Don’t Stare At One Thing For Too Long

advice, screenwriting

I took this pic yesterday while writing at a Soho pub. This image feels so London.

One of the many bad habits I have is I tend to spend too much time staring at one thing.

I’m thinking of scripts and novels right now, but I’m also thinking of life.

I freeze. I hesitate. I spend way, way too long staring at the same thing – when I should just keep moving the minute I realize I don’t know what to do.

Because doing nothing is almost always worse than doing anything at all. When you’re moving, you may be moving in the wrong direction – but it’s easier to figure that out when you’re doing something, when you’re in motion. Because when you freeze, you stop course-correcting, you lose any sense of your bearings. You forget where you are.

Worst of all, when you freeze you send yourself and the world the message that yeah, you shouldn’t be going anywhere. This spot right here feels safer and less uncertain than any random direction you might pick. And since staying in one place is far less anxiety-provoking than moving, you feel a sense of relief. But it’s illusory relief, akin to the relief you may feel when you refuse to get out of bed in the morning. Yes it feels better in the moment, but as your life and your work grind to a halt, your losses far outweigh the temporary comfort.

It’s the same with staring at the same beat in a script for too long – or staying at the wrong job or relationship or whatever it is – it feels better in the moment, but it can be subtly, silently devastating.

Any moment in your writing (or job or relationship or whatever) requires some thought, yes. But you know when you’ve paused too long. And when you do, make yourself go somewhere else, try a different spot. You’ll have a million excuses for why you can’t or don’t want to, but also you can just try it and see how it feels.

This is the outside of the pub pictured above. I'm in love with all the window boxes and hanging plants everywhere in London.

 

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I’m reading Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox. It’s an entertaining ethnographic study of what makes the English tick – the perfect thing for my hostess to give me to read during my first visit here in London.