Tricks to a flow state

I started this new story at the end of January. I thought I could finish the first draft faster. I was wrong, like always. Today I finally forwarded it to my collaborator. I even finished the two outlines for my classes starting next week.

Fear didn’t get in my way or into my head today, or the last few days. So what have I done differently? How can I make more days as good as today? 

Here is my routine as I recall my last couple of week:

I get up in the morning. I have my first glass of water with honey.  I meditate for ten minutes. I have my breakfast with coffee.  Afterwards, I take a 30-40 minutes walk.  I then change to dry clothes.  I drink my tea and I sit down behind my desk. 

Right before I’m able to check my gmail, I use SelfControl app and set a 1.5 hour for the first offline session. I make sure Do Not Disturb is ON so I can’t see any notifications from anything. 

Then the writing begins. I would only get up from my chair if I need more water or need a quick bathroom break. Otherwise, I’d just sit behind my desk and work. 

This way, I clock in around three, four hours of decent writing time. But my stamina is still on the low end.  To paraphrase what Haruki Murakami said in his What I Talk About When I Talk About Running book, writing is like running. The stamina can be improved through training.  I’m confident that I will get better.  Drip by drip.

Here are my tricks to into a flow state:

  • Place the phone in the other room while you’re working.
  • Check email right before lunch and dinner. Remember to close it.
  • Get offline during writing.

When I’m there, those fuckups can’t haunt me, those liars can’t hurt me, those bureaucrats and hypocrites can’t upset me.

Right here, right now, it’s just me and the characters, the world I’m creating.  

It dawned on me the other day that naysayers look fierce exactly because they’re powerless even though they seem to have the power to reject you.  You see, parasite can’t survive without the living.  Gatekeepers can’t exist without us. The artists.  The pros. 

Because we make things. We change things.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

 

Feature-length Screenplay in 10 Weeks

Photo Credit

Yesterday, I got my 90+ page feature script submitted.

It was my first attempt to submit a full length script within 10 weeks at the program. (*Last quarter it was a 30-page First Act.)

I began to get the knack of the neck-breaking pace of the program. And to my surprise, I enjoyed it — looking back now. I can shout at the top of my lungs —

“I did it. My script may be shit, but I survived.”


What did we cover in the 10-week writing workshop?

  • The first week was the pitch week. We shopped for instructors in hope of getting picked by one.
  • The second week we came up with a treatment. (A treatment is a 2-page double-spaced story flow.)
  • The third was the beat sheet (aka. Step Outline) that covers the three acts.
  • From the fourth week and on, we attended workshops that critique 6–10 pages of 10 screenwriters.

I feel so much more confident after this whole nerve-wrecking quarter. I like “The show must go on” mentality. It is never finished, it can always improve.

Right after the submission, I began the “script exchange” with two of my screenwriting cohorts — Two guys. I have a better rapport with the guys in the program. In the artistic arena, I need reason to balance feeling. A nice girl in the program cried the other day, saying she was afraid of the future. I don’t know what just happened to her. And I don’t want to judge. But from her explanation, she was overwhelmed. I joked that I am the foreigner (native-born Chinese) writing in my second language. I am the definition of “Underdog.” How much worse can that be? I hoped that cheered her up.

I also realized why I prefer hanging out with the lads more. They are more focused on the work itself. They are more thick-skinned.

Writing needs that mentality. Focus on how to get better rather than how am I ever gonna be as good.

In a way, I now feel better about being a foreigner — not as an excuse, but leaving no room for excuses. I can do nothing but hone my craft. There is no “but.” I already start late and practise less than the native students. And I don’t intend to compare. It will damage my morale. But this is what I am invested in — Practise more, it will be show in the result. Whether I will win some awards? It’s not my current-stage concern.

At the beginning of this quarter, I thought I might be overwhelmed by the size of the task. So I took three classes instead of four. I could have done more.

For the Spring Quarter, I might take 2–3 writing classes (feature-90+pages, comedy spec-30 pages, sketch comedy), and then another class. Or just three writing classes.

Quit dreading and write.