I remember Stephen King saying in his book, On Writing, that he would write in the morning, get his errands done in the afternoon, and read at night. Must be nice. A screenwriter’s life, however, is vastly more complicated. For many years, I personally felt that success in mastering the craft occured only after the long haul of dedicating yourself in doing these 7 things:
1. Write like crazy.
2. Read screenplays, movie websites, and books like crazy.
3. Review other scripts like crazy.
4. Watch movies like crazy.
5. Network like crazy.
6. Have an open, crazy dialogue with other writers and filmmakers about the craft.
7. Get out and experience a wonderful, crazy life.
However, I was recently contacted by the wonderful Tim Claque, a writer / director from the United Kingdom. He shared with me his brilliant chart (above), which really broadens even my own thinking about many aspects that make up a screenwriter’s life. Admittedly, I was concerned he might be some traveling salesman with a workshop or a book to sell, but he isn’t. In fact, after about the second or third email from him, it occurred to me that he is actually part of The Revolution. He’s just an artist (like us) who’s willing to engage other artists in the arena of ideas. And this is just a chart he created for himself so that he can keep a balance in his own life in the areas of knowledge and experience as a screenwriter.
He told me, “The idea for the diagram came from some corporate work I was doing. I was writing a script for a bank. And as part of my research I spent a week or two observing the lives of financial salesmen. What was interesting was that they divided their sales lives up in a similar way. They spent only about a third of their development time on their actual sales skills. The other two thirds were on 'other' things. Things like keeping in touch with the business news, getting better at admin, researching new sales ideas, meeting colleagues and meeting competitors - so many things. Well that's what the top people did anyway. You can see the parallels and from that the Scriptwriter's Life took form. It’s easy to see those parallels in hindsight but initially it took me a while to get there. Overall I guess the message I took away from it is - don't just get your head down. Keep your head up and observe the world. Its key for a salesman to understand people and understand the world. But for a scriptwriter is even more important.”
He said that the “diagram is a work in progress and will always be changing following comments from fellow writers. It’s not about fads or the fashionable trends… Eventually, the aim is to create a CD-ROM that has interviews, examples, and advice on it for these areas to bring it all to life. This would be a funded CD-ROM and therefore, free to all writers, as well.”
I asked him what he gets out of his own chart. He said, “When I look at the diagram I use it for reflection. I try to find the thing that I've done the least of recently. Today I realised I've had my head down in rewrites and editing for a long time. My red circle - which is about building up MY character - has been forgotten about. The danger if that continues would be I would lose touch with new ideas and become stale. So I spent part of today reading Oliver Stone's recent BAFTA lecture and watching the film ‘Oldboy’ which has passed me by first time but I knew I wanted to watch. It's important to realise that most writers do most of this stuff most of the time. The diagram allows you to just explore your boundaries a little more. It challenges you to just do that bit more variety and be more fully rounded as a writer AND a person. For me that would represent the next time I feel I need to develop, I shouldn't watch another film - because that's what I did last time. I should do something else ‘red.’ Get to the art gallery, check out the box figures more thoroughly, read a script.”
And to that I say, “amen.” Good job, Tim.