The Joys of Stress
by Kenneth Lyen
Writers have the most stressful job in the world. Pardon? Oh, very well. Comedians and writers have the most stressful job in the world.
How so? Well, Im very good at procrastination. I can always find an excuse to put off doing today what can be done tomorrow. The problem is that sometimes tomorrow can be forever.
Not unnaturally I suddenly find myself facing a deadline that was once several months away, surreptitiously sneak up behind me and pow!!!! The deadline jumps up in front of you, and its tomorrow.
"Yes sir, I know tomorrows the deadline. No extension? No problem. I will have it ready for you by tomorrow." So I have this 100 page screenplay to finish by tomorrow. And I have only written the first 50 pages. So what do I do? Simple. I panic!
I do what Ive always been doing since time immemorial. I waste more time. Im a past master at this. I can make myself a cup of coffee, read the newspaper, surf the net and read all the bulletin boards, SMS friends, answer my e-mail, write my blog, and voila! I have wasted an entire morning.
Comes lunchtime. I still havent written anything. I panic again. Never mind. Im hungry. I go to the hawker stall and order some Szechuan red chilli chicken, Hakka tofu, mixed vegetables and rice.
After lunch I go to the bookshop and buy a book on time management. Yes, theres a chapter on how not to procrastinate, which will undoubtedly be most useful. Except Ive already bought a book on the same subject last year.
The second cup of coffee fails to keep me awake. So I fall asleep sitting at the computer. Suddenly it is 4 pm. I still have 50 more pages to write. Damn!
I watch a bit of CNN and BBC news. Surely that must have something inspiring. Nope. Its all about the Butler report and how Tony Blair gets off scott free. I thought to myself, "intelligence in the hands of the unintelligent degrades itself into stupidity."
Okay. Dinner time already. Its seafood. Some steamed fish, prawns, and healthy green vegetables.
Back to the computer. Shit! My brain remains constipated. I watch a bit of Discovery Channel. Back to work. Yes. Im starting to write. After a while, I take a break. Have some unhealthy crisps. Back to the computer. I type some more.
Bloody hell. Ive only written up to 66 pages. How on earth can I write another 34 pages?
Okay, I say to myself. Maybe I can use a larger sized font. Maybe double the spacing between each scene. Maybe narrow the margins of each page. Add a few more transition instructions, like "cut to", "dissolve", etc.
Well, that got me an extra 4 pages. So Im up to page 70. Perhaps I could tell my producer that my writing was very compact and that my one page was equivalent to more than one minute of screen time. Much more. So perhaps if I handed in less pages, would it be all right?
You can see Im really desperate now.
I cheat. I add in a prologue and epilogue. Not absolutely necessary, but it does buff it up a bit more. I insert 6 essential (= unnecessary) scenes. Great. Im now up to page 73. I further reduce the margins of my script, and increase the font size even more. Yes, this is working. Im now on page 75. Damn. What more can I do to pump up my script?
I get another call from my producer. "Yes, yes, yes, Ive finished my script. Just tidying up the formatting. Yes, I shall e-mail it to you. When? As soon as I finish formatting. Now? Give me 5 minutes." I write a furious 5 more pages.
Oh dear, only 80 pages. I just have to write some excuse why I couldnt quite reach 100 pages. Hell and damnation. I shall just have to grit my teeth when I receive a phone call from my producer, pointing out the obvious shortcomings of my script.
Anyway, nothing I can do now. Too bad. The 80 pages are e-mailed. I must remind myself to buy a book on how to write good excuses.
I glance at this weeks Time Magazine. Theres an article on stress. It says "Not all stresses are created equal. A new study finds that some may even be good for you."
Great! Thank goodness for that study! I can now be thankful for the joys of stress!