The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Saturday, March 16, 2013

"Sleep On It"

Yesterday, I sent off three separate projects:
1) A script for the short zombie movie "DANGER WORD" we're filming in New York in June.
2) The treatment for the "My Soul To Keep" film investors are interested in making (I'd call this highly speculative. Movies are like that)
3) The proposal for a series of novels based on a certain Oscar-winning movie from last year. Let's just say it's a genre I've never written before, and that therefore I'm excited. Important to know how to push your own buttons!

There are about five other projects in varying stages of preparation as well, and I have to be careful not to stress out. The point, as I tell my students continuously, is that the secret to juggling multiple projects is NOT to keep them all in your conscious mind constantly. That way lies killing stress. What I find preferable is:
1) To have each project in its own folder or binder, physical or computer-based.
2) To work on no more than two projects in a given day.
3) To know EXACTLY what project I'm going to work on first thing tomorrow, and ask myself clear questions about it at night before I sleep.
4) To have a simple, ingrained structure correlating character and story. Overlearned. In this way, it is similar to a chess master playing multiple games. He doesn't try to remember the games--he can look at the board and know everything that has happened, and what has to happen to execute his own strategy. Makes his move. Then forgets that board and moves on to the next.

I can look at any given project, and ask myself questions about the character or the plot that IMMEDIATELY yield new insights or information. At the least, it raises questions that open new doors. I never worry about what I "don't know" about a project. Concentrating on what I DO know is quite sufficient, and if I explore the known and define the unknown, invariably if I take an overnight break (sleep on it) when I come back I know a little more: either more information, or questions I hadn't considered.

Proceeding in this fashion, what happens is that if I rotate between projects, just doing what can be done that day, that the shape of the story emerges more clearly without apparent "effort." It is just doing 1000 words a day...every day...wherever a project speaks to me.

That seems to be the key. Do what CAN be done to feed your "machine" and don't worry about the rest. I think this works in any area of your life. Clearly define the issue, do what CAN be done in a given day, rotate between projects, and allow your unconscious to do its role by "sleeping on" questions.

Huge amounts of work, with little stress. I like that combination.

presented for your approval...


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Laliv Gal said...

I will be waiting to see the materials. keep on the good work!

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