At the beginning of May, I was in quite a creatively low place. The preceding months had swept me up in a whirlwind of potential opportunities and exciting projects to get my teeth stuck into, which was fantastic, but for various reasons – funding applications being turned down; collaborators having to switch priorities; projects in limbo as they wait for the other stars to align – that wind suddenly changed direction and became little more than a gentle breeze. For the first time this year, I had no forward momentum and entered a month not knowing where to go next. There were options to choose from, as there always are when you have a 130-page Word document of “ideas” to fall back on, but for the first time in over a year, I couldn’t confidently choose which course of action was the best to take, and to be honest that spooked me a bit. My creative decisions haven’t always been perfect, but I’ve at least been able to reasonably argue why I’ve believed them to be the right decision to take at that time; this time I couldn’t.
May therefore became a period of reflection. A time to reassess where my writing was at and evaluate all the options available to me. To begin with, I struggled. But as I mused on it further, I had a mini epiphany. When I first started The Writing Journal, back in September last year, it was with two set goals in mind.
1. Write the first draft of a feature film.
2. Write the first draft of a novel.
With the help of these self-imposed, publicly-accountable deadlines, I was able to finish both these drafts by Christmas; something I had previously thought would be impossible and indeed probably would have been had I not set writing targets for myself in this way. It was a turning point for my writing as a whole, and showed that there was a way to create drive and momentum for myself in times where external forces weren’t. This led me to a realisation.
What was the original purpose of The Writing Journal?
To keep me writing.
It seems frustratingly simple, seeing it written down like that, but in the hubbub of funding applications and feature treatments, it’s something I’d lost sight of. With that in mind, I’ve decided to go back to basics with this month’s writing goals, and embrace what started this ball rolling in the first place…
Target Number 1: Spend a minimum of 20 hours editing my novel.
For one reason or another, I often find it difficult to appreciate the novel as an actual piece of writing work rather than a frivolous hobby. Perhaps because I have always labelled myself a screenwriter? Perhaps because a novel is such a vast undertaking that it seems like too much time to spend “on spec” before being established elsewhere? Perhaps because the novel contains dragons and magic and so therefore feels like too much fun to be classed as work?! Either way, the novel (and the idea behind it) is one of the things that I am most creatively proud of right now, so it seems foolish to side-line it especially when other, more immediate, projects are on hold.
Target Number 2: Write a first draft pitch document for a TV show.
A glaring gap in my portfolio that I have come to discover is that of a TV drama. In this golden age of content, it seems remiss not to have something to at least bring to the party as a writer. Until now, many of my ideas have felt cinematic in their structure, and therefore need a lot of work in order to tease them into having the required depth of story and character to work well as episodic shows. Now, however, I have a couple of ideas that are starting to take that form, so this could be a good area to branch into whilst there is a lull on the feature front.
Of course, things could all change tomorrow, and the whirlwind could sweep me off my feet again and throw all the doubts of the last month out the window. My fingers and toes are certainly crossed for that, but in the meantime, it’s always good to have Plan B chuntering away in the background, which is, thankfully, what The Writing Journal is here for.