Napoleon and Me – Definiteness of Purpose Applied
My original plan was to continue my practice of concentrating on one success principle a week and study it, share it, reflect on it, and share this with you.
It was a good plan. It’s one I’ve done for years (minus the sharing, just something running quietly in the background of my life). Sometimes it yields spectacular results. Other times life gets in the way and I do well just to read the notes in my planner (me being me, I fill in all of those for the entire year in advance). During busy or stressful times of stress even gentle nudges in the right direction do pay off.
But this time Definiteness of Purpose grabbed hold of me and would not let me go. It started with helping my daughter and her roommates move to a house. Anyone who has ever moved (and lived to tell about it) knows how it stretches you mentally, physically. It is Definiteness of Purpose in action – pack this, toss that. Moving is a monumental thing, all-consuming, sucking up sleep, what used to be your free time, what used to be your life. It reminds me of basic training when nothing matters except survival.
A year ago this month I decided to take a break from theatre as soon as the show I was in – Much Ado About Nothing – was done. My mother-in-law always came to my shows. She wasn’t able to make it to this one, and she would have loved it. Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and I was ecstatic when the director changed Leonato to Leonata so I could play one of my favorite roles.
My mother-in-law was in the ICU during what turned out to be her last few months with us. So I did bedside performances of what was going on in rehearsal – one of my very favorite things was fencing. That startled the nurse a tad, but vastly entertained my mother-in-law.
After Fran died, I intended to take a year off to catch my breath, to rest and heal with my family, to get back to my other love, writing (hence this blog). I also rediscovered an old love, photography.
There was a screenplay I wanted to finish. It started out as a scene I wrote for a long ago acting showcase. It got a great response. Several people asked what it was from and wanted to do the show. From there it morphed into a novel. Then I met a screenwriter at a weekend conference. We were chatting during a break and she asked to see my work. I was at the conference primarily as an actor, but I was writing a lot at the time. I never ever ever ever (did I say ever?) show my work to people until it’s published. At the time I was a frequent guest columnist for our local paper. And here was a total stranger, one who made her living as a screenwriter, asking to see my work. Dear God in heaven. I just happened to have a project in my bag that I was working on during breaks. So I showed her. She said “You have no idea you’re really a screenwriter, do you?” I said “I know I see a movie in my head when I write” and she understood. She writes that way, too.
I write in dialogue, sketches of where stuff is, day or night. When I read books, I skip anything that looks boring and go right to who said what and what the action is. When I read my first screenplay, I knew I was home.
I am a screenwriter. I just didn’t think there was much call for that in Orlando, Florida.
She taught me the format and off I went.
Then I discovered another screenwriting book – the cover caught my eye – I once had a cat who looked like this and loved to swing on things. I discovered a community of Cats. One of those Cats, a screenwriter from California, told me about a contest which I entered and placed in the finals. That led to attending a conference where I met another screenwriter who loved my story and told me I should enter a bigger contest which she had just won (hence her attendance at the same conference). Her movie, A Matter of Time, is coming out next year. I also met one of my favorite actors at that conference. He loves that script too and told me he wants to be in it.
So I took her advice, entered that contest with a better version of that same screenplay, Family (based on Dolly Parton’s song of the same name – it’s the song I hope to have as that story’s theme song one day) and it placed in the semi-finals.
I wanted to see if I could do better. Last year I intended to enter the big contest again. Didn’t happen. With a day job, doing Shakespeare at night, spending weekends helping hubby take care of his mom in the hospital, her house, our house – there was just too much going on. I worked on it, but the movie I saw in my head did not translate the way I wanted onto the page. I didn’t want to send it if it wasn’t at least close to what I wanted (did I mention I’m a nitpicky perfectionist?). So I didn’t. And I felt like a failure.
This year I pulled it out again. Did more. I was on track. Then I decided to enter the contest again. And missed the deadline. Too many bumps again. Closer to what I wanted it to be, but not close enough to let anyone see it. Then it started to click. So I thought, “Okay, maybe it’ll be ready next year.” And went to the page to pencil it in my planner in advance for next year. And found they had extended the deadline. For me. I know logically, it wasn’t just for me. They don’t actually know me, but I felt it was for me. And I wasn’t going to miss this one.
So the writing til midnight began. (I get up 4:30-ish). The writing all day on my days off began. Then I was offered a show, by a director I had promised I would be available for next time. Rehearsals started the day of the deadline. So I decided to finish early, which I mostly did. On deadline day I worked my day job, lugged my laptop with me and holed up at Panera between work and rehearsal and wrote and wrote and wrote. I really thought I would have it done by then, but I didn’t. But I was not going to miss it again. So after rehearsal I worked on it a little more and sent it off.
It isn’t entirely the way I want it. Ideally it should be a little longer (I write tight – except here). Hmmmmm….
But I already have a fix in mind and if it doesn’t win this one I’ll revise it and send it out again. But I hope it wins. In my mind it has already won. And I won just for finishing it and sending it out.
I love it. It makes me laugh. It makes me cry. It’s very close to my heart. It’s the best I can do within the deadline time.
So thank you, Napoleon, for reminding me about Definiteness of Purpose and the rewards of focusing on one goal until it’s attained.
I think I’ll carry this theme through the end of the year.
And one thing I’ve learned this year is the value of taking time to focus on what matters.