During the pandemic and all of this home time, it makes sense to shift focus to screenwriting. In this episode, we will talk about generating ideas and expanding creative thinking and creative writing while staying home.
Full Episode Transcript
NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by a tool I highly recommend called called Happy Scribe (affiliate link). We do our best to adjust the transcript so that it reads smoothly, but if we missed something please forgive any typos or errors.
|Good morning, everyone. I am happy today because I am indoors and it’s snowing and snow is my favorite weather. I know that’s weird, I know most people like seventies and sunny, and I like that too, but I really just totally love fresh snow and going out with my dog and taking a walk when nobody’s out, especially lately. But we had the first tracks of walking this morning, and that was fantastic. And I’m indoor now and I’m talking to you and I’m wearing my ugly sweater.
And I love this ugly sweater because it’s from the 80s. It was my mom’s. It’s got shoulder pads. It’s got a weird print of skiers, but it’s like kind of black and white in this, like, weird pattern, it’s very 80s. And I love… I wear the sweater when it’s time for me to ski or even in, snowstorms, and that’s what we’re going through right now. So I hope you’re home and safe and well.
|But it really… I love… I think it’s so beautiful. It’s like the most beautiful thing nature could give is a snowstorm, so not to talk too much about the weather, but I’m pretty… I just feel happy when it’s like this, you know, nothing crazy, but when you don’t have to go out and you’re in a snowstorm and that’s basically what life is about right now, is staying in, it makes me even glad I’m staying.
And if you can stay… And if you can’t stay, “Oh, my God, my heart goes out to you,” and don’t think that I don’t recognize how lucky, you know, I am, but I mean, probably most people who are listening are in California, anyway. So I’m not going to, you know… You’re probably not in Jersey, but if you have to go out in Jersey today, it is a rough day. But if you get to stay in, you know… If you’re going to have a pandemic stay-in day when it’s snowing, you kind of can appreciate it because you’d be like, “Well, maybe I would have had to go out today, but now I’m staying in for a number of reasons anyway.”
So that’s that’s where I’m at this morning.
Today, we’re going to talk about a couple of ways… Two ways to come up with ideas for writing screenplays, I have… Yes, screenplays. I have a number of them listed in my producing class. But I was reminded of this query when I was just on a forum about filmmaking this week, and somebody asked about how they were indoors all the time and they’re not going out and shooting, and so how do you come up with ideas to write a screenplay, especially if you’re kind of not in that mode?
And I’m going to be honest, I am not in that mode. I really have not been in a very writing-oriented mode.
I’ve been in a guitar mode.
I’ve been in a singing and dancing mode.
But I’m not really in a writing mode.
And so, I might take up some of these practices again, because I’m not really there in terms of writing and I don’t I don’t feel compelled to right now, though.
But if you do, this podcast is for you.
So we’re only going to go through two methods because I have a ton in my course, but these are new methods that I didn’t really think about, and one of them has been adjusted for being indoors and pandemic style just to kind of stoke the creativity a bit and whatever that you do as a creative person, but especially for writing screenplays [and] screenwriting.
So the first one, which is one that was in the [filmmaker] forum… Somebody asked this question and somebody said… Another person answered and said, “Why don’t you go to the Reddit for writing prompts?”
And I didn’t even know there was a Reddit for writing prompts.
But there’s a Reddit for everything, really.
But there’s even writing prompts anywhere if you just do a Google search. You’ll find that, because I have been using writing prompts, where people just give you an idea of something to write about.
[For example), write about your uncle and tell a story of his life. Like just that would be maybe a writing prompt.
Tell me a story about your neighbor. Even if you know nothing about your neighbor.
That’s going to be section two of this podcast.
But section one [of this podcast] is just basically [about how] you can find ideas on the Internet that will just get the ball rolling. And I thought that was a great idea and I have been using that method for a while, and I don’t really feel like I need to rely on that anymore.
I mean, the idea is really for me getting the inspiration to write because I don’t feel compelled to write. It’s not really my… That’s not… That’s not the cog… I’m not that cog in the whole wheel of filmmaking anymore.
I have written a few full screenplays and I prefer to do other stuff. I find writing a bit isolating, honestly.
Ironically, I’m fine isolating as an editor, but I don’t know… I don’t care to be someone who writes the screenplay.
The second way [to get ideas for your screenplays] is really one that I always tap into, and that’s really about the inspiration of it.
And I feel like even though prompts that you find in the Internet will help you get a concept down that you can expand, you might not even need that if you go this second direction, which is…
They are techniques that I found in a book called The Artist’s Way. And I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about this book before. This has been a book that has been very influential in my life.
Somebody gifted it to me when I was 20 years old, and it’s by Julia Cameron and I have read it and done the exercises in it, probably at least 10 times, and that’s a lot because it’s a 12-week program with a lot of exercises and a lot of time consuming homework that is a pleasure to do once you start doing it.
|So don’t get intimidated by a lot of homework in 12-weeks. And it would be a great endeavor to do right now.
I’m going to get into a few of the tools that she uses just to get the ball rolling in terms of creativity.
And some of them seem a little bit challenging and I’ll get into that in a moment. So the idea is… The main tool for creativity is writing three pages a day. Handwritten.
And the reason you do handwritten is [because] it stokes the creativity more, studies have found, but also it helps with your stream of consciousness [thoughts]. It just is more connected to you rather than typing everything out. And the creativity flows…
So you can write three pages every day and it can be anything.
And if you’re blocked, you might write, “I’m blocked. I’m blocked and blocked and blocked.”
Eventually something will come out. That’s not that. And you can go that direction.
Now, that doesn’t sound… From what I’m saying, that does not sound particularly creative. But you’ll find that if you do that enough, eventually it’ll start to flow in a way that it becomes creative. Or maybe you’re talking about an aspect of your life or somebody else’s life or something you’re worried about, and you can go back and take that writing and expand that into a story, expand that into a screenplay. And that’s great.
There’s another aspect of The Artist’s Way that I feel like it is important to emphasize, though.
There’s actually three main things that you always have to do when you’re doing that book.
And I’m not going to get into one of them because it really… You need the book in order to do that. It’s somewhat of an affirmation thing, but it’s really about changing concepts of creativity.
But the other aspect of being a person who is expanding their creativity has got to go and do what she [Julia Cameron] calls “artist dates”.
By the way, this is why I keep posting quotes from Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way… Because I feel like it’s an important thing to anchor creativity and right now when we’re stuck inside.
It’s kind of challenging to go do these artist dates [right now while stuck in our homes].
And what the artists’ dates are is you go, once a week, out by yourself so that you can kind of be in your own head and make your own observations.
And quite frankly, when you’re with someone and you’re in conversation, it’s distracting to your own thought process and your own perceptions. Not that that’s a bad thing. Definitely go do stuff. Well. Right now, I don’t know what to tell you about doing stuff with other people.
But with the artist dates, you go and do it alone. Now, the aloneness during this pandemic is not a problem because a lot of us are social distancing. And I know even though aloneness doesn’t…
We’re always alone it feels like, or we’re within our house, you know, our housing bubble, our household bubble, but we’re not going out and seeing friends. So it’s not that’s not the aspect that’s challenging.
The aspect that’s challenging is that an artist date would typically be something like, “Oh, I’m going to go roller skating!”
And you just go by yourself and you may go to a rink that has roller skating.
And that in itself is a date you take yourself on that is meant to be different than your normal life and therefore create different thoughts and stoke creativity or as Julie Cameron says, “fill the well”.
So right now, it’s rather challenging to go to a place like a roller skating rink or other indoor places and do an artist date.
Some of the artists I used to do is I’d go to a museum or I would go, you know, play tennis by myself and just hit a ball against a wall.
Again, it’s snowing right now, so that’s not a possibility.
Or I would go just get coffee in a new coffee house or I would just really…
But that can be dangerous because then you can kind of throw yourself into a book or a computer and you’re not really paying attention to your atmosphere.
That’s a whole other… That’s a whole chapter in itself in that book.
But going into filling the well… How do you do that when you are told to stay at home unless you need to go out for necessities like prescriptions and food?
So that’s something that’s come up for me a little bit now because I do love to go and just explore places on my own. And I love to go out. I do road trips on my own.
I go travel a little bit less even before the pandemic, just because of the awareness I’m having about… I drive a Prius, but man, I still feel bad when I drive a little bit because I feel like I’m burning up all this gas. So I don’t… I don’t… That’s a whole other… That’s a whole other podcast.
But I do get out, you know, even if it’s me taking a different hiking trail with my dog, I don’t listen to headphones because, again, that’s a distraction.
So I try to be in my head and the creativity kind of flows from there.
A lot of the times my creativity flows just by walking my dog, you know, and I end up recording into my own little notes app that gives me [a place to store my] creative ideas.
So maybe that is just something that would be helpful for you if you take a walk as an artist [date].
But if you’re not doing that already… If your location will allow you to do that.
But what I found inside the house is that there are places inside the house that will… There are places that I don’t think about in my day-to-day life.
I go to the kitchen, I make my coffee, then I sit down at my desk and I do work, and then I go upstairs and I will hang out with the family later on in the day in our living room. And then I go to sleep at night in my bedroom.
But even in my bedroom, there’s the closet. I never actually pay attention to the closet except to grab clothes. So there’s a whole little world in there that has stories galore, especially like objects, old objects.
I have a box full of sentimental stuff in my closet and [if you have a similar box or area of sentimental objects in your house], you can take one of these objects and either tell the story of that and expand from there, or go into a whole story that is prompted by that object and maybe make something up completely.
That’s actually an improv game. I’m always talking about improv games.
It’s great for creativity, improv, and so that’s a possibility.
So I also find that going into [my long term] projects will help.
So I am doing a dive into an unexplored corner of my closet and I am finding things I want to sell.
And so I’m starting to photograph those things.
And even that in itself is a [creative] project.
And maybe I could even tell stories about the projects I want to do.
Or the moments I’ve had being within this household for a year.
I’m sure there have been moments in your life…
This is such a… Just a time when everything is elevated.
So that’s what drama is about. It’s witnessing something that doesn’t normally happen and oh my gosh, do we not have, like, a whole year of that?
So these are all little bits that could be put into a storyline of a screenplay.
And maybe think about your life. And I’m sure there’s no one here that hasn’t had some very… Just different moments that gave them pause
It could be it could be sad, it could also be happy, “Ah, we made it out. We… This happened and so we are safe. This happened…” Just elevated moments of drama.
And so in the moment, it might have felt good or bad.
But as you’re writing it, you can see how that might be interesting to watch within a cinematic form.
So I said projects…
Another thing is just calling people, because I feel like that’s almost like exploring a whole other world. So if you’re not connecting with your friends, this is maybe a way to connect, because I find especially now where there’s not much going on when I talk to friends, it does get my brain in this mode of thinking about the conversation and processing what we said.
And then there’s kind of an idea about maybe what I want to do in the future or what they said, or they shift a perception of what’s going on right now within the whole pandemic situation. And that is a bunch of creativity that just fires off.
That’s my hand, snapping [my fingers in the background].
… Just fires off just from a conversation, because you don’t know where that conversation is going to go.
But generally, when you’re at home alone a lot, you know where your brain’s going to go a lot of the time unless you’re listening to, you know, classes or audiotapes or something that that brings you to another way of thinking, which I also do.
But I don’t really find that it stokes a creative writing aspect. I just feel like it shifts my thinking in a very inherent way that I don’t even notice a lot of the time.
So phone calls are another one. [And] I already said exploring your space. It could just be a corner of like a kitchen or something like that… A cabinet. “Oh, what’s this food back here? We have beans from 1996 that expired. What are these doing here? And I wonder what the story is and I wonder who bought them. Maybe it’s my dad who’s passed away and maybe I could tell the story about that.”
Like you just have to kind of say, What about this? What about that? How could I make this interesting?”
You know, an expired can of beans from 1996… You know…
So that’s… Just throwing that out there as an example of ways that you can [do]. Take, really, anything and really go creative on it, do BRAIN JAZZ and make it a whole… A whole story, so…
Let’s see, oh, the last one.
So, you know, my interactions are limited right now, as are many other peoples’ interactions.
And I’m deciding right now… This moment of silence is deciding how specific I want to go with this story, because I wrote in a very specific thing, but I don’t want to go there, maybe.
If your interactions are limited, like mine are, to household, and then to walking around your neighborhood in order to, maybe, walk a dog, you could probably get a lot just from looking out your window.
And especially if you don’t know your neighbors, which is kind of the disease of suburbia, even if you’ve lived there for decades, you know, you can write a lot about that… Just make up a story about something, you know.
I mean, if you know your neighbors, maybe again, it goes more into the phone call method that I mentioned earlier.
But if you are living in, let’s say, suburbia and you just see someone and you see them every day packing up their car at six a.m. and you’re going, “I wonder where they’re going,” you know…
And you can write a story about that.
Maybe I will be specific.
I was going to talk about how I imagine that [the writers of] Desperate Housewives, which I’ve seen only a few episodes so I can’t say this is an accurate statement… But I imagine that those people who wrote Desperate Housewives probably grew up or currently live on a block in suburbia, where they could really just look at the personalities there and go, “I could make a whole show about this whole neighborhood,”
And BOY, I COULD in my neighborhood.
And I really could write a lot about especially…
Most of my neighbors are fantastic, actually, and I do know them, but there are just a few that are just unbelievably crazy and an outwardly aggressive and I know everybody’s going through a hard time, so I try to remember that and just, you know, be chill about it, but I could probably write a whole movie about some of the interactions.
I’ve had brief interactions with neighbors that I don’t really know except for their aggressiveness, and I could write their whole backstory, even though it’s made up. I could write their whole backstory and why they acted like that and just really form a whole feature film about that, and there could be a therapeutic aspect to that, too [because it is traumatic to me when people repeatedly come at me like that. I have a bit of PTSD from the interactions I have had while walking my dog in my neighborhood].
I have no interest in doing that because really, I like my brain to be focused on happy things. And that’s why I didn’t even really want to talk about this. But I’m saying that if you’re having those… If you’re in that kind of space and interactions, maybe that would be therapeutic. Maybe you could write a comedy about that. Maybe you could just talk about and express that situation in a way that would be both entertaining to your audience and somewhat therapeutic to you.
Now, I want to be clear. You don’t want to be specific.
Don’t say, “Mr. Kazinsky, down the road…!”
You don’t want to go there, like, don’t name the person. Don’t make it specific. That is not OK. But if you’re making a general or making it your personal prompt to start writing, that can be OK. And just don’t be specific [if you make a movie about the person don’t use their name or anything that would identify that specific person].
And I’ve used writing a lot in that way where it’s never going to go public, but I really just write a story or whatever about a situation and that can sometimes feel really good.
I’m also going to say that there is a whole…
We’re going to go woo woo for a second.
And there’s a whole Abraham Hicks thing, if you don’t know who Abraham Hicks is, it’s the whole Secret, that movie that came out, like a decade ago, that people have backlashed now.
But the principles, the basic principles are good. And so they’re all about writing a story about what you’re wanting.
So if you go into your creativity [about] this neighbor who was super aggressive and maybe [write] the outcome of that interaction [to be positive], that would be a great opening scene, anyway.
Just some lady randomly yelling at you for walking the dog… Your dog on their yard, even though there’s no sidewalk. That’s what happened. She just came at me and I was like, “Oh, my God.”
I’m like, “Doo-Dee-Doo” in my brain [just relaxed and finishing up my walk not really worried about anything]?
And I was like, “WHOA!”
I don’t know her, except she lives down the block from me.
Anyway, the disease of suburbia is not knowing who lives one block away from where you live, even though you make efforts to know everyone, you know, because that’s what makes a community stable and secure and good.
And so, you know, I could start there as the opening scene, because it will catch the audience’s attention and be somewhat perplexing.
And then you can bring that to a resolution. If you’re into that kind of screenwriting, which… I like uplifting movies and I like creating that kind of art. I personally… That’s the vibration I want to put out into the world when I create.
So I love the idea of taking that situation and maybe writing her whole back story in a way that’s completely fictitious because I have no idea, and then just bring it to positive resolution in some way within my screenplay.
And that would be my movie – between these two people interacting that maybe didn’t have…
How do they eventually end up together and having a positive experience together or a heart-opening experience?
So that’s how I drive my creativity, too.
You’ve gotten a little bit of a few glimpses of how I roll, and I hope this has been very helpful to you. Every time I start a podcast, I am like, “Oh, man, I’m going to be talking for like two minutes and then done.”
But I always end up expanding on it. And I think that’s a good thing.
I would love to get feedback from you if this is way too much. I don’t want to talk your ear off about stuff and just not believe that it’s relevant to you. But I feel like stories are sometimes really important to lock the idea in, which is why I went into that.
Also, to kind of bitch a little, to be honest, sorry.
Thank you for listening. And then again, that’s like a creative way… Podcasting is creative and that’s again, me using creativity to alleviate some tension within myself about a situation that happened.
And I hope that that’s OK with you. If not, I guess you’re not going to listen again.
But I hope you do thank you for listening, by the way.
So that’s it for today. Thank you so much for listening. Feedback is always appreciated if there’s any questions you want me to answer. I would love to help you with that, too.
And I hope you have a safe and healthy and happy day. So take care. Talk to you soon.
And I also feel and I also feel compelled… That I should just reiterate the two ideas that I gave you for the whole point. That was two ideas on how to stoke your creativity during this time to write a screenplay.
And one of them was finding the writing prompts, which I mentioned first, and then the other is the techniques from The Artist’s Way, which is writing three pages a day longhand, in your handwriting, not typing, and then also finding your artist date within the scope of the life that you’re living now, which might be limited because of the pandemic, but it is possible to do these artist dates at home.
So that is the podcast today. Thank you for listening and I will talk to you soon.