Just Pick One
They say that to become great at something, you need to do it for 10,000 hours. In my quest to become a great writer, I’ve altered that approach slightly, because I’m on pace to start 10,000 different scripts that I don’t have time to finish. Same thing, right?
I jest, but I recently found myself in a creative dilemma. For the past few years, I couldn’t wait to become an upperclassman and take nothing but writing classes. All of those pesky requirements would be out of the way, and I could spend my whole life thinking about scripts. All I can say is, be careful what you wish for.
I’m currently taking four different writing classes, each of which requires me to deliver a large script. And I have two extracurricular projects I’m writing at school. Then, of course, I have three scripts I’m trying to write for my own career. Which is to say that I have nine scripts that I feel I should be working on at any given time.
At first, that sounds like my dream come true. There’s nothing I enjoy more than writing, and I have never had a problem with putting in the necessary hours. However, the deeper I get into this, the more it seems like an impossible situation. Anytime I’m working on one script, I feel like I should be stopping and working on another. I can never get into a deep enough groove to do any meaningful work. I’ve also come to realize that the most important part of writing is often what you do when you’re not writing. It’s those moments when you’re driving, or working out, or waiting for an elevator, and you start thinking about your script. Living with your writing to the point where you constantly have story ideas drifting through your subconscious is fantastic. That level of attention is what separates decent stories from good ones, and good ones from great ones. And when you have nine projects going at once, you can’t be that devoted to any of them. At best, you’re setting yourself up to produce decent work.
I say this not to elicit sympathy, but as a creative lesson. I’m learning that I should never work on more than three or four writing projects at a time. It isn’t the end of the world. I’ll learn to prioritize some of them, and I’ll focus more on my private projects when the school year ends. But I often say that the best part of my art school education is the opportunity to make mistakes that professional artists make, before I become a professional. This is certainly one of those times. When you take on too many projects, they all suffer as a result. It’s like Ryan Gosling’s thoughts about a tapas bar that also plays samba music: “Just pick one. Do one right.”