Tag Archives: energy

The Emotions of Storytelling Part 4: Alone-ness

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatahu!

I’m deep into a comedy pass for Whose Wife Is It Anyway.

But I keep getting distracted. The past few weeks I’ve been distracted by sudden illness and moving to Rhode Island. (Which is beautiful and awesome and only 3 hours away from New York, which I have always wanted to visit, but that’s a story for another time.)

I wanted to get back into it. To do the best I can with the very limited time that I have.

That means not just locking the door to my home and my workspace, but to my heart too.

Locking the door to my home and my workspace is accomplished easily enough. Literally lock the door and the windows. Hide the TV remote (we didn’t have a TV in our home back in Denver, but we have one in this hotel room) and disconnect the Internet.

Locking the door to my heart? Now that’s a tough one.

I’m going to guess that everybody has different things that get under their skin.

For me, it’s outrage.

Something happens. Somebody is forced to endure a racist or sexist incident or otherwise dehumanized in some way.

This usually makes me upset. Very upset.

And so I’ve sworn off the Internet (to a great degree), especially Facebook and Twitter. Someone else will have to fight a few battles extra – I’m sure there’ll be quite a few voices to take my palce.

Talking to certain people drains me. Some of these people, I can’t avoid. But others I refuse to speak to, until May 5th (Yes, I know the Nicholls and Sundance deadlines are May 1st. I need a few days’ holiday, okay?)

Performing certain household tasks drain me. This is where it helps to be married.

Performing certain other tasks drain me – but really I can’t make my husband take my place at the dentist.

Sure, all of this can get a little lonely. That’s why I open the doors again after six pm and let everyone and everything in.

I usually spend the time before dinner and bed in quiet contemplation more than arguments anyway. Writing is emotionally draining enough as it is!

In any event, I think it’s a good idea for everybody to be okay with being by themselves and alone with their thoughts. It’s been the defining struggle of my adulthood – learning to love and trust myself. That battle, I’m still fighting everyday. But I think, I pray, I hope that I am much further on than I used to be.

I’m focused on finishing this project. It’s going to be done God willing! Done, done, done! I really can’t wait to put it out in to the world and see what happens.

Now before anyone comes charging in to pee on my parade, I am fully aware that it’s not likely to gain much or any success. But I’ve learned SO SO much from writing this movie, it’s a huge success already in my book. Ain’t nobody going to take that away from me Insha Allah. I’m sure the feedback I get will help me figure out what areas need work in my next projects.

My brain has been buzzing with ideas lately – mostly with left-field romantic comedies. I find myself getting distracted from my 1-location screenplay Birthday Cake (haven’t even started writing that one properly) by these ideas.

It’s a little annoying. But I’m going to count that as a blessing. Better too many than no ideas, right?

Anyway, I’ll leave you to it. It’s after 6 pm and I can open my doors again.

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,

The Happy (to be alone) Muslimah!







4 writerly rules for managing the ebb and flow of life

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem

Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wabarakatahu. God’s blessings, peace and mercy be on you, fellow traveler.

So I’ve been trying to practice Scott Myer’s mantra for two weeks now: 1, 2, 7, 14.

Read one screenplay a week.

Watch 2 movies a week.

Write 7 pages i.e. a page a day.

Do 14 hours of prep i.e. 2 hours of prep a day.

It’s been a challenge. But it’s been rewarding. I’ve invested more in my screenwriting ambitions in the last 2 weeks than I have in my entire life. That kind of rigor has forced me to think about what I am willing to give up and where I’m willing to go. I don’t just mean sleep and free time. I mean heart-ache, anxiety, despair, depression or my personal favorite, failure.

My husband would say I’m being too dramatic. Let’s just say I’ve decided I’ll brave the Uncertainty and the lack of Certainty that comes with filmmaking and screenwriting.

But I have failed a fair amount. I’ve missed pages, prepped reduced hours, been utterly paralysed by the blank page.

In the process, I’ve discovered that the probability of success is linked to my energy. My creative energy cycles with my body.

It is foolish to push your body to achieve more and more and more when we are designed to need replenishment. This is where the animal kingdom has the jump on us humans. Lions rest an entire day after a hunt. Bears take the whole winter off.

But we work day and night, ignoring God’s blessing of the night-time and rest.

He splits the sky at dawn, and appoints the night as a time of stillness and the Sun and Moon as a means of reckoning. (Qur’an, 6:96)

(Go here for a brief explanation of the above verse)

While society favors the Type-A “harder, faster, stronger” personality, something tells me that I’m made of cream cheese and I can only manage that for a little while before I have a meltdown.

I’ve discovered a few basic ground rules so I can work with my energy cycles rather than against them.

1. Work as early as possible

I’ve blocked out times that my family is least likely to interrupt me – between 10 – 12:30 in the morning. Or between 2:30 and 6:30 in the evening. Sigh. An embarrassment of riches.

But still things come up. Family calls from overseas. Errands need to be run. Life does not respect my ambitions.

I haven’t managed to wake up uber-early and do my prep. Yet. But I’m aspiring to it.

I am far more likely to be tired in the evening and so writing or prepping closer to night-time should be avoided if it can be helped. Hubby comes home too and spending 2 hours staring at a laptop while he’s around is hardly likely to work wonders for our relationship. Though being the sweetheart that he is, he totally understands. But he deserves better than that. And so do I

2. Schedule the hard stuff for earlier in the week

Earlier in the week, when I’m primed and ready to go, I get a whole lot more done a lot more efficiently in prep time. And the pages just zip out.

Later in the week, I get a little exhausted. Come Friday, I just feel like playing which is a great time for an ‘artist date’. Though I’ve not really been too successful at having one of those yet.

It’s also a great time to kick back and pay attention to a movie or a screenplay.

3. Get a routine

A routine makes my hours that much easier.

  1. I start with 15 minutes of concept brainstorming. This is a great way to massage my brain before getting into the nitty-gritty. Plus it’s a great way to generate story concepts, a good 95% of which are invariably duds.
  2. 1.5 hours of prep.
  3. Another 15 minutes of looking over the above concepts with a critical eye. Not just, “Is this good?” But also “What can I do to make this better?” “Why is this so bad?” “Why do I want to write about ice-cream so much?”

4. Reward yourself with some fire-gazing time

I find I get cabin fever if I stay inside too much. I like taking a walk or just sitting with my father-in-law. He’s always watching Animal Planet so metaphorically at least, we’re being spirited away to different lands.

What works for you in terms of maintaining consistency with your routine?

Wassalam and Fee Amanillah. Peace and God’s protection, peeps.

The Happy Muslimah.