Saturday, July 30, 2011

Guest screenwriter Arlene Gibbs: Write. Every. Day.

Arlene Gibbs is a screenwriter (Jumping the Broom) based in Rome, Italy. Prior to moving to the Eternal City, she worked in Hollywood as a film production company executive for ten years. She was born in New York City to parents from St. Martin and raised in the small town of Verona, New Jersey. Her blog is where she writes about life in Italy and her sad attempt to become fluent in Italian.

There's a very good reason talented writers strongly suggest writing everyday. Or at least, Monday - Friday.

The two weeks I spent in Los Angeles completely threw me off my writing groove. I said I was going to write while I was there. What was I thinking?

My schedule was so packed, I had to ask my manager's assistant to cancel two meetings. I was running all over town. One crazy day I had meetings in Santa Monica, Studio City and Beverly Hills. Anyone who has
spent time in Los Angeles understands what a clusterf**k that day was.

Last week was not a good writing week. Part of it was jet lag, but a bigger part was my complete lack of motivation. I would open my laptop and just stare at a blank page. After a while, I would go online instead of writing (or unpacking) and next thing I knew, hours had gone by.

I started to get worried. What if I never get "it" back?

This week I forced myself to sit down and write. I wouldn't get online until after I had spent some time working on my novel. It was slow going at first.

After a few days of this, suddenly on Thursday I hit 1500 words without realizing it.

My goal is 2000 words a day. There will be days I exceed that, and others when I fall short. However, I finally feel like I'm back on track.

I'm also working on a new spec script. I'm writing with another screenwriter who is in the middle of staffing season (for American TV) so we have to budget our time wisely.

The next time I go to L.A., I don't think my schedule will be as insane. The October trip was my first trip to the States after moving to Rome 2 1/2 years earlier and this last trip was for the Jumping the Broom release. I get why my manager wanted to squeeze in as many meetings as possible.

If I had some money, I would go to a hotel somewhere nice and just write. It would have to be a place with a view and quiet like Ravello on the Amalfi Coast. Any place where there's a ton of sightseeing to do wouldn't work.

Or I would even check myself into a place in Rome. Several writer friends in L.A. do it all the time, especially for big deadlines. I completely understand why so many writers love working in hotels... no distractions.

In the meantime, I will be in my apartment trying my best to finish this novel...


Liane Spicer said...

Welcome to Novel Spaces, Arlene! Great advice. Haven't quite got the write-every-day angle covered yet but I'm getting there.

Charles Gramlich said...

I definitely feel the rust when I'm gone from writing for a few days. It's so important to keep the momentum flowing.

Lynn Emery said...

Count me in with those who get thrown completely off when I'm away from home. I'm now back into writing 5 days a week. I don't travel as much, but can't write when I do. I've become too much attached by my familiar work space. Might need to re-think that. Thanks for the tips.

Hooray for the busy schedule, you're doing it!

KeVin K. said...

Welcome to Novel Spaces Arlene. I really appreciate the insight into your work ethic and methods.

For half a decade I wrote 1600 words a day. I developed this regimen using an arcane formula that involved phases of the moon and the half-life of certain isotopes. (Or it could be that I keep a log of my productivity and 1600 words a day was my average; I forget which.)

Since November of 2010 my other life, the stuff I do when I'm not writing, has been chaotic. (Family losses, starting a business, and just plain stuff.) There have been weeks when I felt completely overwhelmed and could not recall what, if anything, I'd accomplished or even what I'd set out to do.

Then I noticed I was not writing. I mean, writing had become so peripheral that I could not remember when I'd last created anything. Now I write every day. Only a few hundred words most days, but in order to anchor my mind and remember who I am and what it is I do, I write.

So, yes, very much so:
If you are a writer, write every day.
Not just to keep the process going, though that's important, but to remind yourself why you write.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Thank you Liane for inviting me!

Trust me, when traveling I find it very difficult to write every day.

Liane Spicer said...

Our pleasure, Arlene! Hope that novel is practically writing itself now!

upwords said...


Thanks for the wisdom (and the movie). When I was writing full-time, I wrote every day without fail. Now that I'm working, going to's more of a challenge, but I'm back to my stick-your-butt-in-the-chair philosophy. Looking forward to reading your novel.