I bought myself a ticket to the London Screenwriter’s Festival as a Christmas present to myself with some money my Nana gave me. I’d started writing again in February 2010 and I had step outlines for two screenplays done, one of which I was completely in love with and itching to turn into a draft. I’d even gone so far as to write it out on cards, scene by scene, and tack it to a timeline on the wall in my writing. I was certain that by the time the Festival rolled around I’d have a magnificent draft to take with me.
But then life intervened. I took on a new job, in a new sector, with more responsibility. I was working all hours just to keep up. The screenplay stalled. I switched to another project. It wasn’t a screenplay, maybe a novella. It went OK for awhile but my time was more and more pressured. It got stuck too. It felt like that outline on the wall was mocking me. I started to avoid my writing room.
By the time the emails about the Festival started arriving, I’d forgotten I even had tickets. I kind of resented them. I no longer felt like a screenwriter. Or even a writer. Work was still hectic. How could I possibly take time off work for something no longer part of my life?
Luckily, my partner and sister know what’s good for me better than I do and they prodded and pushed me until I got over myself (although I’m embarrassed to admit that I dragged my feet that first day like a teenager resisting a family outing). I crammed into Tuke Hall for the session, squeezing a seat on the stairs. All those people. I was awed, and more than a little intimidated. I can go home and work after lunch, I thought. But by the time Chris Jones had explained Vogler’s hero journey by acting out Star Wars and forced us to make friends with the person next to us, my fears had started to crumble away and there was no way I was ditching.
Writing is such a solitary pursuit, for me at least. My mind and heart are crowded with the lives of my characters but I don’t share those much. So my writer-life gets packed in a little box while I try to keep up with work and family and friends. Every day I get out that box, tool along for an hour or two, then pack it away again.
LSWF let me open the box for a few days and share it with like-minded people. I’m rubbish at networking but even I managed to meet people: to a fault speakers and delegates alike were generous, open and passionate about the craft of writing. I soaked up knowledge: practical techniques from people who actually make a living from this stuff. The new ideas dislodged the blocks in my brain and all of a sudden I could see how to move on in the projects that were stuck and I had to write. I wrote more in those three days – even on the train home – than I had in weeks.
My writing room beckons me now. I get up before the alarm and the sunrises while I scribble. Instead of mocking me, the outline on the wall excites me and inspires me, I can see what I need to do now. Nothing else changed: my work is still hectic, my time is still pressed, but I have a new attitude and a bunch of new tools in my toolkit. I’m determined not to lose the momentum the conference gave me, so I’m setting myself some new goals. I’m going again next year, this time with that completed draft. And I’ll take advantage of the industry connections and pitch that script.
The 10 things I’m going to do/have already done:
1. Start writing every day again [ ✓]
2. Follow up with the people I met [ ✓]
3. Set a schedule to finish at least one draft screenplay by next year’s event [ ✓]
4. Prepare to pitch a screenplay next year [ ]
5. Sign up for the Linda Aronson masterclass [ ✓]
6. Read more screenplays [ ✓]
7. Add to the library:
- On Screenwriting (ed. Paul Cronin) [ ✓]
- 21st century screenwriting (Linda Aronson) [ ✓]
- Coffee Break Screenwriter (Pilar Alessandra) [ ✓] (recommended by @daveherman)
8. Get name cards printed [ ✓]
9. Find a writing group [ ]
10. Go to networking events [ ✓]