Persistence is Key (Podcast Transcript)

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Hello and welcome to the becoming a screenwriter podcast, I’m Kate and this podcast is all about my nosedive into learning about screenwriting and sharing any resources I find along the way.

Persistence. Persistence is key. Watching the Cardiff half marathon today keeping an eye out for my incredible friend Jo who ran for the Stroke Association made me wonder, what keeps a person running for such a long time? I mean, it sounds like hell to me yet over 27,000 people turned up at that start line this morning. The one thing that all of them must have had to finish was persistence.

I have been looking forward to my youngest starting nursery for a few months, even though obviously apprehensive I was excited at the prospect of 2 hours a day to write and also I knew I needed a plan. 2nd time mum I knew if I had nothing to do on that first day and those first weeks of getting us all into a new routine that I would go home and cry basically. It’s just the kind of mum I am. So the plan was to dedicate some time to writing. Ignore the housework, ignore the niggling ever present mum guilt, ignore the feelings of invalidity I experience on a loop being a stay at home mum and march through the front door immediately after the school run upstairs to my little office back bedroom and sit down and write. Or research writing opportunities. Find screenwriting competitions to write for and learn about screenwriting in any way I can.

I had plans aswell for the hours I would have alone. Like planning to get a new ear piercing, which is not something easy to do outside the hours of 9-5 or with a toddler in tow and maybe starting counselling planning in a session every 2 weeks to finally get to grips with my generalized anxiety that still rears it’s ugly head from time to time. I thought I might have a look around at some volunteering opportunities too. Basically there was a lot of stuff I wanted to get done between 9 and 11 am. Which is normal, I think. But then I thought that can all be looked at later, what I need to do first is, I need to get a discipline in writing and work around that.

So I did, I entered the Channel Four screenwriting competition and planned the time I would need to complete a pilot episode by the deadline which was the end of September. Something nice and definite to get my teeth into but it had to be an idea I didn’t particularly want to pursue because part of the Ch4 scheme is to write an hour long episode and it has to be different from your competition entry, so I wrote a pilot of a series about a young sales rep Jaime who is caught between his new shiny exciting sales life world which isn’t quite as shiny and exciting as we first think and his sort of grass roots background at home where he lives in his mum’s pub and has had a string of crappy jobs. He’s an ambitious boy but his past seems to wrap it’s knarly tendrils around him as he keeps trying to move forward. Anyway, it is inspired by my husband Rich, he’s in sales and he’s told me lots of funny stories over the years about anonymous people and shenanigans at work. It’s really a whole nother world in Sales honestly.

So I was pleased with myself about that because I’d had to do a bit of research before I could begin writing the project and I’d planned my time really well. It’s something I’m good at is being organised and I always feel really accomplished when I’ve organised something well. So even though it’s yet to be announced I felt good about having entered and I really enjoyed writing it as well. So I was feeling quite pleased and maybe giving myself a little pat on the back because I was thinking you know it’s definitely better than other scripts I’ve written but not so much like you’re awesome that script is awesome but more like you’ll never learn if you don’t do it first to learn from so yeah I was like feeling brave I guess. That’s the funny thing with writing isn’t it it’s always a little piece of your soul in it and you have to send it out for criticism but we really need that to improve don’t we so yeah it’s one of those things.

Now bearing in mind I have no expectation of making tons of money from this. It’s something I love to do and it was actually Richard’s idea, I was like what the hell am I going to do when my son starts nursery and it was Rich who said just write. Just sit down everyday and write, because you love it. Can’t argue with that can I. It’s been a weird thing for me to pursue because usually when I want to do something I want to be good at it right away and I get a bit frustrated when I’m not and maybe embarrassed when I make a mistake but with screenwriting it was just such an off the table thing to do I knew from the start I’d have loads to learn. And also because I’ve always written in one form or another it’s really a hobby, and naturally when it’s not your job, it’s enjoyable. If I miss a deadline…nothing happens. I’d love to see something I’d written acted out of course the script is only a blueprint for a whole production and I’d love to work in a creative industry alongside other writers, producers and actors. I’d love my daughter to be watching something one day and be able to casually say ‘my mum wrote this’ that’s the dream, but it feels as far fetched as hearing her say – ‘That’s my mum there the lead character’. I’m accepting of the fact that I have a long way to go and a lot to learn and I’m genuinely excited to be at the bottom looking up because I feel like learning and gaining experience is going to be fun and maybe a lifelong pursuit. I know then, that I have to write and I have to be crap because I’m just starting out and I won’t ever get better if I don’t write the crap first.

The reason this all made me think of doing a podcast about persistence is because you always hear people saying it as their top tip. Published authors on panels say, ‘Keep at it! Don’t give up!’ and in other things that always felt like a bit of a wash out. We want to know how to be good at what we’re doing. What was it that made you a success? What’s your secret? Did you fellatio a producer or are you just naturally a brilliant writer? Because that gives me a reason to say well I’m not naturally gifted, maybe this gig isn’t for me after all. Or I don’t live in L.A. where people bump into producers…Oh and of course I wouldn’t do that anyway. Wink. Any producers listening.

But really, when you love writing, persistence is key. Like I said earlier, how can you ever hope to improve otherwise? The more you write, the more you learn about writing, there’s that great saying, You can’t edit a blank page. When I read my own stuff and cringe at how bad it is, sometimes I don’t know what I need to do to fix it but the more bits I write the more I learn what works and what doesn’t. The more I persist in writing scripts the more time I spend connecting with other writers on twitter, reading their work and finding what reads well and what doesn’t.

Not every single person who turned up for the Cardiff Half today is a naturally gifted runner. A lot of them perhaps, have not been running very long, they have a lot to learn but they’re never going to improve on their last run if there isn’t one to improve on! And we can’t promise them that if they run marathons for enough years and persist enough that they will one day win one but we can see how much they love running and we can say for definite that if they do choose to persist with running that they will improve.

I had a bit of a wobble last week though for some reason. That week I’d watched the genius that is Phoebe Waller Bridge win an armful of Emmys for her amazing writing so I was already on a bit of a ‘I’ll never be as good as her’ downward spiral and then I saw Rhiannon win the BBC writer in residence opportunity and I really hope she doesn’t hear this but I felt envious which honestly is not my go to kind of position on these things. I was genuinely so made up for her to win it, she’s someone I’ve briefly chatted with on Instagram so I had that ‘I kind of know her’ moment and felt extra pleased for her as we had spoken about entering and then later in the day I just had a mad crash of confidence. I drove to McDonalds to self medicate with food and I remember in the car just feeling like foolish to be dedicating time to something as wishy washy as ‘writing’.

It’s a part of my historical behaviour patterns to get these feelings of worthlessness and I think we’ve probably all suffered with that particular strain of negative thinking at some point but I felt really blindsided by it with regard to writing and I was wondering if it was a bit of an epiphany. A bit of a realisation like this is not the way forward you bloody idiot. I went back to torture myself a little more in the evening when me and Rich were sat on opposite couches watching TV and on our phones together and I saw an interview Rhiannon had given to the BBC about winning and she had said something along the lines of having been writing for a long time and wondering if it was all a bit crap but then winning this and feeling amazing about it. That knocked me straight out of my funky envy cloud and I thought that will be me. Just clearly like that really could be me in a few years. And I’m probably going to be one of those annoying people who get asked for a top tip and say ‘just keep at it’.

So that’s what I’m going to do, just keep writing the crap until I learn how to write the gold. Every night before bed my daughter asks me what my dream is and I always say to write for T.V. so now I’ve kind of got to get better so she can see that dreams are worth pursuing.

And I would urge you to keep at it too, even though no-one asked me for my advice. If you love it, just keep writing. Don’t forget, we never know what will get picked up post-humously! So there’s always hope.

I’d love to know what would be your top tip about writing when you’re sitting on a writer’s panel in the future. Come and find me on Twitter I’m @a_screenwriter or if you look for Becoming a Screenwriter you can find me that way as well. A transcript of this podcast will be up on my blog website Have a great week and congratulations to everyone who ran in Cardiff today.

An Intimate Affair

The date has been looming in my calendar for over a month. I prepare myself thoroughly. Wash, clean, scrub. I stand in the mirror pondering how to style my hair. I’d normally throw it up into a ponytail but I need something that I can lie on so a pony won’t do. I plait it only to shake it loose again. My long brown hair cascades over my shoulders. I leave it down and decide to take a hair tie with me. I don’t want my hair to get in the way. I get dressed.

As I drive there, I feel slightly nervous. Nothing to write home about, but definite butterflies.

An unmistakeable odour hits me as I open the heavy door. I feel like I have passed through an invisible barrier; my normal life one world, this place another with a new set of rules and expectations.

He calls my name. My stomach lurches. I have waited for this for weeks.

I enter the room. His domain now. It’s a small room with a grate over the window. I try not to accidentally brush past anything. A recliner chair in the centre. He’s young, good looking I suppose, not that it matters. We are going to do what we are going to do regardless. I’ve never had this one before, he’s new. I await instruction.

‘Please, sit’

I sit down. I know he’s already thinking about getting me on my back. I try to look confident. I tie my hair back, low. I’m ready.

‘All O.K.?’ He says.

I must look nervous.

‘Yes, fine thank you.’ I reply.

‘Any pain since last time?’

‘No, all fine thank you.’

There was some blood after the last time but I’m not going to give him that satisfaction. He walks toward me, putting on a pair of gloves. He stands close to me, uncomfortably close. He reaches down, presses a button and the chair starts to recline very slowly until I’m finally lying flat, blood rushing to my head, looking up at him. From this point onward I am completely at his mercy. Will he be gentle?

‘Wide open please.’

He gets right to it. I thought I was ready but I am never as ready as I thought. It’s a bit too intimate really but this is what I come here for. He’s quiet as he looks. He likes looking. I know he does. He’s new but he knows what he’s doing. I lie there, prone. He compliments me on my personal hygiene. I try not to smile.

Surprisingly, he begins small talk. He’s talking about his wife. I can’t respond, it’s too awkward so I stay silent. He begins to prod around a bit with a deft but firm hand. It does nothing for me. That’s not my role here. I have to remind myself to remain open because all I want to do is clam up.

He gets his mirror. I look at the ceiling, desperately trying to avoid his eye as he puts something (I don’t know what) inside me.

‘A little wider please.’

I don’t know exactly what he’s doing or what will be next. I feel nervous now. Then just like that it’s over. He’s finished. He snaps his gloves off. Turns his back to me to click on his computer. I can’t tell if he’s displeased with me or just running behind schedule. I say goodbye. He’s friendly enough.

On the way out I pay at the desk. This part is always a bit embarrassing but I’m not entirely sure why. I sign a form. A waiver I assume, I don’t read it. I just want to leave now. I’m done. Back to my normal world and my normal life.

As I hurry past the others in the waiting room and head toward the exit, the dental receptionist calls jovially ‘See you in six weeks!’.

Mummy’s In A Half State.

‘Quality Time’. The ultimate phrase that basically kicked off the era of parent guilt.

My kids are now 9 and 3. While most parents seem to lament every year, month, week that passes I would place myself firmly at the other end of the scale. I relish every week, month, and year that passes. If that sounds callous, hear me out.

Kids Rock

Kids are awesome! Unless you spend a significant amount of your time around children (which I’m sure most of us here do, actually) it would be difficult to accurately describe how astoundingly amazing the little beastlings are.

They learn at a rate of knots, and all at once. While us dinosaur adults need to focus on one skill at a time, children are constantly learning. They draw upon every tiny experience and they’re always looking for more.

Let me pause here to make it clear that I am not talking about school. My 9 year old who has been a proficient reader for years now when faced with a change of teacher exclaimed ‘What if the new teacher doesn’t give us as much reading time?!’ also is the person who reads the least out of us all at home. Including my 3 year old. But even though she chooses not to read at home yet confesses to love it at school she is still constantly learning and changing. Not all learning comes from books.

…my 9 year old showed me this amazing video about climate change last week.

Anyway, I digress, my point is that my kids really astound me. Watching them learn and grow is genuinely incredible. My 3 year old can tell you the name of almost every dinosaur just because he’s really interested in dinosaurs and my 9 year old showed me this amazing video about climate change last week. Her world view is changing and her thoughts are beginning to reach more outside of herself. Whilst my 9 year old considers how big the world is and her possible place within it, my 3 year old is practising gross motor skills. He likes playing football and catch. Most recently, he’s really into sorting and measuring. He sorts his cars into colour groups and tips things from one container to another to see what happens, completely independently. We saw a stick insect today and he asked if he could touch it. I mean, he had no clue if it would bite, jump, or sting, he just decided ‘I wanna know what that thing feels like’. I love it.

Babies are cute and all but…

I must confess to feeling a bit confused when people say they miss their babies. Especially when they’re still only little kids. I mean, I can imagine wanting to jump back a few years when you’re dealing with teenagers! I think I’m a bit peculiar in this way and I don’t mean they shouldn’t say it at all, in fact I think it’s really sweet but when I remember my kids as babies I feel like I had that time and it was good at the time, you know?

Another indisputable plus is that the bigger they get the more freedom I have. Breastfeeding has stopped and I’m no longer the only person in the whole world who can put my son to bed. I can explain to him that I’m going out and I will be back for bedtime, or Daddy will put him to bed that night and he understands that.

I can arrange an evening coffee with a friend. I can do a ten week evening course. I can go for a weekend breakfast date with another friend. I can take a ten minute shower in the day while he plays with his toys. I even went to Venice for two nights. And I bloody loved it.

I Am Home

“I am home, I am the maypole around which all the ribbons are strung.”

BUT. What is this post about – Mummy’s in a half state? I am still the main carer. Numero Uno. I’m a stay at home mum while my husband works full time. It’s the way we’ve always done things since we had our first baby all those 9 years ago. That is pretty amazing in A LOT of ways (see above) but it also means that I’m the fall guy. As in, I am base, I am home, I am the maypole around which all the ribbons are strung. I am unmovable, reliable, constant. The top end of my allocated range is a two night city break.

Let me just intercept this bit here by saying…I really wouldn’t like to have it any other way. My kids are my life and fuck anyone who says they shouldn’t be.

I’m Not All There

I’ve realised that a lot of the time I’m with the kids I’m in a half state. Half reading a story, half folding laundry. Half washing dishes, half dancing in the kitchen. Half making a meal, half playing cars. I’m hardly ever all there. My attention is not all theirs. When Daddy is home that’s the only time there is a possibility I’ll get a break from 24/7 mum-ing. I might go upstairs to write or have a bath or meet a friend for a coffee.

If it’s been a trying week I might bury my face in my phone rather than get us out to the park (and then feel guilty about it). Or if I’ve had a titful of laundry and making meals and all the other stuff I might say to myself ‘right, now I’m going to sit down and have a break and go on Instagram’ whereas my 3 year old is thinking ‘Mum I’ve been entertaining myself all this time you’ve been faffing about and now I need some attention’.

We have the best time when we’re out of the house together and I’m free from the distraction of menial house labour. Even though feeling the pressure to wash up or get tea ready when we get back is inevitable.

Quality Time

We always have great fun in the summer holidays and I think that’s why, because we get out a lot and go on days out together. Marvelling at the beetles and running down inclines, feeding goats, touching stick insects and going on bumpy tractor rides.

Maybe that’s partly why I love holidays so much as well, because we’re all together and we’re all present in the moment. Or as the ‘parenting experts’ from 2006 might tell you, spending quality time.

So yeah, sorry kids you’ve been speaking to a half me all this time, I promise I meant to give you my all.

P.S. Am I the only one who reads this title as ‘Mummy’s in a half state – turtle power!’??

Notre Dame & Grenfell

If it took billionaires throwing cash at Notre Dame for you to realise what a fucked up world we live in then where have you been?

The fact that nobody in power did anything substantial about Grenfell was a tragedy whether Notre Dame burned down or not. It was a tragedy before it happened. People being told to stay in their flats until they were rescued as part of an emergency plan? Unsuitable insulation which escalated the fire even more quickly than if they’d built it properly? Do you think Teresa May or anyone with any power in this country would be living somewhere like that? Do you think the people that died in Grenfell were worth less because they weren’t politicians?

They have us hoodwinked. While we have been sharing meme’s on facebook about trading laws and fishing rights families are being made homeless.

While we all bravely share sad videos of homeless people being given a bag of clothes by some everyday hero MORE people are being made homeless. And nobody but charity organisations seem to be doing anything about it.

On my feed today, a woman posted in a blogger group. ‘I’m sorry I know this is off topic’ she said ‘…but my family and I are about to be made homeless and I’m just trying everything I can’. On the precipice of total decimation of everything she knows as her family life desperately posting to try to reach somebody who may be able to help her, her husband and their 7 children. Her post described how after 16 years of living in their current rented home, their landlord has given them 4 weeks to find somewhere else to live. More than that they were only one family of many facing this life crushing circumstance. Their landlord being in control of many properties deciding to re-purpose their estates. ‘They’ve left those with kids until last’ she said.

Like what the fuck. What the fuck.

Read on to the comments to see there are at least 2 more women who have personal experience of this happening to them also. Trying to share their limited knowledge of the law and their rights, knowledge that they had to learn sharpish when they were in the same situation. Because nobody would help them. You may think if you were about to be made homeless the council would do something about it. But they won’t.

People are suffering. Government does not care.

Notre Dame was sad. You and I and the people of Paris singing and anyone else who felt saddened watching that beautiful structure burn are allowed that emotion. It was not wrong or privileged to have an emotional response to it.

Grenfell was an absolutely abhorrent disaster that should never have happened.

Two separate things. Two absolutely separate things that cannot be placed side by side.

Billionaires have been wandering around throwing money at stuff for years and no-one has given the slightest fuck. We cannot control what billionaires spend their money on. If they want to buy Notre Dame new windows they will do so. And as Utopian a world it would be if we were able to distribute wealth fairly, it’s never going to happen. There will always be rich people.

We are living in a U.K. where charities and voluntary organisations are picking up the slack and our leaders are O.K. with that. Funding is being pulled like a rug out from under the feet of these organisations all the time and seems to go under the radar.

What is the answer? I don’t know. But I do know it’s not in getting angry at multi billionaires on social media. I do know we won’t find the answer in meme’s that compare the loss of life at Grenfell to the fire at Notre Dame.

Getting angry that some people are rich is pretty pointless. Rage that families are made homeless like it’s a nothing matter. Rage at the media bringing you more Brexit news while children eat from food banks. Rage that somehow we’ve allowed a generation of people to suffer the negative consequences of an outstandingly bad decision made by their predecessors.

Rage, but not at the rich people. They don’t give a shit.

Chatty Update – January 2019

Hello and welcome to 2019! I was sitting there today thinking how absurdly futuristic the time we are living in is. I was at a soft play and overheard a grandad telling his charge that no, he couldn’t go on the slide with him. I looked up to assess the voice’s age and wondered how it would feel to be older. As I looked (nosed) I thought how I would like to ask him about his experiences of the war and it occurred to me that this old man would have barely been born at the 2nd world war’s end. I remembered reading somewhere that soon the 2nd world war would no longer be in living memory.

2019 – almost 20 years after the millennium! That’s somebody’s lifetime! Rumours were rife that all the computers would shut down and the world would end as all the electronic dates wouldn’t be able to fathom the 01/01/00 date. Such a privileged generation we had to mock threaten ourselves with the idea of evil tech. It’s laughable now of course.

I checked out from the outside world on the day the schools broke up for the Christmas holidays. I switched my phone off and put it in a drawer for a few days to hone my attention span and spend some time with my family. It was all too easy for me to defect to hermit status. Should I say defect or revert? I’m not sure. Either way, the result of it was that I read a lot.

The hibernation period over Christmas was lush. Visiting family I waddled from house to home like King Henry the 8th sampling wedding breakfast menu’s. Travelling no more than 10 minutes drive from the base of home. On one of the days after Boxing Day I ambled over to see if the library was open. I live within walking distance of a library. It’s one of the best things about my life. I was delighted to find it was open because (and I can’t remember why now) I really needed some books/info about the First World War. I also discovered the library’s online ebook service. It is brilliant! So I’ve read a lot, and I’ve also been watching a lot of T.V.

All those elements combined have led to some reflection and contemplation which I have enjoyed. The banishment of the phone meant a freedom to think in long-form rather than this quick, short, almost meaningless thought pattern that mimics the social media feed scroll. Reading about the war has made me contemplate how much life has changed since then and how different times were. I also read The Diary of Anne Frank. Now every time I use the toilet I find myself thinking ‘I’m so glad I can flush the chain without being fear of being detected.’

I watched 2 great films worth mentioning. Dunkirk, which is a war film. It is about the evacuation of 330,000 British and allied troops from the French beach in 1940. The pace of this film is exquisite. I would go so far as to say it is the best film for pace I have ever seen. The other film was Ready Player One. Directed by Steven Spielberg is possibly enough of an accolade. It is a great film set in the not too distant future – 2045 – where everyone has these VR headsets and they all play in a space called Oasis. I had heard some hype about this from people on twitter who had read the script. It seems the script has been around a while and the film has been greatly anticipated.

I think 2019 will see the big boom for VR. The book I read earlier in the year by Jaron Lanier and his TED talks, Zuckerburg’s very public massive investment in VR, and a book I am currently reading called Future Presence written by Peter Rubin all point toward the big take off for this tech this year. And it is going to change everything. If you haven’t already, then deffo watch Ready Player One. Especially if you like 80’s references.

I’ve also been watching loads of TV. Netflix – You, Bates Motel. BBC – Mrs Wilson, Les Mis, The Long Song. And actually I’m going to wrap this up now so I can go and watch another episode of something.

Overall it’s been a great end to the year. I’m feeling hugely grateful for all my mod cons and life in general, horrified at the lack of value placed upon the lives of our forefathers, and a great foreboding feeling about the future with VR. Oh and if I hear the word brexit one more time I’m moving to France. Oh wait…