We live in a dazzling Information Age with nearly unlimited access to any subject we wish. Gone are the days of trips to the library to search through card catalogues for books on a subject. At the tips of our fingers, we can call on experts in any field including the subject of writing. Whether you’re writing a short story, novel or screenplay, a myriad of sources and materials exist in the forms of tutorials and how-to books.
If a new writer spends countless hours reading, watching and attending lectures and workshops, they will obtain a breadth of knowledge on the subject of writing. But all of this research, time and effort will only benefit you if it is applied. In other words, what every writer needs is the willingness to commit to the craft of writing. Some of you may say, “Isn’t spending time and effort researching and obtaining information a sign of commitment?” I would answer yes, it is. But, in my personal experience, I’ve found that knowledge without action does little to development my craft.
I teach an adult screenwriting class and at the beginning of the level one courses, I make a simple request. For the duration of the six week course, I ask every student to find a time each day that works for them and consistently use that time to work on their screenplay. What I’ve discovered is this seems to be a huge stumbling block to students.
As usual, my request is met with groans and excuses. People have kids, spouses, work, or even other college courses that took priority over a screenwriting class. I found the reactions interesting considering they were paying for the knowledge presented in class. Try as I might to explain that writers write and citing quotes from highly successful and popular writers, nothing helped. The group was in open rebellion!
Then, one student, a young woman who had remained quiet during the growing argument, spoke. She was quiet and sure of herself as she explained her view of the matter. She was a mom (had two young school-aged kids) and she and her husband both worked full-time jobs. When she went home, she was “mom.” Her weekends are given over to family time. I could feel the silent nods of agreement from the other students, feeling she was making their point. Then the young woman subverted their expectations. Because of her busy life and understandable obligations, she, therefore, wrote during her lunchtime at work.
Finding a time that worked in her complicated schedule, this student committed to that time and as a result, she had something new to share every week. I was grateful for her comments because it demonstrated my point. Life is hard, and for some a true challenge, but everything we face as writers has also been faced by other novelist, screenwriters, poets, TV writers, etc. Yet, those who succeeded did so by practicing their chosen craft.
One last objection I often hear goes like this. “I only took this writing class or workshop because this is just a hobby. It’s not a job.” Frankly, I find that a cop-out. There’s a reason people spend money to attend workshops and lectures on writing. Something inside has propelled them to step out of their daily life and take the first steps on pursuing that creative dream. But for that dream to become a reality, it requires a commitment.
Do you have a creative project that’s languished from lack of attention? Why not find a time that works for you, commit to it, and make progress on that idea? There’s no rule on the amount of time you spend on a project, except to be consistent.