Screenwriters: How do You Avoid Distractions?
I'm writing this from the PGA's Produced By conference — much more from here soon — and a particular quote from producer and screenwriter James Schamus (The Ice Storm, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) resonated with me. While I think all writers can identify with his quote, "I'm one of those people who hates the experience of writing... but it's good for me," it was his take on returning to screenwriting in a digital age, after having written in a decidedly more analog era, that jumped out at me. In response to cell phones and the always-on internet connection:
Because your screen is also your interface to the rest of the world, writing is increasingly difficult.
Schamus said he had talked to a lot of other writers about his , and that it was a common issue for many of them.
As someone who runs a website that's open for business 24/7, I struggle with this constantly myself:
Basically impossible to carve out offline writing time when you run a website that's up 24/7.— Ryan Koo (@ryanbkoo) October 24, 2014
The obvious response is, "turn off your Wi-Fi," or, as the image up top suggests, "write by hand." But at some point your script is going to need to become digital — unless, like Woody Allen, you have an assistant use the computer. And then when you're on a computer, with the Wi-Fi off, pretty soon you're going to need to research something, so you turn it back on, and then suddenly you're working on something else, and then your concentration is broken and you've lost your place. The main tool I use to get offline and stay offline, which I've written about in the past, and which recently released a new (non-beta, 1.0) version, is Freedom:
Freedom shuts off your Wi-Fi in a way that's particularly successful, for two reasons: one, you can't turn your internet back on unless you restart your computer, which is just enough of a deterrent to be effective, and two, it sets a finite amount of time so you can tell yourself, "surely I can work for three hours without needing to check-in with the outside world." Also check out Freedom's cousin Anti-Social if you want to keep certain website connections live (allowing Wikipedia for research, but disallowing Facebook, for example).
Even with apps like these, however, staying focused on the page — even if it is a piece of paper — is increasingly difficult with a cell phone nearby (though there's a cell phone version too!). So I thought I would open a thread and ask other screenwriters: what approaches do you take to carve out the block of hours that you need to fully inhabit the world of your characters?