16 February 2010

Poo Bags, Bad-Assery, & Going Off the Grid: How I Work

by Tyler Weaver.  Follow me on Twitter.

Maybe I'm alone here, but I'm endlessly entertained by reading articles by writers, filmmakers, etc. whom I respect in which they detail their working methods.  I don't think my fascination stems from seeking inspiration, rather from realizing that (most) of those whose work I admire are just as neurotic and crazed as I, with the addition of twenty years experience.

My days are divided into three segments: Poo Bags (in which I take care of assorted househusbandry, such as following the dog around outside with a black bag to capture targeted droppings).  Bad Assery (in which I attempt to write scripts and be a filmmaker, writing bad ass (or not) things).  And Off the Grid - in which I let my virtual self slumber and recuperate so that I may rinse, wash, and repeat for the next day.

Poo Bags...

I get up at one of three times: 6AM, 7AM, or 8AM (dependent on my extremely significant other's (herein referred to as "Dear Frog") work schedule) and make coffee and breakfast for aforementioned Dear Frog - generally burning toast and slowly mastering the art of spreading cold butter on said burnt toast.  Ideas do not come to me at this point, as I barely know my name, let alone how to butter bread.

Also at this time, I uncage the beast (not a euphemism) and take my dog, Lola - who by this time is whining in her crate, demanding to be let free and smother us with love - outside for the first of many Poo Bag trips.  As it is winter, the first words, creatively, out of my mouth upon venturing into the arctic tundra that is Cleveland are "Motherfucker, it's cold" or some such proclamation of disdain.

Following this catalyst, my day takes off in any number of directions.

I spend my mornings formatting posts for this blog, or penning reviews of the previous evening's television shows, or writing posts.  The pre-noon hours are my prime time for non-fiction writing.  Generally, I am not in my office at these hours, but rather working on my laptop while Lola rests on the couch from her intense morning of dragging me about the yard like a human dog sled.

Coffee is required as is a healthy dose of RSS feed catch-up.

Also during this time, I move from job creating (the writing, Multi-Hyphenate) to job hunting, and peruse endless listings that don't tell me anything, except that most of the listings are written by people who don't even know what they're talking about.

I tend to check email waaay too often during this time.  I have no idea why I do this, as I'm no longer at a job where my main form of communication is email.  I've gotten better about it, and am in the process of instituting a "less is more" email checking regime, with the ultimate goal of checking my mail three times a day only.  For more on this, I'd recommend checking out Leo Babauta's excellent Zen Habits blog, which is one of my personal favorites.

The pre-noon hours are also my most productive networking time, especially through Twitter (and through which 95% of the contributors to this blog came).  I manage two accounts - my own personal one (@tylerweaver) and the Multi-Hyphenate one (@multihyphenate), which can lead to random bouts of twitzophrenia.

My articles turned in, MH articles formatted and posted and Twit-pimped, it's time for yet another adventure out-of-doors with Lola for more Poo Bag time, thus concluding my morning, beginning the first of my "off-the-grid" times.


Following lunch, I make every attempt I can to avoid food coma zombification and the sapping of any and all creative energies.  To this end, I venture into my office, and remain there for most of the afternoon, until the evening's "off the grid" time.

My office is divided into three areas - the iMac-connected one, the long dining room table that is an internet-free zone, and my couch and coffee table which is a computer-free zone.  Creating these three separate areas helps greatly in diminishing my addiction to becoming a professional emailer and/or Tweeter.

It's in these areas that I work on various film projects.  I've recently moved away from hand-writing everything (I've long been an evangelist of long-hand first drafts).  It's during this time that I remind myself that I am a filmmaker first, and relish in the opportunity to work on my projects.

This is also the time that my writing partner usually comes over (once or twice a week) and we hash out where we are with the script.  If we're stuck, we'll usually have a breakthrough, and if we're moving ahead, we just shoot the shit - but still manage to get somewhere with the script.

It's important for me to want to work on my projects.  The way I ensure I do this (and I am not the most productive writer all the time - some days I can churn out 15 pages, other days 15 words) is that I do not quit writing or working on a project for the day when I'm stuck.  I quit working when things are going smoothly.  That way, I want to get back to my work the next day, as I ended with a positive note.  If I spend my Poo Bag and Off the Grid time thinking about how much I suck, or how awful this part of the movie is, or how I'm a loser because I can't figure it out - I'll loathe this time.

I'm successful at this 5/10 times.  Constantly working to improve that ratio and become more disciplined.

It's also during this time that I turn off the internet connection.  My previous employ was a website, and I was constantly online checking things.  I've given up that part of my day, and institute an email check of once before I get into Bad Assery, and once following.  I'm not perfect at this by any means, but I'm getting better.

Oh, and in case you're interested, I have four programs that are essential to this (and my morning non-fiction) time:

- Scrivener for scriptwriting

- Evernote for notetaking

- Google Docs for keeping MH posts organized

- Moleskine notebooks for illegible scribblings and brain dumps.

Around 4PM - assuming I'm happy where I am, and like the good gambler, have quit while I'm ahead - I go off the grid until after 9 or 10 PM.

Off the Grid...

This is my "Robocop in his cool chair" time.  I'm offline, and try to be a decent human being.  If the above goals (quitting while ahead, and limiting online time) have been met, it's 80% certain I will succeed (I allow a 20% variance for the inevitable "stick up my ass" days).

Dear Frog arrives home, and we spend the evening doing as much or as little as possible.  We'll catch up on our Netflix Instant addiction, watch the shows that I'll be reviewing the next day, or chase the dog around the house, avoiding the fate of any number of Lola's chewed apart toys.

I'll generally pop back online later in the evening after one of the shows I need to review to record my thoughts on the episode (I never take notes during - always after, and even then just tiny scribblings to jar my memory the next morning).  If the mood strikes, I may format the next day's Multi-Hyphenate posts (to save me the time in the morning when I'm working on my articles).

And with that, I'll head off to bed to read more of Dan Simmons' THE TERROR or whichever book is on my nightstand, then collapse in an exhausted heap before getting up the next day to...

Rinse.  Wash.  Repeat.

Tyler Weaver is a filmmaker and unrelenting multi-hyphenate, a regular contributor to the pulptone.com website, and is the founder and EIC of Multi-Hyphenate... which you're reading right now.  He's currently making new things...


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