Almost all my friends are fellow creatives. Writers, filmmakers, graphic designers, painters -- you name the discipline, and I probably have one in my social circle. So it's no great surprise that at holiday gatherings last month (usually after the eggnog or champagne started flowing) there was much chatter about projects we did/did not complete this year and what we plan to write/film/draw/create in 2016.
One of the most common questions I receive from my writing students is "How can I stay focused on one project when I have so many ideas?" Some writers will tell you to take one project at a time. That doesn't work for me. Between filmmaking and writing, I'm actively working on 10-20 projects at once, and most of them reach completion in a timely fashion. To stay organized, I make a creative plan at the start of the year. It's nothing fancy -- just a simple Google Doc with a bulleted list of every project I want to complete this year. I also have a table of deadlines organized by month. Almost everything on that list has a pitch, contest, festival, fellowship or grant deadline attached. Those that don't have a personal deadline. I need to see the full year at once, so I can prioritize the projects that need my attention right now.
This plan does not work for all writers. Some would break out into hives just thinking about it. It works for me, because I use it as a guide, not a gospel. I know full well that new opportunities will pop up and priorities will shift. In the beginning of 2015, I could not possibly predict that our webseries Magicland would come to fruition, which took up a huge chunk of my time. Nor could I predict that my film partner Charlie and I would write ten short plays, four of which have already been picked up for production at various theaters around the country. My plan needs to be flexible enough to account for new and better things. When I looked at my 2015 plan today, I saw what I actually accomplished, not what I wanted to accomplish back in January. And you know what? My 2015 was a far, FAR better creative year than it would have been if I had just stuck to my list.
How about you? What is on your writing plan for 2016? If you need a few deadlines to get started, here are some coming up.
If you have a completed 10-minutes sports documentary or feature, NBC Sports wants to see it. Deadline for submission is January 12. The winner wins $10,000!
NBC Late Night Writer's Workshop
Do you think you have the chops to write for late night television? NBC has been running this workshop for a few years now to give new writers opportunities to break into late night. The deadline is January 15. Submission packet info from their website:
- 1-2 pages of topical monologue jokes. If you think it helps us, please indicate which host’s voice you have in mind (can be but does not have to be NBC host). Topical news jokes and pop culture jokes should make up the bulk of your material.
- 1-2 pages of original ideas for refillable late night “desk bits”. These can be ideas for elements like Jimmy Fallon’s “Thank You Notes”, pre-taped correspondent bits like “Jaywalking” or multimedia bits. For this portion, please provide descriptions of the bits and not scripts.
- 2 SNL-style sketches (no more than 5 pages EACH). One sketch should introduce an original character and one should be topical (something newsworthy or pop culture-based).
Sundance has had a writing program for feature film writers for several years, and they've recently added a new lab for television writers. The deadline is Feb 10 and you need to submit a completed pilot script and a 2-3 page series overview.
Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship
The first studio fellowship deadline of the year! Submissions are open from now to February 28. You need a spec script for a 30-minute comedy show that's currently on the air (does not need to be a kid-friendly show).
I check this blog every day, because it has something for every type of writer. Calls for screenplays, novels, short stories and essays are posted regularly, and new opportunities post every day. Everything featured on this site is a paid gig.
A very active site for stageplay writers with new calls for submissions posted on a daily basis.