How To Write

No, seriously how do you write? That’s what I’m hoping to find out.

Right out of college when I had a bit more time on my hands (and a lot more confidence in my head) I ordered every book I could find on screenwriting. I read about ten in a couple of months and tried to teach myself everything there was to know about writing a script. And then I sat down and I wrote.

I wrote two full (AWFUL like silly awful) screenplays and I felt triumphant and was like “okay, I’m done, now who wants the privilege of turning my wonderful idea into a movie starring ME?”

Much to my surprise, no one offered. So then I stopped and life happened and everything else in between.

Three years later, I’ve got the itch again. And here’s what I’ve realized about my first try at writing, even though my first “screenplays” (using that word lightly here) were painfully bad, at least I finished something. I’ve had some trouble with that lately, like a lot of trouble.

So in an attempt to keep myself accountable, I’m working with an instructor from The Second City to learn the art of screenwriting. And I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying it. In all honestly, I love anything that feels like school. What I wouldn’t give to go back to those college years spent in Andrew Hall discussing literature with my hippy loving English professors. I just didn’t appreciate it then like I would now. It’s such a shame that college years are wasted on college students.

But I digress.

The point is I’m trying again. I’m a little more realistic this time around and understand that everyone has at least five screenplays they’re working on in their back pocket. But who cares, how does that apply to me?  I’m just trying to write something I’m proud of and can keep around as a writing sample. Or I can set it out on my coffee table and insist that EVERYONE who enters my house read it before they leave. Wouldn’t that be fun.

Returning to this form of writing hasn’t been easy. I sat down yesterday and it took me nearly four hours to write two pages. TWO. All of my old negative voices I haven’t heard from in a while made sure to stop by to be certain that I second guessed every single line I wrote down.

Really, you’re going to use that line? That sounds awful. That’s not how you do this. WHY are you even doing this? You realize this is one big waste of time. This sounds like a child wrote it. This is so bad it’s funny to me. Just go take a nap. Eat some chips. Clean the wall. Do anything but write this piece of shit. You’re terrible at everything. Ext and so forth. I like to think these voices keep me grounded.

And now I’m going to show you where all of the writing magic goes down. And by “magic” I mostly mean crying.

It all happens in my home office. Home office = this tiny space in my living room where the wall was just big enough to fit a desk.

The Hustle notebook can be found here.  And even though the page you see is blank, I immediately filled it out and hustled the hell out of it. I’m slowly learning how to live my life via a to-do list, it’s a work in progress. It’s on my to-do list.

And hanging above it all is a signed poster by one of my favorite screenwriters and directors and fellow Nebraskan, Mr. Alexander Payne. I hang it here for inspiration. It hasn’t given me any yet, but I keep hoping. And at the very least I get to stare at Bruce Dern’s dreamy profile!

And now I have to write 8 more pages before my next class today at 3:00 p.m. It took me 7 days to write 2 pages, so, so I’m feeling really good about the task ahead of me.

Hustle. Hustle. Hustle.

It’s what I do best, just look at all of the small trophies I won in basketball that say “Most Hustle Award” from years 2003-2005. They don’t give those out to just anyone.

What’s your writing style? How do you get “the creative juices flowing?”