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Scribosphere Carnival #4 – Advice

The Scribosphere Carnival is a weekly discussion from a variety of screenwriting blogs around a rotating theme.

Emily over at Bamboo Killers chose today’s topic:

ADVICE — A recommendation regarding a decision or course of conduct.

Okay, I admit. There wasn’t any description given for the provided topic, so I just took Merriam Webster’s generic definition of the word advice.
The true topic is apparently about giving advice, and more specifically what is my best writing advice.

A lot of great tips about screenwriting have been given, specifically in the few other Scribosphere posts of my fellow bloggers.
Writing ad nauseam (AKA you should write because you’re a writer) has been covered.
What to do with screenplays has been covered.
Readjusting your expectations has been covered.
So what is left to say?

Well, here’s my personal bit of advice:

Done is better than perfect.

Thoughtful, eh?

Let’s dig a little deeper.
In my mind, there are two parts to this maxim:
1. Done is better…: Combating procrastination (working on the script)
2. …than perfect: Combating perfection (finishing the script)

1. Be done

The process of writing a script is kind of like a mini-feature production in of itself:
– Pre-production (research/development)
– Production (outline/treatment/draft)
– Post-production (editing/rewrites/corrections/notes)

While you’ll probably be spending 90% of your time on the last 10% of your work with most (other) creative projects, my personal experience has taught me that, when you’re working on a fresh script, the biggest evil is procrastination (which usually occurs way before the finishing touches).

We’ve already covered a bit on the subject, but one way to combat the negative effects of procrastination is to increase productivity.
Having a fixed writing schedule definitely helps. In fact, I’ve started working on one for myself.

There are also other alternative productivity techniques.
A fairly well-known example would be the Pomodoro technique. The idea is to entirely focus on the one task for a limited amount of time, and then move on or come back to it after a break.
Forget the fancy trademark gimmick of the original company, all you need to do it is a timer. It can be a free app, or a physical kitchen timer in the form of a tomato (pomodoro in Italian).
The basic concept is as follows:

  • – Decide on the task to be done.
  • – Set the pomodoro timer to n minutes (traditionally 25).
  • – Work on the task until the timer rings.
  • – Take a short break (3-5 minutes).
  • – Every four “pomodori” take a longer break (15–30 minutes).

Rinse and repeat.

Regardless of which technique you end up using for your own productivity, you should hopefully find something that works for you, and that leads to you actually working on your script.
Note that I said “working on” rather than “writing a draft of”, since brainstorming and outlining are extremely vital part of the process. Even an occasional mental evasiveness and/or reverie is more than welcomed during any creative process.

Ultimately, you want to push through into getting a first draft done.
Spoiler alert: your first draft will probably suck (that’s why they call it a vomit draft). Best case scenario, it is merely mediocre.
But being done with it is the first step to salvation.

2. Don’t be perfect

Battling perfection is the other half of the equation.
You’ve probably heard the aphorism “perfect is the enemy of good”, which is an adjusted translation of Voltaire’s “Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” (In his writings, a wise Italian says that the best is the enemy of the good).

Whether you’re about to e-mail to everyone your first draft, or the one after getting your first notes, it’s time to realize that those endless tweaks you pull right before sending it “out there” are, well, mostly vanity tweaks. Or at the very least self-deceptive.
It’s like that moment when you’d rather organize your desk than write an e-mail. You are fooled into thinking a usually productive effort will be more rewarding/useful than what you should actually be doing. In this case just hitting send and moving on.
Your script will probably never be the greatest script ever written, especially to your eyes (We are our own worse critic, right?). So don’t waste a lot of time trying to “perfect it”.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work your hardest, but there’s a difference between fixing a broken (unfunny) line, and fretting over what kind of hat your protagonist should wear.

The same can be said about addressing notes. Fact: the more people you get them from, the more contradictory they will be.
It’s your job to sift through the mess, and once you’ve fixed the relevant problems, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to perfect the script to everyone’s taste.
Because that’s impossible.
At some point, you’ll have to send your baby into the world, or pull out the band-aid. Whichever metaphor helps you cope with the reality that your imperfect script will be viewed by someone other than you.

Done is better than perfect, because perfect is an unattainable goal.

Write on.

Scribosphere blogs also on the topic:

Red Right Hand | Jonathan Hardesty | Bamboo Killers

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