A lot of filmmakers faced with this crazy time in history might consider themselves very, very lucky. With stay-at-home orders all around the country, those that have the financial means to not have to worry about a pause in film work might be saying to themselves, “Hell yes, now I am forced to stay home and focus on writing and my other projects!” I would be in the same boat if it wasn’t for one thing…..my infant son.
In reality, my son is MUCH cuter than that. But as anyone who has children knows, infants are often devil babies like you see above. So while you may not have children (lucky you, jay kay, love my son, yay!), think of this as a guide to writing with distractions and responsibilities in a time of a pandemic.
Set Your Expectations
Everyone says the first draft of a screenplay sucks and this couldn’t be more true then when you have a kid you have to take care of.
That being said, I have a very supportive wife who constantly tells me that I should focus on writing while she looks after our son. One upside of this pandemic is that my wife works from home most of the week; some days she doesn’t get a single email. Those days are amazing and I can churn out 3 to 4 pages.
But other days, be it when my wife has to go into work or the kid is just not wanting to let her remain sane, I am lucky if I even get to turn on my computer. That results in sometimes going days without looking at, much less writing a single line of, my current screenplay. Nothing screams disjointed story like jumping in, out, and back in again with days in between.
Because of this, I know my first draft is going to SUCK. Characters will be all over the place, the story will feel discombobulated at times, and I will be lucky to finish it in under 3 months. But going into the writing process knowing all this has made the entire journey less frustrating and painful. I KNOW it is going to come down to the rewrite (and second rewrite, and probably the third). But this isn’t any different than writing when I have a full time job and no kid, which means i just have to write when and where I can.
Write When and Where You Can
Anyone visiting my place would be shocked to see how many post-it notes I have all over. My wife has gotten used to it by now, but friends and family think I’m crazy. This habit though, has become very helpful in the few fleeting seconds I get to think about my screenplay some days.
My son is old enough to be able to play on his own (and sometimes demands it), so I usually am able to grab a post-it, scribble down a note or a thought and file it away for when I have a second. Or if I can only grab my phone, I type out a note and either email it to or message myself. It may not be the perfect solution, but it does help me remember things I want to add or change to my script.
Update: It’s taken me two days to write this simple post, because ya know….the kid.
Another thing I always keep handy is a notebook, either a Field Notes booklet, or something similar in size. Much like post-it notes, I am able to write down ideas and revisions that I think about right away.
Apps and Naps
Finally, with all this newfangled technology, it is pretty easy to get in a quick writing session when you have the chance. Sometimes when the kid takes a nap, I sit in his room for awhile just to make sure he doesn’t stir shit up. That’s a convenient time to fire up my writing app of choice on the phone (most, if not all, writing programs have a mobile aspect) and either review what I have written so far so I can jump right in when the kid is asleep or simply pick up where I last left off. If anything, just reading what I have written helps get me back in writing mode.
So while you may not have a kid during this pandemic, your situation may be similar. Maybe you have a job that requires to work from home at crazy hours (remote editor?), or maybe during all of this you have had to take on some gig work like Uber, Postmates, or anything else to help pay the bills. Just because life has thrown you a bunch of crazy shit, don’t let it get in the way of doing what you love doing. If you can’t afford a nice iPad or Macbook, find a way to write on anything and everything. Do it during your lunch break, while you are waiting for another delivery order, or even while you are waiting for an export to finish.
If I can potentially turn out a semi readable script with an infant at home, you can too. But alas, I gotta go, the kid just woke up.