The Most Productive Procrastination


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So I finished the rough draft of a novel, and I find it increasingly difficult to focus on anything else.

There’s a screenplay I should be writing right now. I started this thing called “Shut Up and Write”. The idea behind it is that you get four randomized screenplay ideas, created by randomly drawing note cards with actors, genres, professions and locations, and the combining those into little idea clusters, and then you write a screenplay with no planning, no personal stake, and no strings attached.

The idea is to not care if it’s good. The idea is to shut the fuck up and write.

A lot of people worry that what they’re creating is good. I don’t have this worry, because I don’t write anything that I wouldn’t want to read. Therefore, the first fan of almost everything I write is myself, and so I’m almost always confident that something in any project I’m working on has merit.

This isn’t a delusion. I’m also pretty good about abandoning projects that aren’t working. I don’t incinerate them, though. I just put them on whatever is behind the back burner. Anything I’m interested has something cool about it, and at the very least I can cannibalize the ideas from a failed project for a new one. Maybe this scene is nice, but it would work better in this story. This character would be more fun here. Etc.

But a lot of people, especially people who haven’t written as much as I have, never get passed development because they spend all their writing time worrying about if what they came up with is good.

This is unacceptable.

Something about it is good, because you are a consumer of media and have a very discerning taste, whatever that may be. You know what you like and, unless you are Ted Bundy or something, there’s probably a group of people out there who like what you like too.

Novels exist that are basically big foot rape fantasies. They are, quite literally, about young women who wander into the woods and get raped by big foot. I have read one before, and it was horrible. Horrible in that it was morally horrible and also just poorly made.

There’s an audience for it. At one point, Virginia Wade was pulling in sixteen to twenty thousand dollars a month from her erotic big foot stories.TWENTY THOUSAND. A MONTH.

If there’s an audience for that, then there’s an audience for whatever the fuck you want to write about.

And I think that’s why I like writing. Sure, I hate Big Bang Theory. I don’t like Cum For Bigfoot.

But someone else does.

And the fact that I don’t like it doesn’t make the fact that they like it any less valid.

Who am I to say that Big Bang Theory is a garbage show full of stupid, not funny garbage jokes? No one, that’s who.

So goal one of shut up and write is this: just write. The die is cast on the first of January, and everyone will shame you if you don’t finish. Who cares if it’s bad? There’s something in there that isn’t.

There’s something in there that’s good.

That’s the second goal. We write, we don’t care and then we celebrate.

A lot of times when I get notes, I think people are too critical. I’m not trying to cushion the notes i receive by shouting “you’re mean and you’re wrong” to whoever gave them to me, but I think a good note is when you try to figure out what the writer wants to do, and then help them achieve that, rather than saying that something is merely bad. Everything is there for a reason. It’s your job as a note giver to figure out what the reason is, and then think about what you are going to say rather than giving your first gut reaction.

I see gut reactions so many times in notes. Gut reactions are seldom useful.

So we don’t give notes for Shut Up and Write. It’s the only time in the year we won’t give notes. Instead, we celebrate. We’re going to have a big party, where the wine and beer will hopefully flow like the Mississippi, and we will read the writer’s favorite scenes from their work.

We’ll assign characters, goof around, and laugh. Then we all clap and take a drink.

This isn’t softening the blow, though it may seem like it. If someone wants notes, they can send me their screenplay and I’ll give it the ol’ ruthless treatment. Instead, this is encouragement. Everyone needs encouragement, probably even Cormac McCarthy and JK Rowling. Hell, probably even Stephen King.

So that’s what we do.

And here I am, writing a blog post.

The cards I finally settled on were: Tom Hardy, The Everglades, Psychiatrist and Mockumentary.

I love Mockumentaries.

I love Tom Hardy.

I love the everglades.

This one practically writes itself.

Practically.

The practically is very important.

So here I am. I’ve got to head to work in three hours, and I’m participating in the most productive form of procrastination.

I’m writing a blog post.

I don’t really believe in New Years resolutions, but the first is as good a date as any to start something new.

So I’m going to try to blog twice a month.

Calm down, it’s only so I can trick you guys into buying my book later.

Ay yi yi… this post is a quagmire.

Maybe that’s my point, though.

Look at this mess above you.

I hope it’s a beautiful mess, because something other than procrastination gave me this idea.

There’s a kernel of gold among the mud. Can you find it?

I’m not sure I can, but it’s there.

So I’ll leave you with this:

I’m not sure what you’re doing on this Sunday, or whatever day it is when you read this, but today is your day.

There’s a new David Bowie album out.

The sun is shining, at least here in Los Angeles.

You’ve got some free hours.

Don’t fuck around online.

Don’t watch TV. TV is dumb.

Don’t read Cum for Bigfoot.

Don’t clean.

Don’t ___ .

Shut up.

Just Shut Up And Write.

And now….

Well…

And now, I think I’ll take my own advice.

And Shia’s advice, too.

 

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Be Happy


happy

I came into work the day after finishing 50,000 words (hail to my nanos!) in HUNT!, my screenplay turned novel, in one of the best moods I’d been in in many weeks. I was elated, and everything seemed to be going right.

I started off on register but very shortly switched over to bar, and was soon thereafter approached by a woman in her mid-fifties. She smiled at me in a very motherly way and said “I wanted to thank you for your great attitude.”

I thanked her for her compliment and then told her I was so happy because of my novel. I made drinks and we chatted for a while, and then she glances over to my friends working on the register.

“I come in here every day,” she said to me, “and you are always over here, loud and happy, telling jokes and laughing. You make the drinks. These people, though…” Here she gestured at my coworkers. “They always have the sour faces. It’s rude. I’m a customer! I’m buying things from you! Be happy!”

She laughed and I, exactly like every time in my life where I don’t have a stored response for what someone just said, laughed as well.

I made her latte (decaf, nonfat, extra hot, no foam) and handed it to her. She left with a wave, and I waved back.

My mood wasn’t spoiled, but had shifted to more pensive territory.

‘Be happy.’

Much uttered, I’ve always thought this phrase was idiotic. Telling an unhappy person to be happy is like telling a frog to not be a frog. The only thing that will happen is that both the frog and the person telling the frog to be happy will both be less happy.

It’s a silly comparison, but ‘be happy’ is a silly statement.

Happy is western culture. People strive to be happy. You ask someone why they’re doing anything they’re doing, and, when you finally dig through all the lairs, it’s because, in some way or another, they think it will make them happy.

If i get this boat, I’ll be happy. If I fix this tooth, I’ll be happy. If I get a dog, I’ll be happy. If I get a girlfriend, I’ll be happy. If I get this job, I’ll be happy. If I pay my bills, I won’t be as stressed as I was, which, in a small way, will raise my current happiness level from whatever it was to whatever it will be, though most assuredly more happy than now.

It sounds silly, but that’s how people think. Hell, that’s how I think. But it’s pointless, though… isn’t it?

I mean, come on. What even is happy?

According to google, happy is “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Pleasure is easy. It’s a neurochemical reaction in the brain, but contentment is harder to pin down, so I dug a little deeper. Contentment is a state of “happiness or satisfaction.” Unsatisfactory. Content was not much better, but satisfaction, “fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations or needs, or pleasure derived from this,” was very fertile ground.

And that made sense to me. Happiness is contentment which is fulfillment of something you wanted to do. It’s why men build monuments. It’s how sports work. It’s why bored housewives shop with no other goal than to find something nice. It’s how the economy works… hell, it’s how capitalism works… hell, it’s how life works..

It’s why I write. It’s for contentment, not only for completing something I worked on, but for showing it to somebody, who then says “this thing, this thing right here, this thing you spent hours on, this thing you cried over, this thing that is you, more than you can over know. This thing is good.”

But that doesn’t work if that’s all you ever hear. Happiness is a state that only exists because of all the work it takes to get there. It is the light to toil’s shadow. One cannot be happy without first being sad, which makes a baby’s first smile somewhat of a depressing event, considering what it must have gone through to realize things are now better.

You can’t have happy without sad, and you can’t first be happy without first being sad. That’s life. That’s why rich people aren’t in a state of bliss. That’s why people in heaven probably aren’t in a state of bliss. They’re probably just bored, because, and trust me, as a writer I know this to be true: good things are boring. Who wants to watch a movie about a guy who won the lotto, and then everything turned out alright? No? Now who wants to watch a movie about a guy who won the lotto, who is then kidnapped by evil aliens who want his winnings? Probably more people.

Happiness is sadness is happiness is sadness is happiness is sadness. When you’re on top, you can only come down, and when you’re at the bottom, you can only go up. One’s just a set up to the other.

So now I know what to say the next time a mid-fifties woman comes up to me while I’m on bar and says “you’re happy, and you know what? I like that. But that group of people over there. They aren’t happy. Why can’t they be like you?”

I’ll turn to her and I’ll say. “They’re just getting ready to be happy. Give them some time.”

And you know what? It’s such an odd thing to say that I fully expect her to have no saved response.

She’ll probably just laugh.

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