What the Scriptly Writing Challenge Taught Me
I did it. I made it. I got to the end of The Literal Challenge‘s ‘Scriptly Writing’ challenge. That felt both the shortest, and yet longest, two weeks of my life. Scriptly Writing. Writing fourteen screenplays in fourteen days. So what have I learned during this gruelling two weeks of being blasted, naked and spinning cartwheels out of my comfort zone?
I can write things I didn’t know I could
I had never written a screenplay before the challenge. Now I have fourteen scripts. Every day was a different challenge. A different prompt. A different angle. There wasn’t much time to think ‘I can’t do this’. Believe me, I tried. You just had to get on with it and write before the next brief came out.
I even found myself writing pieces of script that made me laugh. I didn’t think I could write anything funny. I have since been comforted by an accomplished playwright who told me that if I find my words funny, there will be someone else, somewhere out there, who will also find it funny. Allegedly.
It doesn’t have to be perfect
Okay, probably haven’t learnt that too well, as I keep self-editing this as I type, but I understand the principle. From the moment each brief would land in our inboxes. I knew that I had to go from an idea, Fade in… write a complete script to Fade out… by bedtime. There was no time to write a feature-length, movie masterpiece. No time to spend, mulling over lots of alternative ideas and changing my mind. Not even thyme toe woory abowt speelings. Often, especially if I had a busy day, I would have to take whatever sprang to mind and run with it and make the best out of it.
Writing is Hard
Well, I knew that. I already have a writing habit. I get up to write, at 8 am, every day. But, getting up and imagining something new, and writing it to completion every single day, without fail, is excruciating.
Every day we had thirty-six hours to write a complete script, which had to be submitted by 10 am. So, an entire day to write it. I didn’t dare leave mine so close to the morning deadline, so I ensured that I drew each script I wrote, to a conclusion and submitted, by the next briefing. Or, at least, before I went to bed that evening. There was only one submission day that I left the script until the next day, and I found that all too stressful and reverted to completing the evening before.
I’m capable of more than I give myself credit
Okay, even though complete, they are all very rough first drafts. They won’t be winning any Oscars any time soon, but there are a couple of bits of work in there, where I surprised myself. Where I thought, this has legs. This script could even be filmed, or expanded further. I’ve seen worse. One of the days when I wrote something funny, I laughed out loud writing it. On more than one day, I wrote bizarre things, that I would never have thought of, had the pressure not been there to get it done. Sometimes work that feels shit whilst writing it, isn’t so bad after all, in hindsight.
I can work under pressure. If, I want to
Who knew? (Besides coal). Usually, when under pressure, my brain disengages from the real world. But that isn’t such a bad thing when it comes to writing. In the first couple of days, there were moments of complete overwhelm, where the brief seemed so vastly open to potential interpretations that I did not believe I could write anything in time.
I gave myself a little support along the way by constraining myself with a randomly picked genre, a few words and an image. It helped immensely. The Scriptly Writing brief gave me a starting point, but the additions nudged me into a direction to aim. They narrowed my focus. Calmed the brain squirrels that were bouncing off the inside of my skull down long enough to get some acorns filled with words, passed their beady little eyes, and onto the page.
I can start what I finish
Some scripts I may have tenuously drawn to a close. Like the last episode of a season one finale that has, yet to be, renewed. But they were complete. It meant ending each day with a sense of accomplishment, whether I had turned out just a couple of pages or many.
The last day was my favourite day. Not because the script was good. The opposite. At Writer’s Hour, at 8 am, I wrote down less than a handful of script ideas. I picked one that seemed like it would be the simplest and easiest to create by the end of the day and wrote it.
My granddaughter visited later that morning. When I told her what I was up to, she wanted to take part. So I ended up writing her in, setting up my phone on a tripod as a makeshift camera, and creating a short film. I got my script submitted by 10 pm that same evening, but I was still up until 2 am the next morning editing in transitions and adding sound and music.
Feeling a little bereft this week, without the daily writing briefs, but it is also a relief to have a release from the pressure. A little space to breathe.