Marc-Aurèle Palla's BLOG


It all counts as work

  • By Mark Harding, 26/04/2020
BLOG: It all counts as work
Photo: The Ghost Writer, Summit Entertainment

The idea of writing for the rest of your life, correction, writing for a living for the rest of your life can be more than a little daunting, and potentially, debilitating. It should be no surprise then, and no shame that we sometimes falter.

Think small

People, I don’t know who exactly, but you know who I mean, will always tell you to THINK BIG, on occasion this can be appropriate but often the approach that works for me is THINK SMALL!

‘BIG’ is a thirty-year career, with multiple award-winning scripts and more accolades than you have shelf space for. Sitting down to write with this projection in mind can be overwhelming, even detrimental to one’s mental health. It is way too far in the future and is likely a fantasy. And let us not think that having just one script produced, shot, and released is thinking much smaller.

Motivate yourself to write for 5 minutes is about the size and scale I can manage. Not a week, or an afternoon or even an hour. Sit down to work for 5 minutes. These are the days when I look up from my desk and only then realise, I have been working for 5 hours. And the reverse is also true, if I sit down with a self-decree of AT LEAST 5 HOURS WORK, after 5 minutes I am back staring out the window or doing household chores.

But what is the reward after only 5 minutes? It is the motivation to write for another 5 minutes. And another 5 and another 5 and so on and so on. One. Word. At. A. Time. This is the only way to make peace with the enormity of the task that lies ahead.

If you sit down and write quietly the whole day, you’ll have written at least two or three pages, even if it’s a struggle, if you keep at it, eventually you’ll have a couple of hundred pages. Akira Kurosawa.

Even with the most menial and soul crushing jobs there is a tiny sense of accomplishment, you feel rewarded. It might only be minimum wage and it might only last for the four days following payday but dammit it is something! Something to show for your efforts.

A transaction has taken place. I will do this thing for you, and you give me money. We can both live our lives. Fine. Everybody understands what the deal is.

At the end of a month’s writing which is not soul-crushing, which is conversely, soul enhancing, into which you have poured your heart and mind… no such transaction has taken place. And this goes for professionals as much as amateurs. Every professional working today will have slaved over something for nothing.

But there is no such thing as nothing. Everything counts towards something.

It all counts as working, enriching, developing, improving, expanding. All those tasty ingredients.

The constant process

When asked of an evening, either by someone else or of yourself, what did you do today? Or worse, what did you accomplish today? And your answer is, “I had a conversation with an old friend and read a book”. IT COUNTS. It ALL counts.
These moments are a writer’s job application, interview, training, experience, and promotion. This is what will culminate in the reward, in the completed transaction. And each piece, no matter how tiny, or seemingly insignificant is necessary to succeed. Millions of tiny accomplishments, that by themselves can cause one to become discouraged, that suggest progress is so slight it is barely happening, but happening it is, and belief in this will get you to your desk, for just 5 minutes. 5 minutes that will lead to great writing, imaginary greatness will lead nowhere.

But wait! Is this enough? Don’t we need a thousand other factors to fall into place, the primary one being luck? Sorry to be annoying and frustrating but…

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