Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Starving screenwriter tip: How to save over 1,000 dollars (and hours!) per year

$1000 could really help your screenwriting career, couldn't it? Think about it:

$1000 equals six months' worth of food, if you eat frugally (about $5/day).
$1000 equals entering two or three writing contests every month.
$1000 is postage for over 2000 snail-mail query letters.
$1000 is a new computer, the one expensive thing a serious writer can't do without.

Where can you find an extra $1000 a year? Here's an easy way: If you have cable or satellite TV, GET RID OF IT.

Yep, get rid of cable. Really. It sucks up your time. It sucks up your money. Having all those channels encourages you to "veg out" and look for something, anything to watch whenever you have a block of free time. Writing a book or a screenplay requires daily effort and motivation, much like training for a marathon. You have to work at it pretty much every single day whether you feel like it or not, and much of the time you won't initially feel like it. (Starting is always the hardest part, isn't it?) It's so much easier to follow the path of least resistance: "Damn, I was gonna write tonight, but I have to find out how 'Unsolved Mysteries' turns out. Maybe after the show's over. Oh, but then there's this cool show about ancient weaponry on...." Sound familiar?

It's always easier to be passive than to be active, so eliminate the extra temptation. Every hour you spend watching TV, you probably could have written another quarter- to a half-page or so. How many hours a day do you spend watching empty and forgettable TV? Two? Four? Over the course of a year, that's a whole first draft of a novel, or first draft and first re-write of a screenplay you might have written!

I'm not saying "never" watch TV, nor am I saying that TV is "bad." There are some wonderful, fun, well-written shows, with compelling storylines and complex characters, which can enrich your life and your creativity. But figure out what handful of shows you really want to see, and plan your viewing carefully. If you miss out on a really great show you can catch it later on DVD (more on cheap and free DVD rentals in another post). Just don't sit around channeling-surfing* to "see what's on." Skip the junk shows that don't add anything to your life or your creativity (reality shows, talk shows, tabloid "newsmagazine" shows, and all the "filler" shows you don't like but are scheduled in between shows you do like). Shut off the nonstop distraction and give your mind the space to work on your projects. Take a walk. Read. Do a puzzle. Bake. Paint. Take a nap. Doodle. Daydream. Whatever allows you to think.

Let's say you waste about three hours a day watching forgettable shows you don't really care about. This is actually a pretty conservative figure, considering most people waste that much time just on "late night TV" alone; most people waste much MORE than three hours per day. But anyway....

3 hours a day x 365 days = 1,095 hours a year, wasted.

Do you know how many hours there are in a month of 31 days? Just 744.

In other words, if you waste a mere three hours a day watching TV, you are frittering away well over a solid MONTH out of every year. So don't tell me you "don't have any time to write," if you're still watching hours and hours of TV every day. You are simply choosing to be passive, rather than choosing to take the harder (but perhaps infinitely more rewarding) path.

*Now, none of this advice applies to the normal, regular person who isn't a professional or aspiring writer. By all means, you dear normal folks lucky enough to be free of "the midnight disease," enjoy all the scripted shows you can find! After all, without readers and audiences to entertain, what would be the purpose of writing?

Money saved by getting rid of cable: $500 - $1200+/year.
Time gained for writing, reading, thinking, and sleeping: priceless.

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