Keeping the Writing Fresh After All These Years

I was getting pissed off with myself a few months back, because a heap of the scenes I was in the process of writing for showreels all seemed rather familiar.

The plus side to writing all the material is that I write all the material. The downside is that I have to write all the material. That’s a lot of words. Was easy when I was starting out, I could just open up final draft and the words would pour out. But now I’ve written hundreds of these things. How many break-up scenes can any one person write? How many scenes where one character gives the other bad news?

If there’s a limit, I’ve gone far past it.

I was saying to a friend recently that I find it harder to write the scenes now, but when I actually get them done, they’re better than ever.


Photograph by the one and only Simon Nicholas.

I feel like, as a writer, you’re either in input or output mode. When I’m writing heaps of scenes, I’m in output mode. My job is to get the words on a page. But it’s when I’m living life — travelling, or arguing with a loved one, experiencing a bad date; it’s those moments that are the input.

To some it might seem like it’s just for fun when I go to another country. But those cheap Ryanair flights are not just an escape, they refuel me! My latest hobby is cycling. I’ve been Boris biking all over London. It’s opening my eyes to London in ways I wasn’t prepared for. It’s all input. It’s making me a better writer.

“I tend to be a subscriber to the idea that you have everything you need by the time you’re 12 years old to do interesting writing for most of the rest of your life – certainly by the time you’re 18.”

I totally relate to that. When you write personally, you’re reaching inside and sharing parts of yourself, and how you see the world.

But you gotta have new experiences because they give you a different perspective on things. You’re still seeing them through yourself, but you’re getting fresh insights. Without fresh insights my writing is nothing.

But here’s the thing. When business is going well, it’s easy to get comfortable. You get into routines, you have safe options. Then again, when you’re shooting a showreel, you kinda have to have an element of safety. If you try to be too risky creatively, you may not do the main essential: show an actor doing their thing.

So it’s a balancing act between creativity and safety. Achieving that is a form of creativity in itself.

And hey, it’s not like jumping on a plane to Italy is guaranteed to inspire my writing. It’s never as simple as that. Nothing is ever guaranteed. You just have to keep living, try to keep in good shape, and keep being open to new ideas.

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