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Old 07-21-2014, 05:31 PM   #11
Eric Boellner
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

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Originally Posted by nmstevens View Post
Well, if you actually want to write then even if you have a day job, you find the opportunity, the same way anyone finds the opportunity to do whatever it is that they want to do.

I think that the more you do anything, if you're going about it the right way, the better you'll get at it, whether you're doing it full time or not -- whether it's making bird houses or playing basketball or writing screenplays.

The point is, just "doing something" doesn't necessarily result in improvement.

I remember, a long (long) time ago, I and several other students at NYU Grad Film were in a conference with our camera teacher Beda Batka and he was talking to one of the other students about some technical issue and asked him to come back later to talk to him about and the student replied that he couldn't come back at the time requested because he was going to go out and shoot something for somebody.

And he remarked something to the effect that it would obviously be a better use of his time to be out shooting something than sitting in a room talking about shooting.

And Beda told him that his father (that is, Beda's father) had been an avid amateur photographer all of his life, had gone out every weekend for as long as he could remember taking pictures. He'd taken countless thousands of pictures.

And the pictures he took on the last weekend he went out were just as bad as the very first pictures he ever took. Despite all of his enthusiasm and all of his experience, he never knew and never bothered to learn how to take a picture.

That's what made him an amateur and not a professional.

The trick is taking however much or however little time you have to write and not just "writing" the way Beda's father went out and took pictures, but using those hours as if it were a course of study. As if every time you went out on a basketball field, or put brush to canvas, or sat down in front of a computer, you had come there not just to play a game, or paint, or write -- but to take everything that you'd learned up until then, everything that you'd gotten wrong and everything that you'd gotten right -- and do it better this time.

NMS
Damn, this is good. NMS, do you think it's important to spend a significant amount of "writing time" reading (scripts, books, news), rather than writing? That is, for the purpose of self-improvement, if you only have so much time, how important is the consumption of fiction versus the creation of it?
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Old 07-21-2014, 07:03 PM   #12
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

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This would be brainstorming. If you're not putting words to page, then it isn't writing. Go into a meeting and tell someone you've written an incredible script, but it's all in your head.

If that is considered writing, than 90% of Los Angeles are writers. Having the discipline to sit down and put these thoughts into a script, that's writing.
With me, it's not just "brainstorming". I can see the pages in my head. I work out the situations and relationships between the characters, especially the dialogue. And I pick the words I'm going to use.

When I get to a piece of paper or the computer -- it's written -- the rest is just dictation. I even know how many pages I wrote before I dictate it.

So I'm going to call that writing. I put down hundreds of words of fiction a day and have done so for decades. When 90% of Los Angeles does that, I'll say it's the same thing.

I do brainstorming too. Totally different thing. But even if it wasn't, isn't brainstorming part of writing fiction?
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:17 PM   #13
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

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With me, it's not just "brainstorming". I can see the pages in my head. I work out the situations and relationships between the characters, especially the dialogue. And I pick the words I'm going to use.

When I get to a piece of paper or the computer -- it's written -- the rest is just dictation. I even know how many pages I wrote before I dictate it.

So I'm going to call that writing. I put down hundreds of words of fiction a day and have done so for decades. When 90% of Los Angeles does that, I'll say it's the same thing.

I do brainstorming too. Totally different thing. But even if it wasn't, isn't brainstorming part of writing fiction?
Okay. You have scripts in your head. I have dates with actress from Orange is the New Black in my head, but I only count the dates I've actually gone on as happening, and I only count the scripts that are available for me to give someone to read as written.

Guess we just have different definitions of reality.
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Old 07-22-2014, 12:52 PM   #14
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

Of course you're going to improve like crazy if you get the fulltime writing job - of course depending on the job.

Now as a videogame writer, all I do ALL THE TIME is think about story, stakes, character development, etc., and get nonstop feedback AND get to listen to much smarter people talking about all this stuff.

How can I not get better than I was when I worked in finance and wrote in my free time?
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Old 07-22-2014, 01:22 PM   #15
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

Yes and no. I had the opportunity to leave my job a few years ago and focus on writing and filmmaking. Yes, my skills have greatly improved. Especially on the directing front.

That being said, I was waaaaayyyyyyy off in my idea that having all day to write whenever I want would ramp up my output and put it into overdrive. When I had a day job, I was really able to just buckle down and hammer because I had a finite time to write. That time was usually late at night, after the kids had gone to bed. Now that I have "all day", I still do the main bulk of my writing late at night.

My take on that? You can't tell yourself when to be creative. I can't wake up and say, I'm going to be creative between 9 and 10am this morning. My mind is too used to letting ideas marinate all day and then pounding them out that night (stop snickering). Plus, sitting at your computer all day saying, "I need to write. I need to write. I need to write" is not really a recipe for creative success. So I spend my days doing research, reading articles, handling the business side of our loan out/protect our film equipment assets company, social media (a big part of our job), networking, wasting time on the internet, etc...

That being said, quitting my day job has allowed me a lot of opportunities I would not have had if I was tied to asking, "Please, please, please can I have a few days off to go do X". I have been able to travel when I want. Took a phenomenal directing class I found at the last moment (shout out to Darin Scott). I had the flexibility to compete in the Industry Insider contest and meet Randall Wallace (most awesome guy ever who still takes an interest in my career). I've been able to make short films. Drop everything for last minute meetings, etc... None of that would have happened if I still worked for the government. So it's not just about churning out pages.
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Old 07-22-2014, 04:17 PM   #16
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

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Okay. You have scripts in your head. I have dates with actress from Orange is the New Black in my head, but I only count the dates I've actually gone on as happening, and I only count the scripts that are available for me to give someone to read as written.

Guess we just have different definitions of reality.
No, you're still not reading what I wrote. Or you need to work on comprehension.

I write it in my head, at my day job. I can see the words, the sentences and even the pages. When I get a chance -- usually after I get home -- I dictate what I have already written. Which is what I meant when said I put out hundreds of words a day, of fiction, and have done so for decades.

The scripts (and other fiction) I have written and that other people have read are either on paper or on the computer. As far as I know, nobody has read any of them telepathically.

And I don't have to go on imaginary dates. I've been happily married for 33 years.
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Old 07-22-2014, 04:27 PM   #17
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

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Originally Posted by UnequalProductions View Post
Okay. You have scripts in your head. I have dates with actress from Orange is the New Black in my head, but I only count the dates I've actually gone on as happening, and I only count the scripts that are available for me to give someone to read as written.

Guess we just have different definitions of reality.
Just out of curiosity -- you really can't see a sentence in your head or have you never tried?

"The quick, brown fox jumped over the fat, lazy dog."

Read the sentence, close your eyes (if you have to). Do you see it? If you do -- modify it. Do you see the modified sentence? Now dictate it.

That's writing.
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Old 07-22-2014, 04:30 PM   #18
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

Re: Does thinking time count? I say time spent brainstorming, planning, thinking and rethinking before typing does count as writing because you are refining your story so that your first draft will be more carefully honed. By the time you hit the keyboard, you've already worked through a variety of story point possibilities, rejected the ovely-familiar and chosen what you consider the best combination of story choices rather than your first story choices. (This assumes that after all the thinking, you do get around to putting it to paper.)
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Old 07-22-2014, 04:39 PM   #19
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

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Originally Posted by nmstevens View Post
Well, if you actually want to write then even if you have a day job, you find the opportunity, the same way anyone finds the opportunity to do whatever it is that they want to do.

I think that the more you do anything, if you're going about it the right way, the better you'll get at it, whether you're doing it full time or not -- whether it's making bird houses or playing basketball or writing screenplays.

The point is, just "doing something" doesn't necessarily result in improvement.

I remember, a long (long) time ago, I and several other students at NYU Grad Film were in a conference with our camera teacher Beda Batka and he was talking to one of the other students about some technical issue and asked him to come back later to talk to him about and the student replied that he couldn't come back at the time requested because he was going to go out and shoot something for somebody.

And he remarked something to the effect that it would obviously be a better use of his time to be out shooting something than sitting in a room talking about shooting.

And Beda told him that his father (that is, Beda's father) had been an avid amateur photographer all of his life, had gone out every weekend for as long as he could remember taking pictures. He'd taken countless thousands of pictures.

And the pictures he took on the last weekend he went out were just as bad as the very first pictures he ever took. Despite all of his enthusiasm and all of his experience, he never knew and never bothered to learn how to take a picture.

That's what made him an amateur and not a professional.

The trick is taking however much or however little time you have to write and not just "writing" the way Beda's father went out and took pictures, but using those hours as if it were a course of study. As if every time you went out on a basketball field, or put brush to canvas, or sat down in front of a computer, you had come there not just to play a game, or paint, or write -- but to take everything that you'd learned up until then, everything that you'd gotten wrong and everything that you'd gotten right -- and do it better this time.

NMS
I always glean from your posts. Thank you. I think Beda's father would be a hobbyist vs. someone wanting to make a career. I've never thought about it in those terms but a hobbyist can be at something for years and never improve (because that's not the goal, enjoyment is) but the one wanting a career approaches that thing from a perspective of learning, with eyes open, striving with a goal in mind.
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Old 07-22-2014, 05:35 PM   #20
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Default Re: Does writing full time improve your writing?

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Originally Posted by Joaneasley View Post
Re: Does thinking time count? I say time spent brainstorming, planning, thinking and rethinking before typing does count as writing because you are refining your story so that your first draft will be more carefully honed. By the time you hit the keyboard, you've already worked through a variety of story point possibilities, rejected the ovely-familiar and chosen what you consider the best combination of story choices rather than your first story choices. (This assumes that after all the thinking, you do get around to putting it to paper.)
I would say it definitely counts. In my rants above I didn't mean to imply that I keep dozens of completed, 110 page scripts in my head, but I'll often keep five pages there, ready to dictate when I get a chance. I sometimes enter scripts in a monthly five-page contest. Usually I don't write these until the last day. (Normally I have done some brainstorming before that last day.) The hours I work, give me about an hour at home before the entry deadline. So I have to "write it" on the way home. And by "write it" I mean I see the five completed pages and dictate them when I get home. Which is all I have time for at that point. Normally I'll get right on five-pages, if that's what I'm going for. Sometimes a sentence or two under or over.

Years ago, on a screenwriting newsgroup, there would be script challenges. Somebody would have certain, stupid (usually) elements for the script to include. I don't know if it was the object but people would try to be the first to get their script up. Some were posted in five or ten minutes. When you're writing them that fast, whether you want to or not, you're brainstorming AND seeing the words before they're typed, and you're even seeing the formatting as you type.

And some of these were pretty darn good scripts. At any rate, it was fun and helpful to push your limits to see what you could do. It might sound stupid, but it also built confidence.
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