And even more distractions

Still chugging along on revisions to Closure. And by chugging along, I mean the engine on this jalopy shuddered as I barely pulled it over to the side of the road in time. I got some good editing done,  and started writing an outline for the new second and third acts, when I entered Distraction Land. It’s a beautiful place, Distraction Land. There is much to do and so much time to do it in. It’s like a turducken of locales, as if Las Vegas was stuffed inside New York City, which was then stuffed inside Hawaii. I could live here forever! It would be so much fun to wake up at 70 and say “wow, I didn’t accomplish anything, but I had a lot of fun. A LOT of fun.”


But that wouldn’t be a good idea.  I have a friend who is living this life. He is in his 40s. He worked for years at a company in which he had an ownership stake. The company was sold. So…he sort of retired. IN HIS 40s! Now he travels, goes to events, and does whatever the hell he wants. Because he can.

But I can’t do that. And not just because I don’t have the money. I have the burning desire to write, and while I’ve ignored it for large chunks of my life, it’s been there almost my entire life. I wrote my first play when I was in third grade:

It’s called August: Osage County.

But seriously, I was pretty proud of my 2-page masterpiece. And I am writing now more than ever, for both jobs that pay and jobs that do not pay (yet).

But there will always be distractions. Some are good and healthy, others are just distractions. I’m not going to beat myself up over it, but by assessing how I am spending my time, I can budget my time better. So why haven’t I been working on Closure in over a week?

* Was hired to revise and punch up a screenplay (good distraction)
* Watched the super bowl with friends (once a year distraction)
* Went to a concert (fun distraction)
* Watched a few of the Oscar nominated documentaries on Netflix (bad distraction…I should prioritize)
* Started a new script collaboration (good distraction, but find the balance)
* Binge watched Family Feud on GSN (BAD distraction, don’t judge me)
* Writing this blog entry (necessary distraction)

Time to leave the cozy confines of Distraction Land. Today I have cleared my calendar. Nothing, not even exciting Olympic coverage, will take me away from doing some solid work on the script. It’s back to work.

Getting back into it

So the vacation is over. Time on the east coast well spent visiting family, friends, and old haunts. We returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday and I plunged back into it.

By the weekend I had an antsy, restless feeling, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Projects are on track, things are moving forward, post travel life was returning to normal. Except for one glaring omission:

I wasn’t writing.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I log my time and keep track of my own efficiency (and keep myself on track). As the week ended and I looked at my hours, it dawned on me that I had not put in a single hour on writing. I spent time working for others. I spent time networking, connecting, setting up meetings, and other productive career-focused events.

But no writing.

At first it was a relief: my unease stemmed from not doing something that I should be doing and that I love doing. Then I was frustrated: why was I not writing? Simply put, my routine changed when I went on vacation and I forgot to get on track. My brain got lazy. I need to be writing. I NEED to be writing. It’s good for my health, and since it’s my vocation, it’s good for my wallet. It’s scary how quickly and easily I fell off the rails. We all do it sometimes: a diet that detours after one bad meal, an exercise plan that halts after a few days of bad weather, a promise to see friends regularly is abandoned and suddenly months have passed. I think most of us default to a sedentary, mind numbing existence. Well, I won’t speak for you…I do. I can get stuck in front of the TV. I can schedule dinner with friends instead of scheduling time to work.

But eventually the hunger kicks in. So I’m back on track. Focusing some of my time deliberately on writing, revising, and editing scripts. Wouldn’t you know, I’m happier doing it, and the more I do, the more I want to do.

The reboot is complete. Now I’m excited to write new stuff, edit other stuff, and very excited to dive back into the script which this blog is supposed to be about.

Take that, lazy brain!

Do I have a short attention span, or…hey, look at that puppy!

Last month I wrote a post about time management, and how I could improve my productivity. I singled out my biggest time wasters and how I would address them, thereby increasing my productivity. I’m happy to report that I have taken my own notes, and getting more done in less time. I am nearly 30 pages into a script I started less that two weeks ago, have taken notes and done revisions on another, and am about to start work on a third script. Problem solved. The end.

However, now that I have addressed my time wasting habits, I’ve noticed a muscle that is extremely out of practice…my attention span. And I’m sure I am not alone. How long does it take for you to be doing nothing to check your phone, or your Facebook, or change the channel on the TV, or stop what you are doing and do something else? How long is the lull in conversation before you go to your phone? My guess is not long. We’ve been bombarded our entire lives with stimulus, and that increases more and more. TV shows have more commercial breaks than they did 10 years ago. Movies are generally shorter, and when they go over two hours it’s an event, and it’s noticed. Even theater has quickened the pace, as 90 minute one acts are becoming more and more common over two act, two plus hour evenings. We need and crave visual stimulus. Now.

Wait where are you going? I’m not finished.

You may have noticed that this post doesn’t contain any pretty pictures, so if you are still reading this, then you don’t suffer from attention disorder as bad as most of us.

So what’s the point? I’ve noticed that I cannot sit still for too long without getting restless or moving around. There are always dishes to do, bills to pay, shiny objects to lo0k at, etc. There is always something to take me away from the monotony of what I am doing, even if that initial monotonous activity has only lasted a few minutes.

When I worked at a law firm, I noticed that lawyers log their time. It’s natural, they get billed by the hour and each precious second they work for someone should be billed; that’s how they make money. They would log it to the 10th of an hour, so every six minutes is a new block. They would rarely clock in only six minutes on any particular case, but you never know when there is one short phone call to be made. There is always a distraction, and I would guess the lawyers, on an average 12 hour day, would log in 8-10 hours of official business.

I took that model with me, logging my time when I work, breaking my day into 15 minute blocks. The good news is that it forces me to stay on task. I can’t stop working and check email if I want to stay on the clock. The scary news is that often, a 15 minute block of time seemed to last a while at times. I rarely go 30 minutes without breaking, and on occasion (once a week or so) I could make it as long as an hour without checking the clock.

So what’s happening to me? Am I not an artist like those in the past who slaved over their works and emerged, 18 hours later, exhausted but victorious in battle? Can I really create something of value only working 15 minutes at a time? Sure, a little each day is better than nothing, but how much better?

So, I’m going to stretch myself. Ignore the phone and other distractions. Work on those muscles and get back into fighting shape. After all, when I get back on a movie set or in rehearsal for a play, it’s going to be high levels of concentrated work, for hours at a time. I’ve done it before. It just takes a little training.

By the way, I was “interrupted” while writing this entry. Three times. I have my work cut out for me.

And congrats to you for finishing this post. You earned that game of Candy Crush.