The Importance Of Having A Process
I spent most of this week in the LSE library, trying to be a good boy. First up on my unwieldily list of things to do: radio play, Keval Mehta. The word count we roughly have to hit is 7,000. I’ve got 6,500, and plenty more I could write. I took Sue Tedden’s advice, and constructed the whole disappearance with a framing story involving the life of the documentary’s presenter. It’s made it a hell of a lot easier to write, but I worry the focus is drifting from the themes the Mehta story brings up. Making this work as just the documentary itself is how I ideally want to do it. I know that this isn’t inherently dramatic, due in part to both the documentary form and the ‘protagonist’ not being there. I suppose it currently functions mostly on the level of irony, in that in the fictional world of the documentary, all the information is already known to the listener since Mehta’s World Cup was a big event/story. But for the listener in our time, the fun is from hearing bits of the world and story revealed in an casual but captivating manner. I don’t want it to seem like I’m hammering them with exposition.
On the next run at it, I will probably lose the framing story, but for now it’s actually been quite helpful as a way to get into my character’s heads, to get them talking to me. It’s basically writing the version of a scene that, as John got us to do, has everything said explicitly. Each of the interviewees have character arcs, and each of their interviews have a plot progression – the challenge is making those the drama, in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural to the documentary form I am aping. It, to quote one James Huntrods “will be bloody hard”, but is definitely the more interesting challenge for me, and if I do it right, it’ll be stunning.
The writing in the library shenanigans has so far done wonders for my word rate. I can’t say I’ve knocked out that many words in a long, long time. That said, it has been uneven. On Monday, I did 2,000 words in 6ish hours, and it was fairly easy. Felt great, story was coming along…Wednesday? Spilled half my pauper’s cous cous onto the floor as soon as I sat down (not a good start), and from there, it took me ten hours to write 1,500 words. They weren’t even good words. But it got done. Previously, I would’ve slacked off, but I just could not allow myself to leave the library, and it’s lucky the place is open til 12AM for plebs like me.
I talk about this because I think there’s a huge importance in having a strict work process. You could call it discipline. Whatever you call it, I’ve never had it. Never. I’ve slacked off from primary school all the way up to now, relying on a modicum of intelligence and a lot of good grace. As a result, I’ve put out average, even sometimes decent work. But it’s never great. To use a tired, but accurate analogy, I’ve always knocked out the easy 80%, and not the vintage 20.
Last month I turned 25, which is definitely getting on, and if I’m serious about what I’m doing, I need to change this slacking habit since it’s at the root of everything that makes me unhappy and, in my mind, this MA is my last chance to prove myself. Currently, I don’t commit to anything, be it friends, women or projects. Hell, even ideas..even sentences I just let loose into the ether. I’m good at starting off, but never really doing the slog – most visibly, I’ve never written a full length piece. It needs to change if I want a decent future for myself, and I swear I will make it happen if I have to spent every night from here to Christmas in the library. I owe it to myself, those who’ve supported me and everyone who has faith in my abilities.
On a quick end note, I listened to an interview with Chris Morris today, and he spoke of how structure was so important because that was the story. The dialogue writing is something he finds fun (as do I) and he can spend time knocking it out, but that doesn’t mean you’re making what you’re writing any good. Something to be wary of, as I have a tendency to let that happen when I write and pretend I’m getting somewhere (when I’m really just dicking about…)