30 Days With Aristotle And Me

The Famous Greek Philosopher Helps Me Finish My Screenplay…In One Month?

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Day Two – Schedule

November 11th, 2009 · No Comments · 30-Day Screenwriting Schedule, Adaptation, Camel, Children's Books, Chopin, Day Two - Schedule, Half Light Soundtrack, Hemingway, Music, Progressive Rock, Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

The War of ArtYou know what the hardest part is about writing screenplays?

It’s not getting ideas, which come to me so often that my To-Write list now stretches well into the next decade.

It’s not learning the craft of screenwriting, which I’ll admit took me 3-4 years, hundreds of dollars in screenwriting books – and an equal amount of hours reading – to grasp.

It’s not even plotting them, writing each major scene on a 3×5 card and tacking them up on big boards, keeping them within eyesight at all times. Or developing characters.

Nope. That’s not the answer. Frankly, I find all of those things fun.

You really want to know what I find hardest about writing screenplays?

Writing them.

Seriously. Actually sitting down to write them.

I hate that part.

I know the adage: Writer’s write. I get that. I really do.

But that doesn’t make sitting down, alone, for hours on end, day after day, any easier.

One of the best books I’ve ever come across that explains my reluctance to sit and write is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Pressfield calls it resistance. And he says anyone attempting something big in his/her life encounters it. For example:

Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from a work-in-potential. It’s a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.


CamelSo, aside from referring to Pressfield’s book often (which I do), how do I overcome resistance?

Music. All kinds of it. Usually listening with headphones on or earbuds in.

For example, as I type this I’m listening to Camel’s 1979 album I Can See Your House From Here. The track titled “Ice” is nearly 11 minutes of instrumental bliss. Camel was (and, perhaps, still is) a British progressive rock band from the 1979s and early 1980s that created truly fascinating, often very emotional, music.

I listen to a lot of progressive rock, primarily because it transports me. It’s mostly instrumental, so lyrics don’t interfere with my writing. And, because the songs are epic or emotional or brilliantly composed, my mind has a chance to wander without straying far from my writing. Favorite bands in this genre: Camel, Caravan, ELP, Yes, Triumvirat, Kansas, early Genesis, King Crimson, Happy the Man, IQ, Eloy, Marillion, Rush, Astra.

Progressive metal can be too jarring as background for writing, although it’s perfect for when I need a kick in the pants. Favorite bands in this genre: Symphony X, Myrath, Dream Theater, Shadow Gallery, Threshold.

When I’m feeling particularly stuck and I need to get motivated, I turn to power metal and folk metal. Favorite bands in these genres: Hammerfall, Battlelore, Eluveitie, Pathosray, Elvenking, Pink Floyd, Falconer, Harmony, Pagan’s Mind, Manticora, Within Temptation, Delain, After Forever, Nightwish, Epica, Cruachan, Leaves’ Eyes. (Mostly bands from Europe. So don’t look for their albums at your local Best Buy, Borders, or Barnes & Noble.)

I’m a sucker for jazz, too. Example: Dave Brubeck’s classic Time Out. Or Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

I often turn to folk rock as well (Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Trees), especially when what I’m writing requires me to capture emotion, melancholy, or outright sadness. Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” (from Fairport Convention’s Unhalfbricking album, 1969) is great for making me all teary-eyed and wistful.

And I can’t forget so-called Classic-Rock bands such as Free, Led Zeppelin, Sweet, Robin Trower, Heart, Journey, Grand Funk Railroad, and Queen.

And then there’s jam-band rock: Grateful Dead, Phish, Umphrey’s McGee. I like these groups for the same reason I like progressive rock. They create very long, mostly instrumental songs that allow my mind to wander but not get bored. The Dead, especially, is perfect music to write by. “Dark Star” (from their Live/Dead album, 1969) is nearly a half hour of noodling.

And the musicians that don’t really have a category, per se: The Beatles, Kate Bush, Riverside, U2, Peter Gabriel, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra. Kate Bush’s “The Man With the Child In His Eyes” (from her 1978 album The Kick Inside) is a fantastic song that I can listen to on repeat for hours on end. It has a magical quality about it that inspires me.

Rubinstein's ChopinMy newest love is Classical music. I own the Complete Bach, the Complete Mozart, the Complete Beethoven, and a massive Haydn collection. I can listen to French Horn player Dennis Brain’s incomparable 1954 recording of Mozart Horn Concertos 1-4 (Herbert von Karajan conducting) for hours. Or Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos 1-2-3.

Another Classical composer I recently got into is Chopin. I totally flipped out when I heard his nocturnes, piano concertos, and waltzes. I nearly lost my mind when I discovered The Chopin Collection, an 11-CD set performed by Arthur Rubinstein. Superb music for writing.

Half Light SoundtrackBut I’ll let you in on a little secret: the greatest album of all time to listen to while you write. It’s the soundtrack to the 2005 Demi Moore movie Half Light. I absolutely love it.

The movie itself was much better than I expected it to be. But the soundtrack blew me away. It’s the most emotional, beautiful, haunting, and transporting music I’ve ever heard. The melodies are gorgeous. The composer, Brett Rosenberg, was literally pressured into releasing the soundtrack by the thousands of fans who clamored for it. You won’t find it in stores, though. It’s only available from the Moviescore Media site and iTunes.

So…music. I’ve been a writer for nearly 20 years. And I don’t think I’ve ever written a word without a musical accompaniment. I own around 1,000 CDs and five iPods. Forget American Express. I don’t leave home without my music.

And that brings me back to the point of today’s blog, more or less.

Manure MoversHemingway, in his own inimitable fashion, confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934: “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Here’s another famous Hemingway quote: “The first draft of anything is shit.”

He’s probably right.

There are times when I sit in front of the computer and I feel like all I’m doing is shoveling manure.

That, in itself, is frustrating. Especially when the idea for the screenplay is so darn good.

Speaking of which…

I started writing the screenplay I’m working on now about three years ago. I haven’t been able to finish it – partly because of my marketing consulting business. I spend time serving clients: creating web sites for them, helping them discover their USP, writing marketing plans, and generating tactics by the truckload. (I’m a copywriter by profession, and a direct-marketing copywriter at that. Trust me, I know all about writing.)

Another reason for the delay completing this screenplay is because I spent two to three months this summer working through a movie idea for a friend of mine and writing a treatment for him.

Another reason is because I wanted to finish three other screenplays before tackling this one.

But the main reason is that I just get tired of sitting and writing all the time. I know lightning is going to strike me dead for admitting that. Yet, it’s true. I just hate sitting here – especially when the weather is nice (which, in Michigan, is a rarity). Plus, doing so hurts. I’ve developed some kind of pain in my shoulders and neck from typing for hours on end, for untold years. So writing is not only boring it’s downright painful.

But I’ve run out of time for this screenplay. I have to finish it within 30 days. So I’ve turned to the preeminent philosopher of Western civilization – Aristotle – to help me do it.

(What is my screenplay about? Visit My Screenplay and I’ll tell you.)

Here’s the schedule I devised for myself;

November 13-24…………………………..Act II (12 days, 5 pages per day)
November 25-30…………………………..Act III (6 days, 4 pages per day)
December 1-December 5……………….Act I (5 days, 6 pages per day)
December 6-9………………………………Rewrites (4 days, 29 pages per day)

Total…………………………………………………….115 pages in 27 days!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a deadline to meet.

And music to listen to.


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