Countdown to a New Adventure…

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My countdown to a new adventure is ticking away…. I can’t wait to share more with you!

But in the meantime… I’ll just leave you with this gem from James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson. Do with it what you will…  🙂

 

“Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists.”

— James Boswell

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50 Ideas. 5 Days. Go!

 

50 in 5

In my recent post In Case of Natural Disaster, I made a passing reference to my 50-in-5 lists, a writing habit I created for myself a few years ago as I’ve gotten further and further into this crazy tv writing career. And the texts and conversations that poured in as soon as I posted it all tended to swirl around one question — What is this 50-in-5 thing?  So, I thought it was time for some answers.

The Short Answer: A List. 50 Ideas. 5 Days.

Yep.  You heard me. 5-0 ideas. 5-0 loglines. 5-0 characters and creations and complications. Fifty.

I give myself 5 days to come up with 50 ideas — written down and saved for future storyline ideas. Now, lest you think I am some sort of story genius with ideas just pouring out of me all the time… It’s true!  It’s all true!  I am a genius!!! (*goes mad with power*)

Just kidding. 

The Long Answer: 49 Terrible/Mediocre/Ehhh/Boring Ideas. Hopefully one good one. 5 days.

50-in-5 lists are messy, and that’s perfectly all right. 

I’ve found that the easiest way to start a 50-in-5 list is to start a new doc on my ever-present laptop.  There are other times I’ve put everything on post-it notes or handwritten the lists in my journal.  But I’m at my most organized when it’s all on my computer. And post-it notes fall off the wall and get vacuumed up or tucked away in yesterday’s mail — and I for one hate the idea that my Emmy-winning idea is lost in the belly of my Roomba. That would suck.

But find a way to organize and keep these lists — whatever works for you!

The list begins, and every morning — before I do any other writing for the day, I come up with 10 ideas. I push myself until I hit 10. I’m not allowed to do anything else until I get to those magic double digits.  If I have a spectacular idea day and come up with 11 or 13 or 15 off the cuff, so much the better.  But tomorrow, I have to come up with 10 all over again.  (No cheating or stockpiling today’s ideas for tomorrow. I’m onto you!)

10 ideas. Go!

Each idea has to be its own world or story. No cheating with half-ideas like — A girl named Ava. Or — The biggest apology in the history of the world!   If that were the case,  could just pull up a baby names website and a list of emotions and call it a day.  That’s not going to be helpful when I need to have story ideas later. Each idea has to give a sense of the world or a complication within that world. The story of Ava and her career as a professional juror in this far-future world in which ‘trial by a jury of your peers’ is no more.   Or:  Aliens come to earth for the first time and are extremely apologetic.  “We didn’t realize we’d left you off the list of inhabited planets for the last several centuries.  Welcome to the New Republic!” 

What stories do you want to see? What stories do you want to tell?

And the most important part: they don’t have to be perfect ideas, or even good ones. Most of the ideas from each day are going to be almost immediately discarded.  They’re similar to something else that someone else has already written. Or they’re romantic comedy ideas that I will never, ever write. They’re not interesting to me. They’re utterly ridiculous. (My clown car cleaning shop idea stands out loud and clear here.)

Don’t be afraid of the bad ideas or get stuck on needing to have 10 amazing ideas every day.  You’ll get stuck somewhere early on in your daily list and give up.  If I can’t come up with three ideas today, how can I ever come up with fifty ideas by Friday???  It’s not easy.  But keep going.

Why do I do this to myself?

I spend all day every day thinking about story.  It’s the glorious life of being a writer.  So I realized I needed a way to organize and hang onto the good ideas that pop into my head pre-coffee. I may not want to write that particular story today or any time this year, but if there’s the seed of a good story there — I can save it the day I’m ready for it.

I also need a way to get all of the bad ideas out of my head so I don’t have to think about them anymore.  There’s something about seeing a really truly terrible story idea in black and white, unblinking on my computer screen.  Beforehand, I think: Hmmm… maybe that could be something? And then when it’s in front of me, I can safely say: Wow. No. That’s like the worst idea. Ever. EVER.  It’s okay to let it go.  Now I never have to think about that story again, and I free up just a tiny bit of brain space that will hopefully be used for something else better tomorrow.

The last five projects I’ve written – three pilots, one feature and one webseries – have all come from the best of my 50-in-5 lists.

I actually don’t think I could live without them now.  Plus — when I’m really desperate on my worst days, the days where I wonder if I really can keep writing as a career — they’re an amazing way to procrastinate and yet still be productive in the long run.

And in my neurotic writer brain, by the time I’m done with the list, there’s a quiet voice in the back of my head that says: Yep. You can do this. Keep going. 

I use my 50-in-5 lists for writing… but I wonder what else they could be used for?  Ideas, anyone? I’d love to hear… 

I write a lot about my writing life. Interested in more? Check it out!

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The Whiskey’s Mine

fancy heels...

It happens all the time.

Luke and I went out for a fancy dinner a few nights ago,  and I ordered my drink to go along with my roasted brussels sprouts,  chipotle hummus and kale salad.  (It’s more amazing than it sounds. Wood & Vine knows how to do things right.)  Another waiter brought our drinks and without blinking an eye handed my old fashioned to Luke.

Because girls don’t drink whiskey, you know.

I tend to be the odd girl out in a lot of conversations and a lot of movie nights too. I’m a sci-fi and girl-with-gun writer, so in everything I write, at least one car tends to explode.  My Google history is full of searches like  ‘places to hide a gun in a car’ or ‘biological warfare in the future’ and ‘fuel types for long-term space travel’.  It also means that I’m usually the only girl in our group of friends who will happily go see Star Trek Into Darkness.  Hell, I’m usually the one buying tickets and getting the group together.  I write alien stories and time travel stories and futuristic tech stories.  These are my people! These are my kind of stories!

But those are usually considered ‘guy movies’. 

I absolutely love surprising people.  I walk into meetings in my girly high heels and get into deep discussions about the repercussions of time travel and why my characters tend to work for MI-6 with a gun strapped to their leg. I can’t count the number of times new friends have read something of mine for the first time and come back with:  “This is totally awesome!  And it’s sci-fi!  I had you pegged as a rom-com girl.” 

FYI: high heels does not equal rom-com writer. 

I started putting a red streak in my hair and got my nose pierced because when I walk into a room I want people to think “sci-fi girl” not “Oh, she must be lost…”  (And also because — fire engine red hair and a nose ring??? I love it!)   And you know what?  I’m me.  I’m always going to be me with my deeply held love of Doctor Who and cocktail dresses.  I am a whiskey girl who’s going to cook you a fancy dinner with Mozart and Frank Sinatra playing in the background, then curl up and watch Alien.  I subscribe to Fast Company and Wired and Real Simple and Relevant. io9 and the gallery of the Hubble Space Telescope and joythebaker.com are my go-to web browsing every day. My daily workout is ballet-based and killer.

I find my inspiration everywhere. 

I fit in a strange space. I think we all do, in one way or another… the trick is to own it and not be afraid of it.  I’m going to fit in places no one else will — and if I spent all my time worrying about trying to be someone else, I’m probably going to miss the places I’m actually meant to be. 

My name is Lynn, and I am a sci-fi & girl-with-gun writer. Hear me roar!

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Sit Down. Shut Up. Do It.

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Every day, I come up against one of those MOMENTS.

You know, sending the email I’m totally freaked out to write. Writing the scene that has been giving me the most trouble. Walking into the meeting I’m so excited about, all while inwardly thinking Oh, please Lord. Let my jokes be funny.  Actually hitting send on a project. Standing in a room pitching a project. My heart is on my sleeve — and my brain is coming up with eight thousand scenarios of how I’m going to crash and burn in the most spectacularly embarrassing fashion.

And you know what?  I’m going to fail some of the time.  I’m human. I’m a writer. I’m never going to be everything to everyone. Some days I probably will crash and burn trying to do the thing I’m totally freaked out by.

But in the middle of all of this, the best thing is for me to SIT DOWN. SHUT UP. And DO IT anyway. 

I constantly have to remind myself to do all of this. Take the giant risk.  Share the story. Send the email. The outcome may not be exactly what I’d hoped — but if I don’t even try, then 100% of the time, the outcome will be exactly what I feared: nothing. This isn’t some magic formula of overriding fear and killing it entirely. Sometimes I am afraid. But the more times I jump off the cliff standing in front of me and discover mid-air that I’ve got a bungee cord around my ankle, the easier it becomes to jump later.  I have to say YES with no promise that it will be echoed back to me.

The only way I have a chance of YES is by being the first one to say it. 

So today, what are you afraid to do?  What is the paralyzing uncertainty that’s eating away at your heart? What is your question?

Give it a whirl. The world may not come to an end after all…

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Driving with Abby Singer

The second-to-last shot of the day on set is known as the Abby, named for a man who became famous for his “This shot and one more, and then we can all head home for the night!” reminder to everyone on his sets…

 

Legends_AbbySingerThis is Abby Singer…

But before we get there, a little background for you. When I was growing up, my go-to movies were mostly ones like Charade, His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby.  I grew up with a mad crush on Cary Grant, and I’ve seen Oklahoma and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers more times than I can count.  I would sit in my grandparents’ living room and listen to Frank Sinatra and Jack Benny and Glenn Miller with them for hours.

But it was always like I was peeking into this other world that was long-gone, this world that belonged with my grandparents.  I would never be a part of it — I was just lucky enough to catch the echoes of everything that went before me.

Never in a million years did I imagine I’d be moving to Los Angeles one day… 

I was on one of my first shows out here, and my boss asked if I’d be willing to drive a friend of hers around for the afternoon after he visited our set. Of course I said yes, and a few minutes later I was standing in a hallway shaking hands and saying hello to this delightful older gentleman.

That’s how I met Abby Singer. 

That afternoon, we drove from the Valley down to Santa Monica while he told me all about the Los Angeles that used to exist…   “Back when I first came out to LA, this was all orange groves…”  After a mile or two on the 405, he told me to get off the highway and drive through some of the neighborhoods so he could point out spots while he talked about them.  He started stories with “Back when I was working for Jack Benny…” or “That was around the time I was doing the Doris Day show…” He told me all about crossing paths with Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne and Cary Grant at events.

For just a moment, classic Hollywood was blazingly alive again, and it was gorgeous.

That drive remains, to this day, one of the best moments in my entire career.

Hollywood lost someone truly lovely yesterday.  He helped create the trails that so many of us walk on today.  And while it’s probably true that outside of Hollywood, there may not be a lot of people who know his name — I like to think that today on film and tv sets all around the world, people will take an extra second on the second-to-last shot of the day…

Hey! We’re on the Abby…

… and we’ll all smile.

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In Case of Natural Disaster…

Hi friends!  I’m BACK!  Let the blogging craziness begin…. 

I’ve been reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal for the second time this week.   If you haven’t read this book, seriously — go order it now.  Or, better than that — go find your local bookstore and buy it from a real person who can also point you towards their current favorite book of the week.  (That may be another post for another time.  And yes, I heart Amazon too, don’t worry.)

Where was I? An Everlasting Meal. 

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Right. So, nestled among some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve come across, tucked in between recipes for roast chicken and vegetable stock and piquant relishes on crackers, there’s a recipe for A Salad For a Natural Disaster.  The idea being that — no matter the day, no matter what disaster is befalling you, you can always come up with something that’s not just going to keep you alive.  You can come up with something that is — dare I say? — tasty. Refreshing. Beautiful.

My favorite part is the final instruction:  Mix well and hope for the best. 

A creative life feels a lot like that.

It takes a lot of prep work to be creative.  I absolutely live for the days that I’m curled up in my little writing den (aka my dining room) with a french press of coffee and Trevor Morris or London Grammar or Gungor playing in the background, the days that I’m staring at a blank sheet of paper or a blank computer screen and actually writing a script.

But there is so much more that comes before those days.

What research do I need to do? What do I need to process? What bits of dialogue or character development can I stick up on my board? What should I name this character?  I should probably write an outline first. I need to buy more index cards and post-it notes. What’s the heart of this story? 

It feels messy and mostly unproductive.  I have fanatically organized “Idea Documents” in a folder on my desktop.  Names I like. Story ideas. Places that are beautiful. Actors I’d love to write for.  Inspiring articles. My 50-in-5 lists (another post coming soon…).

It’s a bit like stocking my writers pantry. 

When am I ever going to use this much arborio rice or coconut oil or ginger?   When am I ever going to use the rain in Trafalgar Square in a story?  Seriously, do you really need a glass jar of salt-packed capers? It’s not like we’d really ever shoot at that location, so why even bother saving the photo? Should I really buy a dozen eggs?  I’ve been trying to go vegan. But what if that boy-meets-girl story actually works? I just want to cook something easy for dinner.

I just want to write. 

But the best meals you just “throw together” happen because your pantry is actually stocked with things that taste good together — like jasmine rice with a can of coconut milk and fresh ginger and lemongrass, topped with whatever vegetables you have hidden away in your fridge and pantry. A pinch of salt and fresh-ground pepper. Some soy sauce and mirin.  And suddenly, on a night where I seriously don’t feel like cooking — ‘hoping for the best’ actually turns out to be pretty wonderful.

The best scripts for me happen when I’ve done all my pre-writing.  First, the basics like research and outlines.

But second, and very nearly more important are the inspirations that are much less tangible — the saving of songs that sound like the right emotions, the names that capture the heart of a character, the classic novel that reminds me what beautiful prose can be.  The coffee that tastes like heaven while I write.  Knowing that when this script is done, I’ll crack open a bottle of good merlot with friends and celebrate.

So, go… gather your inspiration.  Your ingredients.  Cook.  Write.

And hope for the best.
 

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Creativity When It Hurts

I woke up last Monday morning and thought I was going to pass out right there.  Oh lord… I am so not getting out of bed this morning!  

I’d managed to miss the worst of the flu epidemic that had raced through LA – but whatever I’d caught was clearly not going to play nice with me.  The war was on. 

Ugh.  Can I please just crawl back in bed, only to emerge when I want to have a chicken soup and Gilmore Girls marathon for the day?  

Sadly, that’s not the way the world works. 

This is what my desk looked like for 4 days:

So how can you be creative when it hurts? 

As much as we artists would love to live in a world where creativity just falls from the heavens at random intervals, the truth is sometimes creativity is on a schedule.  I have deadlines to hit. 

Sometimes – you gotta just suck it up and keep going.  With a full year’s supply of cough drops and Pressed Juice.  (Have I talked about Pressed yet?  It’s the world’s most pricey juice, but I am in love.  Grapefruit mint?  Spiced almond milk?  Come on now!  I need to invest in a juicer.  But that’s another blog for another time. Where was I?) 

One of the many secrets of creativity is that it comes in bursts.  

I’ve woken up  having dreamed my next pilot teaser.  My record for first draft of a pilot is 7 hours.  The story was just there.  It ended up being one of two pilots that got me signed with my manager.  YES!  I completely live for those moments!  But you know what?   Those are two of a handful of times that has happened to me.  Ever.  

The rest of the time, creativity is work.

I read, absorb, imagine, dream.  For hours and hours and hours.  Sometimes I love it.  Sometimes I want to throw my computer out a window.  I can work for an entire day and come up with nothing.  I can work for an hour, smooshed in between meetings, and come up with an entire storyline that gets written in the next two days.   

As a creative artist – everything you do informs everything you write.  You just have to keep doing it, day in and day out.  I always joke that I need to write all the bad stuff first – just as a way of getting it all on the page so I can get to the good stuff I’m going to keep. 

Creativity is an investment.  

I don’t always want to spend a Saturday sitting at the coffee shop working through yet another script.  Sometimes I want to just go to the beach with friends instead!  But the truth is – if I don’t practice good creativity habits now, I will totally break down later.  But a couple hours traded in for an awesome idea or line or future script idea?  Totally worth it. 

And at the end of the day – I love writing so very much that I can’t imagine doing anything else.  It’s not always easy or fun.  But it’s my heart and the thing that I love to do most of all.  

So – what am I trying to say? 

I think – at the end of the day – this is just a reminder to all you creative types out there.  Keep going.  Keep writing and singing and acting and dreaming.  Invest in your art. Even when you’re sick, even when it hurts, even when you’ve barely slept for a week because you’re staying up all night to get through everything. 

Do it.  

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