I know, this may seem like a departure from the usual articles about winning screenplays for contests. But I often have people tell me that they find it hard to write because of other commitments or they don’t have a clear place where they can escape to write. Don’t you feel like running away from writing when your desk gets so cluttered? There is a connection between a chaotic desk and a muddled mind. Reflect on all the times when you feel overwhelmed, confused or unproductive.
Chances are, your desk was a mess; the physical manifestation of a frenzied brain. We’ve all been there. The sticky notes, pages with random ideas on them, stacks of writing magazines; all the elements of putting together your next screenplay. Sometimes all that mess can actually slow you down. It does for me when I’m trying to write my next article.
How do you put everything you have into some sort of order so that you can not only get back to work, but actually find something when you need it? It’s easy, and although it may seem like it’ll take a lot of time, it won’t be all that bad. Keep in mind, you’re doing this to be more productive so that you can get your script polished in time to meet the deadline of that upcoming screenwriting contest.
Here’s what you’ll need: Some tabbed file folders, a pen and an empty garbage pail. See, I told you it would be easy! Let’s get started. In just Three Simple Steps, you’ll be back to completing your contest winning script with a clear mind.
Step 1, Clear an area on the floor near your desk. It doesn’t have to be a huge area, but makes sure there’s no spilled soda or coffee on the floor from those late night writing sessions. The reason you will be using the floor, is because you will be able to stand over your new piles of material as you clear your desk.
The idea is to create new, organized files; not just another large mess. It also gives you an “eagle’s-eye” view of everything you will be saving, thus speeding up the process of organizing.
Step 2, Keep in mind that you are going to only touch each piece of paper once. Do not – and this is very important – do not pick up something and set it back down with the intention of organizing it later. Now is the time to handle it.
Here are two simple questions to ask yourself to make this entire process easier and quicker.
Why was I saving this? You should know right away why that item is taking up space on your desk. If you forgot why you had it on your desk, you can probably throw it away. If you do remember why you were saving it, then ask yourself:
Do I need it? It’s amazing how much stuff we accumulate that we don’t need. Old notes from script changes we made, ideas for a new screenplay that you opted not to write. If you don’t need it, chuck it.
If you are saving an entire magazine for only one article, cut it out and throw away the rest of the magazine. Reduce everything down to the bare essentials.
OK, you’re more than halfway done with the process, only one more step to go!
Step 3, Take those file folders and begin to label the tabs. Start with the first item that you see on your desk. Perhaps you have a piece of paper that has some ideas about a great character you want to develop. Write “Characters” on the tab, place the open folder on the floor, and set that piece of paper inside it.
See, you already on the way to cleaning up your mess. What’s the next piece of paper that you see? It could be notes about one of your scripts that you need to incorporate into the next draft. Write “Feedback” on the tab of another file folder and set it on the floor. Place that paper inside. Write “Articles” on another file tab for those magazine articles you’re saving.
As you keep going, you’ll find that the folders will rapidly fill up with the random pieces of paper cluttering your desk, and your mind. Keep working through the pile. By the time you are done, everything on your desk should either be neatly tucked away in a fresh folder, or in the waste barrel.
Now with a clean desk you can get back to the important task at hand; finishing your script so you can make that contest deadline. Should you need to find any of that information you filed, it’ll all be at your fingertips. Just make sure everything gets put back when you’re done, otherwise you’ll have to start from scratch with this process!
In a previous article, Great Beginnings, we talked about how to grab the attention of the judges. Next week, we’ll talk about how to keep their focus riveted to your screenplay in Great Journeys so your screenplay takes it’s rightful place at the top!