I’ve always been a big fan of those books that are a collection of interviews with Hollywood screenwriters where they tell you, with grating self-deprecation and lashings and lashings of false-modesty, how they got their big break to their billion dollar Oscar winning career, their learned thoughts on the tricky rewrite process, and the hardest scene they’ve ever had to crack that then went on to make the Top 10 Moments of Brilliance of All Time. With shelves and shelves of these go-to manuals to count on, I’m rarely more inspired than when I’m eyeballs deep in the dizzying world of real writer’s habits. And the bonus of this intense research I have chosen to do into the world and workings of other writers is that it allows me to indulge my own personal favoured ‘habit’ – the art of chronic screenwriting procrastination.
Screenwriting Procrastination & Procrasturbation
Just to paint a little picture for you (which took me hours and I ran out of cobalt blue watercolour in doing so but was so worth it), just thinking about writing this article has led me to invent and make a new salsa (hot to bubbling then chilled cold, fresh and tinned tomatoes), Facetime my husband in Las Vegas a record breaking four times (yes, he is trying to do a real job and yes, indeed, it is much much earlier in his American day than I’d originally thought) and taken no less than nine pictures of my cat sleeping next to a Kermit puppet, which I’ve turned into a fake newspaper headline and sent to all my friends. Who are also trying to do proper work, I hear.
I have some writery friends who I meet up with in a group situation twice a year for a gut-wrenching game of work one-upmanship in a pub situation, and talk often turns to this type of thing. “What’s your habit” someone will say, Jeff Goldsmith-style, and we’ll all chortle knowingly and vie to add the phrase ‘to my knowledge, you’re a writer” to prove that we’re worthy of being in this gang and that we have indeed listened to every last Creative Screenwriting and Backstory podcast ever recorded. And to my horror, they all had ‘habits’ and it was not simple nose-picking or worse, sticking their hand down their trousers and staring into space for hours on end.
Procrasturbating as I call it.
They had schedules and alarm clocks. They used index cards and got dressed in the mornings. They allotted mornings to research and writing to afternoons, some of them worked weekends and through the night, they had filing systems and rented office space, they knew the rules of the British Library and had found the function on their computer to turn the internet off for peace sake, for pete’s sake. I listened in embarrassed silence, thinking of the chaos of my ‘work space’, of my love of Capoteing it (a posh way of saying writing in bed which is a posh way, in of itself, of saying not even bothering to get up that day), of how I’d bunked off entirely the other day to travel 25 miles see a mouthwatering litter of 14 kittens and pretended to myself that it was ‘for a scene’, and of once watching all eight seasons of The Big Bang Theory (I’ll do that math for you, that’s 192 episodes) as ‘research for a rom-com’.
But hey, it works for me. I have never missed a deadline, ever. I have about nine things on the go at once but they don’t all need love and attention all the time because luck and timing often haven’t woken up yet either. If the mood takes me, I can write through the night like the best of you but I’ll only look haggard and grumpy when I want to celebrate my triumph and be cross that I ruined my own party with my ugly tetchy tiredness.
Life is for living and then exaggerating wildly in writing the next day and, if it’s not to be, then sometimes I think it’s the procrastinating that’s the most inspirating.
What? Is that not a word? Says who? *reads dictionary for the next six days solidly under the guise of finding new expressions to a*se around with instead of working* .
There could be a film in that, you know.
Tamzin Rafn is a screenwriter and former Development Executive, represented by Casarotto Ramsay in the UK and WME in LA. She wrote ALBATROSS, worked in the main vein of script development in the UK, and gets unlucky quite often with London’s winged rats doing their business on her head. No she will not read your fu*king script, Industrial Scripts do that and do it well thanking ye kindly. You can follow Tamzin on Twitter, or you can check out her IMDb profile.
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