Word Count for October 2020

I wrote a total of 9,908 words in October 2020, over two separate projects. This is up from September’s total by 7,333 words. July remains my most prolific month by a little over 700 words.

I wrote 517 words on a project that has been in my brain for many years, a comic or graphic novel, tentatively titled Cursed. In Cursed, a princess turns into a metaphor for Depression. I wrote 517 words on this project in two days. I have no idea if I will pick it up again in 2020.

The overwhelming majority of my October words came from Something Undone, formerly “Untitled Nursing Home Project”, . Something Undone is my first finished feature length script, coming in at 94 pages or 17,088 words. According to the standard of screen writing, each page should be around a minute on film, giving me an hour and a half run time.

I haven’t been this excited about a project in a few years. Something Undone really picked up steam in October. I wrote over 500 words for multiple days, ending my streak with 2134 words in one day. I experience this a lot when I finish a first draft. Once I write the emotional climax of a story, the rest falls into place with relative ease. This, coupled with a contest deadline, pushed me to finish the project on October 25th, 2020.

I am tentatively proud of Something Undone. The story itself is good. Any missteps can be corrected in the editing and revising. I have no idea what will become of the script if anything. That’s for the future. Right now, I’m just proud of the finishing, more than the story itself. I started planning the script at the end of June and finished in the last days of October, roughly four months from concept to physical script, easily the fastest turn around I’ve managed in my career. I don’t expect to repeat it any time soon.

What happens after a project is finished? In the early days of November, I’ve gone through Something Undone and fixed the most glaring practical errors of spelling, grammar, punctuation and continuity. I’m sure I missed plenty of problems. My system is to figuratively but the script in the drawer and come at it with fresh eyes in about a month. With luck, and help from my screenwriter friends, I can polish the story and create a product to shop around at festivals and contests. But that is a task for December Kate.

November is National Novel Writing Month. I will not be participating this year. I am still very much in the world of Something Undone and have no desire to court burn out by starting a large project so quickly after finishing my first feature. I’m still writing (literally, right now) but I’ll be writing with frivolity, leaping on to whatever strikes my fancy in the moment. I plan to return to Something Undone in December, and hopefully emerge with a polished feature in January or February of 2021.

Word Counts for August and September 2020

July was my most productive month of 2020, with 10620 words written across seven projects. I felt good, like I had a handle on living a creative life in the midst of a global pandemic and national unrest.

Then my word count dropped by an average of 4022 words for the next two months.

Let’s examine the data before we start making conjectures about why and how.

I wrote 6026 words in the month of August. The majority dealt with my screenplay, then known as “Untitled Nursing Home Project” with 4244 words. I ran into a fairly significant roadblock toward the end of August. The antagonist of the script is a malevolent ghost named Gertrude who can only be seen by protagonist Helen due to Helen’s recent near death experience. Helen’s loving husband, Larry, assumes that Helen’s talk of ghosts is a symptom of dementia. Gertrude delights in causing the couple strife so she had no motivation to reveal herself to Larry. I needed a way for Larry to start believing in ghosts, without completely ignoring Gertrude’s character profile. (Gertrude’s character is that she’s a bitch.) This problem stopped the script cold for several days, into the month of September.

While trying to figure out how to make a fictional Grandpa believe in ghosts, I wrote 865 words on blogs, most of which are available here, but some were deleted.

I wrote 652 words on Comedy in August, as part of an application for an internship that I did not get and don’t want to talk about. They were good words and I’m glad I wrote them, but not as glad as I would be if they’d done what they were supposed to.

I wrote 2575 words in September, entirely on the screenplay. On September 17th, I figured out how to get Larry to believe in ghosts. SPOILER ALERT: It’s more ghosts. More ghosts, different ghosts, different motivations. Ghosts whose sympathies are with the living reveal themselves to Larry, proving that Helen is sane. Once that’s settled, she and Larry can take on Gertrude.

Why did my output slow to such a degree in August and September? First, without going in to too much detail, August and September were a hard couple of months. Covid continued to affect nearly every aspect of my life, including my extended family. I remain worried about them, my friends, my finances, and my country. The irony is that I am faring better than many of the people I know. I’m young and relatively healthy, with a support system I can depend on if things get worse. Most people don’t have that. Even as my anxiety consumes me, I appreciate the stability I have.

Second, August and September were busy months. In August, I got a job and in September, I started working for it. I am now an In Home Social Service worker, helping a wonderful elderly gentleman with his day to day needs. Because the state provides my paycheck (Thank you, California), there was a mountain of paperwork and orientations to go through. Once my place was secured, I went from working whenever I could finagle it, to working six hours a day for six days a week. While the job was an absolute godsend for my finances and peace of mind, it was also an adjustment. Energy and focus that usually went to writing were, appropriately, transferred to the new job.

Most importantly, I believe I didn’t write as much in August and September because I wrote 10,000 words in July. Most of the time, writing is mentally exhausting. Long word counts require the physical ability to sit at a computer, stare at a screen, for hours on end, and/or the mental energy and focus to write quickly. More than that, writers are not just typing random words or copying from the dictionary. It takes time to come up with a story, to arrange the words in the right order to illicit the correct response in the audience and move the story forward. Due to the factors described above, I simply did not have the energy.

Word count is not the only measure of a writer. I spent a lot of August and September staring out of windows, reading books, talking to friends, and moving around in my city. These are all part of the creative process, experiencing the world around you and allowing yourself to think. It’s just very difficult to put it up on a graph.

If you’ve struggled creatively and need some extra commiseration, check out the Onion article Man Not Sure Why He Thought Most Psychologically Taxing Situation Of His Life Would Be The Thing To Make Him Productive or the Oatmeal’s Creativity is like Breathing. I hope things get better.

Update: Time is Made Up

I have always felt better starting at the beginning. I have this idea, drilled into me by the protestant work ethic of my forebearers, that I should start whatever I am doing on the first of a new year, a new month, a new week or a new hour, and continue at a steady rate until it was finished. If I fell behind or missed a day, I’d have to stop and wait for a new year, a new month, a new week to start again at the beginning.

It’s not a great way to finish projects. Or to keep up with a blog/website.

Like most of the country, I’ve been under semi-lockdown for months. Suddenly, all I seemed to have was time. My creative pursuits are limited only by what I have available in my apartment and my imagination. I learned quickly that a global pandemic and state brutality are incredibly hard on an imagination. Days run into each other. All of my great plans fell by the wayside.

I want to say that I’ve found a way to work within my new reality but it’s too soon to tell. At the moment, I can’t consider my life much more than a week in advance. So much has changed so quickly, future plans seem ridiculous.

So where does that leave me? Here and now. I can’t wait for Monday to roll around. Can’t put off my goals until the first of the month. Who knows what will happen between now and January First?

The only question I need to ask is what can I do now? What, at this moment, feels like necessary work? I can’t say whether the work I do now will eventually yield positive results. None of us ever could. That knowledge is both terrifying and liberating.

I’m struggling not to apologize for not updating sooner. I’ve been working, and not working, on various projects that are important and unimportant to me. I’ll continue that journey, whether it involves regular updates or not.

Stay safe. Maybe I’ll talk to you soon.

Happy National Writing Day!

Happy National Writing Day, according to the dark cabal of Twitter Hashtags!

Writing is both my favorite and least favorite activity. It’s saved my life multiple times and inspired countless suicidal thoughts. I’ve devoted most of my life to perfecting this craft. Someday I’d like to be paid for it.

I decided to be a writer in second grade. My motives weren’t based on any deep artistic inclination. It was 1997, and I heard somewhere that JK Rowling had more money than the Queen of England. More money than the Queen of England felt like a good starting paycheck, so I started writing.

Then I kept writing.

And kept writing.

And kept writing which brings us to today. I have significantly less money than the Queen of England. I’ve made peace with not being J.K Rowling. I’m still writing and, somewhere along the lines, I found artistic inclination. The revelation that I would keep writing no matter what else happened surprised me, but it’s true. Even if I never make another dime, I will keep writing.

Please don’t misinterpret the previous statement. I still want to be paid. Artistic inclination is a poor substitute for food, rent, and healthcare.

So how do you keep writing? That question is not rhetorical. I love hearing about everyone’s process. I love specific advice to ignore or embrace. A process is a method and conditions creators use to create. They evolve and change over time. If you don’t think you have a process, you probably have many. I have at least two, depending on what I need to accomplish.

My day starts at 6:30. My phone alarm goes off at 6:30. I turn it off and go back to bed. If I remember to charge my phone in the kitchen, I have to physically rise to turn it off. Then I can feed my cat. If I fell asleep with my phone by my bed, I turn it off without getting up, and Sherbert bites my feet. I recommend getting an alarm clock that bites you.

By 7 or 7:30, I am awake enough to make coffee. Then I go back to bed, or I get dressed. After I am dressed, I take my medication, or I go back to bed. My bed may as well be a magnet. Eventually, I go to my job if I don’t go back to bed.

I pay the bills with pet sitting. Dogs and cats don’t require a lot of mental focus. If I don’t have any extra duties, I go home after about an hour. When the job is over, the work begins.

First, I clear my mind by cleaning the apartment for a half hour. I clean the same four areas every day: my desk, my bed, the cat box, and the dishes from the night before. These tasks don’t always take thirty minutes, but I always find something else to do. Focusing on menial labor allows me to free my mind of distraction before I write. Finishing these tasks gives me a feeling of accomplishment that creativity seldom affords.

After I finish cleaning, I write. My daily minimum is 250 words, though I usually write more. When I was younger, I could write thousands of words in one sitting. However, those sittings were few and far between. Now I focus on consistency rather than breaking records.

I usually have three to five projects going on at once. I write essays for this blog, prose for publication, scripts to be performed, and new comedic material. I try not to write on any given subject for more than a half hour at a time. After forty-five minutes, I become sluggish. I get into my own head about editing or originality or money or any number of distractions. When that happens, I close my computer and do something else. When I’ve done something else for thirty minutes, I return to writing, and the cycle starts again.

Something else encompasses the entire rest of the universe. On bad days, I fall into the vortex of the internet and lose hours of creative time. To avoid that sticky spider web, I go off screen.  I count creative activities, like writing longhand, drawing or painting, and reading books for research or inspiration as time spent working. Exercise, eating, cleaning, playing with my cat, or taking a nap are necessary for my physical and mental health. Physical and mental health is required for writing.

Incorporating health into my creative routine is the hardest lesson to learn. Yes, I can ignore my aching back, grumbling stomach and drooping eyes to finish a project on time, but it’s not sustainable. We have a vision of the starving artist, squinting in candlelight with blisters on his fingers, breath visible in his thatched hovel. Reject it. Suffering can lead to art, but life will provide plenty without your input. You do not have to sacrifice health and comfort for creativity. I write much better with my anti-depressants, sugar loaded coffee, and my cat at my feet at the desk I love than I would in a cardboard box with only a bottle of cheap whiskey and negative self-talk for company. Life is necessary for art. Make caring for your body and mind a part of your routine, regardless of your creative inclinations.

I can keep the write/something else cycle up for most of the morning. Once I accomplish my word count, I am free to seek out other diversions. I may pick up some extra jobs, go to the library and research, or socialize. I seek out new opportunities and complete the mundane tasks of promotion and budgeting. I keep writing. Writing is fun. It can frustrate or depress at times, but most of it is fun. I couldn’t have kept writing for so long if it wasn’t mostly fun. My process keeps the work fun for longer and helps me navigate everything else.

Enjoy your work, your creativity, and your life. Find your own process.

If you enjoyed reading about my writing process, you should check out Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, a book detailing the creative process of such figures as Georgia O’Keefe, Leo Tolstoy, and dozens more. Also, How Do You Write, a fantastic podcast where author Rachael Herron interviews other authors about their process has become a part of my process! I listen to the show while I clean in the morning!

Thomas Anonymous: Weirdly Queer

tomanon

It’s bucket list time! I’ve made it onto a Podcast that I actually listen to! Thomas Anonymous is a fantastic memoir of a gay man embracing his true  self in a world of stringent homophobia and toxic masculinity! Hosted by my friend and wonderful person, Tommy Natoli, Thomas Anonymous is a hilarious and sometimes poignant perspective on sex,  growing up, gender roles, the weirdly queer moments of our lives!

And I’m on this week’s episode! It’s called Weirdly Queer and it is not safe for work! Tommy discuss every virginity I’ve lost, bisexual icons, Jeffrey Dahlmer, and the joys of giving and receiving cunnilingus. We  actually split it up into two parts so subscribe and  listen to the other chapters while you’re waiting to hear me say “like” a thousand more times.

Thomas Anonymous on Podbean, Apple, and Stitcher!