• Writer’s Anonymous Pt. 1: Time Management w/ Dave Accampo

Writer’s Anonymous is a new multi-part series I’m working on where I interview entry/mid level writers about lifestyle subjects such as organization, prioritizing, and dealing with rejection.

This is not about how to write or how to break into the business, but about the everyday mental and emotional journey of the writer. Hopefully these articles will give writers a place to know they are not alone in that journey.

In the first installment, I interview David Accampo about finding time in his busy schedule for his many writing projects.

David, along with frequent collaborator Jeremy Rogers, has developed a number of critically lauded pitches, shorts, and feature-length screenplays. He is a co-founder of the independent production company, Habit Forming Films, LLC where he and Jeremy wrote, directed, and produced three award winning films. Additionally, David writes, produces, & edits “Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery,” a full-cast audio drama he co-created.

All of this in addition to a day job.

What all do you have going on right now creatively?

Habit Forming Films has launched the third season of our audio series, Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery. We’re in the midst of the post-production on an 8-part series we’re calling Wormwood: Portraits. I edited the first two installments, and right now I have a break before I have to go back to the editing room for Episode 5.

And during this break, I’ve decided to use the advent of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to knock out a draft of a novel that I’ve been mulling over for a year.

How much time do these creative projects take out of your day?

Wormwood varies — it’s a three part process. First, we write the episodes. This usually involves a writer’s meeting via Skype that takes 2-3 hours. Then I have actual writing assignments. On the last batch, I scripted two episodes, which is roughly about 40-45 pages of script.

I’d say that each script takes about a week to write. I also get scripts in from the other writers, and as one of the show’s producers, I then have to work with the writers to tweak and polish the scripts. This is a nebulous period of creative time, so it’s hard for me to track.

The production of 8 episodes of Wormwood takes about 8 hours. We gather our actors, and we record the episodes back-to-back, sending the actors in and out as we need them. We keep a strict one-day schedule to help accommodate the actors, since we have about 16 cast members, and it’s tough to coordinate schedules.

Post-production is divided up by me and my co-producer, Jeremy Rogers. We each take half the batch, and we’re each responsible for editing together the audio and layering in music and sound effects.

The inspiration for the Wormwood writing process was to create a virtual version of a TV show’s “writer’s room.” That always sounded like a magical place of collaboration, so we figured we’d just make our own idealized, virtual version with our writers who are living all over the country.

The novel I’ve started as part of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), is a move back to prose. I’m more comfortable writing than producing and editing, so right now, the writing is almost relaxing to me. I’m trying to spend about 2 hours a night writing.

And this is in addition to your day job?

Yep. By day, I wear the title of Marketing Communications Manager. This job involves everything from writing copy to doing graphic design. There was a time where I figured that I needed a very physical job (I was a bartender while in college), so that I could come home and pour all of my creativity into my writing. Now I see that the more creative I am at work, the more creative I am at home.

What is your daily schedule like? Do you have a set time when you write?

My scheduled time to “sit down and knock it out” is usually the evening, after work, before I get too lazy watching television. Or if work is too grueling, I’ll allow myself to vegetate until, say, 9pm, and then force myself to sit in front of the computer.

Where do you find the time for your “passion projects” while trying to balance it with work & personal life?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? First of all, my day job is great because they value my creativity, and they know and respect that I have a life outside of work. I’ve found that some employers don’t subscribe to this concept. I suggest staying away from those employers.

Similarly, I think you’ve got to surround yourself with loved ones who understand your passion as a writer. I think I’ve lived my life long enough just saying “I’m a writer,” that there’s no one around me who doesn’t understand this and understand that there are times when I need to close myself off and write.

How do you go about “closing yourself off” for those times where you need to get away and write?

Well, the first thing I do is make sure that friends and loved ones know I need this time to “work” and they understand that I can’t really be bothered in this time.

Another thing I’ve found recently is that getting out of the house really helps me. It forces me to think: this is WRITING time — no catching up on those shows on the DVR! So, I like to sit in cafes with WiFi with a laptop and headphones and work there.

With both NaNoWriMo & Wormwood, I assume these are deadline driven projects?

Well, that’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo — it forces a deadline on you. The goal there is to keep writing — 1,600 words a day. So far, so good

With Wormwood, we establish our own deadlines. The goal is a weekly audio series, but we’ve found it necessary to take breaks at various points along the way in order to recharge, catch up, etc. We have a staff of six writers, but we all have other jobs and other projects. I’d say that we’ve given the writers between 1-2 months to do the scripts needed for an 8 episode installment.

I’ve realized recently that I REALLY need the deadlines. It’s part of how I’m wired. I will often wait, wait, wait and then rush to do the work right before the deadline. I do get a rush from the thrill of the approaching deadline, but I also have realized that all that time I’m “waiting” is actually still part of my process. I tend to live with the story rattling around in my skull. I’m always thinking about it — it’s always in the back of my mind. Then, when the deadline looms, all of that subconscious work comes to the forefront and I spit it all out in one big burst.

I’m sure the goal would be to one day do the creative work full time. What exactly is your goal? Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?

Ultimately, I’d love for my full-time job to involve writing my creations. I don’t have anything more specific than that. In one sense, I’d love to make Wormwood a full-time job. I’d love to transition that into a TV writer’s room, and actually create the series as a TV show. But I’d also love to be writing screenplays. I’d also love to be writing novels. There’s no “one goal” aside from… well… telling stories that I’m excited to tell.

Any other tips or ideas on time-management?

1) understand your OWN process, but don’t make excuses. If you’re a procrastinator, then own it — don’t let it own you.

2) Give yourself deadlines. Tell other people (whom you respect) about these deadlines. They’ll keep you from getting too lazy.

3) Even though this isn’t necessarily the way I’ve written in the past, NaNoWriMo is teaching me that it’s very good to give yourself 2 hours every day to just work creatively and without stopping.

4) But my caveat to that is Step 1 above — know your own process. If Suggestion #3 is making you miserable, then don’t work that way. Find your own way. There’s no ONE way to do this stuff. You just have to do it.

Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery can be found at www.wormwoodshow.com
Some of my personal writing and scripts can be found at www.davidaccampo.com
Information on Habit Forming Films can be found at www.habitformingfilms.com
And folks can join me for the final days of NaNoWriMo here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/53946

If there are subjects you’d like to see covered in future installments of Writer’s Anonymous, let me know in the comments below!

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