me and that might be something you want to do also?

 

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 6

July 22, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi There

Following on from last week’s post- Developing Creative Discipline 5 about  utilising your contacts application as a memo reminder, today we look at organisation in the creative process.

Truth is that we writers (despite our protestations) love to write. Or put another way, we prefer to write over other aspects like networking, the physical effort of producing work, chasing up on potential collaborators and/or recording the who, what, when and where for future follow up?

How do I know this? Because like most creatives, I also struggle with these aspects of admin. You know, things like:

…emailing the person who gave you their card – you never know when she or he might have their own film company?

…following up on the director who liked the script that you emailed but never heard back from them?

…recording and updating the successful and not so successful placing of your scripts in competitions?

…devising rotas to ensure that a timetable so that projects will complete on time?

…ensuring that your creative writing is not rehashing the same old worn projects but including new ideas to be developed. (and so on and so on)

Now, while I’d like to say I’m hugely successful at doing these things. For me it is and will always be a work in progress but I am slowly getting better on the organisational side. After all, it’s providential for writers to have a record of  what script was sent where in 2018 and 2019 before you send in the same script yet again to the 2020 BBC Writersroom or wherever.

Okay, recently, I have started to use a board for admin purposes – see image above. I also  record the fate/success of projects in a book – not with some morbid reflection in mind like in the ‘Sufferings of Young Werther but because it’s also a record of how active I am, irrespective of end result. As such, the board (featured above) shows the state of play of

my short films and what needs to be done next towards completing them (Bottom RH)

my competition entries in 2020 (Bottom LH)

project completion – new and old (Top LH)

(and) self-generated project opportunities (top RH)

Hopefully, this will inspire some…til next time!

Developing Creative Discipline – part 5

July 8, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

If you are anything like me- and the rest of the creative community – you may be finding it a struggle to keep your work area tidy. I know that keeping my desk clear can be quite a challenge as I am constantly writing post-it notes to myself for one or more projects which inevitably end up scattered in front of the keyboard. Why? Because, I don’t want to forget what I’ve just thought of that will make my script really great but at the same time, I don’t want to exit into the LH side of the brain by getting all methodical and rational as I leave the desk to squirrel it away in some filing cabinet or folder.

As you will probably know, when we are being creative, there is a tendency for us to use the RH side of the brain (for ideas, creative thinking, imaginative writing, drawing, etc).  Our rational thoughts – those that are analytical, methodical, calculating, organising (etc) require us to use the other (LH) side of the brain – and herein lies the problem.

The transit from the creative activities to rational thinking does not bode well for a return to the creative because it is hard to transit between them – particularly after long periods of rational thinking then going back into creative mode – so what to do? Short answer, spend as little time as possible writing down notes and filing them when you are writing story etc.

Now, I have managed to do this to some measure and – although it’s still a work in progress for me – I have commandeered my contacts system for storing any and all other information that comes into my head when writing. Yes, my contacts are still on there but now they are stored along with other things that will also come up in an instant when searched for using words like ‘idea’, ‘note’, ‘film’ (etc).

So, if I come across a useful definition of ‘farce’, I copy and paste it into my contacts folder under that name. Likewise, if I come across a quote I might use in the future or memorable dialogue or an idea for a film, I copy, paste and store them in my data base too.  All of which means that if you have an idea while writing or the computer and  you want to store it fast and get back to the writing and look at it an hour, day, month, years later, you can!  I have posted a few as a pdf which you can find  by clicking here so you can get an idea of the multitude of uses for the contacts application on your computer – give it a try so that next time you can file away that idea or thought quickly and return to your creative writing in an instant with losing creativity. Til next week!

Developing Creative Discipline – part 4

July 1, 2020
Bob Eckhard


Hi all,

Today we look at a creative discipline so far untouched- I refer of course to the ongoing professional development which we should really be about all the time (but seldom are unless it is timetabled into our schedule).

Now, while most writers understand professional development in terms of listening to lectures, attending screenwriting festivals, watching instructional videos online and getting help from script editing services, there is one aspect that is often set aside. I refer of course to reading that book which was an impulse buy at the screenwriting festival and has since rested on a shelf in a corner, gathering dust. (And can I add sometimes a book can be totally dire and the reluctance to read it is totally justified. But what to do if not? How do you develop a routine to read every day?)

Well, referring back to my magnetic board idea – find it by clicking here  – one of the things that has really helped me is being obligated to read some pages from a book each day in order to keep on track with my own objective to hit a certain score by the end of the week. Now, it’s possible you have a pristine book waiting to be read but if you don’t, I do think ‘The Story Book’ by David Baboulene’ is illuminating on so many levels.

I first met David when he was acting as a script advisor at The Enter the Pitch finalist training weekend  a few years ago. During the weekend, he did several sessions to help us with the story structure of our short films using an Aristolean approach of Hermatia, Perepatia and Agnasoris (sp?) which was really useful. However, I do recommend this book as I think he really does offer a really unique way to rethink structure and the rules surrounding the story itself.

Anyway, whatever dusty book is on the shelf or sitting on the lamp stand,  can I encourage you to find a way to develop a habit to read it daily so that you can learn and use its pearls of wisdom to develop further as a writer.

Til next time!

Developing Creative Discipline – part 3

June 24, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

I wonder what comes to mind when someone suggests that you should  ‘Think Outside of the Box?’

Personally, I have no problem with going off on a tangent as I’m a bit quirky like that – though I can be a  bit of a stickler in regard to other things. Actually, we’re all a mix of creative spontaneity and necessary discipline in our writing, day, week, job, whatever. (Or at least we should be!)

If you read last week’s post, you may remember how I devised a system for keeping me true to the tasks and targets I set myself for each day – a magnetic board in which I challenge myself every day to complete  the tasks on it – if you haven’t read it, you can find it by clicking here.

One thing that has come out of using this device is that I am far more organised – particularly with tasks that I often avoid- usually things like admin-related tasks, following up emails, updating my LinkedIn and website to record what I’m doing and working on in case anyone should visit. And can I say, if you haven’t got a website where people can find you and your work, you should make that a priority!

A useful idea that popped into my head (though I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this) is I have taken to highlighting new additions of work in a different colour on my ‘current page.’ See it by clicking here.

Having an up to date portfolio of produced projects, work in progress and competition placings in that order (big thanks to Alison Clapham for advising me on this) shows any visitor to your site or Linkedin page or whatever, that you are approaching the task of being a screenwriter professionally.

Okay, til next week!

 

NB The cost of a website domain and host shouldn’t be too prohibitive. That said, much better to learn how to  do it yourself rather than pay someone to build and update it regularly for you – which will definitely be more expensive!

 

Developing Creative Discipline – part 2

June 17, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

A few weeks ago I watched a Royal Television Society online interview with Sally Wainwright which was really interesting. Among the many questions about her thoughts on past and present projects, one question drew my interest of this prolific writer – namely her answers to How she writes? Where and when? Routines? etc?

In short – and here I am hoping I remember it right  – yes, she does have a routine place in which she works and (here’s the killer!) rises at 5am every day before anyone is up so that she can write solidly without being disturbed.

Now, at this point, I am imaging an audible gasp from the collective majority who will be baulking at the idea of rising so early to write continuously for 4+ hours – for as many will claim , it’s not for everyone!

However, as I was thinking about this, I was reminded of a christian illustration about a host of a dinner party who while explaining to his guests how he kept falling asleep when rising early for prayer was told:

‘It’s not a case that you can’t rise early so much as that you refuse to discipline yourself to going to bed earlier!’

I love this challenge as it puts the onus squarely back on us as to how serious we are about problem solving how and when we find time to write.

Of course, I’d love to be able to say here that after the session with Sally Wainwright I got up at 5am for the next two months but alas – it was not to be! HOWEVER, I have since started going to bed earlier and now I find myself rising earlier in the day to write  – usually between 6 and 7.

All of which means that change is possible and will happen when we take steps to create opportunities to write at a time of the day that suits our body clock. ( And here, I recognise that not everyone is a morning person  which requires a different a set of adjustments to clear the decks in the evening)

Wherever you are in your quest to become a better writer -know this:  if you’re serious about writing, you need to understand yourself and the way you work so that you can learn when it’s the best time to write but also how to maximise what you can get done in a day, All the best!

Til next week…

ps if you missed last week’s post, find out about my useful magnetic board for keeping you true to the things you do in a day by clicking here

 

 

Developing Creative Discipline

June 10, 2020
Bob Eckhard

Hi all,

A good number of years ago I heard a joke that went something like this:

‘Informed that the streets of London were paved with gold, a young man travelled there. Stepping off the bus at Victoria, he saw a five pound note on the pavement and picked it up.  Thinking about it, the young man smiled and released the note into the wind. As it floated down the street, a man asked him why he threw away the money away to which the young man replied; ‘I’m going to start on Monday!”

Now, I tell that joke because if you are having trouble with your writing during Lockdown, you’re not alone. It seems that one reason why people are struggling to write right now is that they may have too much time on their hands. A problem that results in them postponing the writing until another day when they think it will fare better for getting things written.

Reflecting on this, it seems that without the urgency of  limited time in which to finish or being accountable to someone by a certain date, it becomes all too easy for writers to set their writing project to one side until a day when the Muse won’t abandon us.

For some, the answer is to pair up  so that they can keep one another accountable as to their progress (or not). This system is premised on the idea that the advanced knowledge that there is a date and time when you will be held to account by the other person, makes you more inclined to complete the task before that meeting.

However, not everyone wants to be held accountable in this way which begs the question:  what can be done for writers  wanting to achieve their objectives under their own steam?

Well…in an attempt to keep on top of the goals I set myself (and just as regularly fail to keep) I have devised my own Accountability Challenge board – a plethora of things I do in the day that include:

writing 3 pages of first draft, exercise, practicing piano, reading pages from screenwriting books, updating cv, websites, writing blogs, watching instructional and Masterclass videos, re-editing a few pages of plays, relaxing, editing film and so on.

NOW- AND THIS BIT IS REALLY IMPORTANT – THIS BOARD IDEA  DIDN’T WORK FOR ME until I rethought the way I was using it!

Initially, I started by placing the magnet counters over the things I did in a day (as I did completed them)…but it soon faltered as there was no reason for me to complete all these things in a day – after all, who would challenge me?  That’s when I came up with  the idea of challenging myself – ‘Bob versus the board’. (The Epic!)

Okay- this is how it works: placing 18 magnetic counters on all the things I wanted to achieve within the day, as I completed each task, the magnet is removed from its [position where it is obscuring the task and placed opposite to the right of the red line. Then  another task is selected and so on and so on. The idea being to get all 18 magnets across the line each day, recording it in blue pen at the top of the board as part of the fraction – such as 10/18 one day having done 7/10 the day previous and so on.

Obviously, this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but if you’re a competitive person looking for a challenging system to engage you in writing, reading and watching more, this might be a useful start for you.

Another benefit is that you can complete other (non-writing tasks) in the day such as exercise or admin which also count – though with each one done, you are moving towards engaging with writing. You can’t avoid it forever 🙂

Anyway, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it might well be useful to someone?

Til next time – whether you have magnets or not, write lots!

Bob