ChiTownScreenwriting with Kat O'Brien - Issue #12 | Do Nothing



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Welcome back to ChiTown Screenwriting with Kat O'Brien!
In this week’s issue:
  • On Writing & Creating: Do Nothing
  • Tips and Tricks: For Doing Nothing
  • Lessons & Prompts: Regenerative Writing
  • Open Call for Spotlights & Submissions
Going on hiatus for July 4th next week. More Conversations With… and special guest contributors when we return July 12, and beyond!

Kat's Notes
Big thank you last week’s guest contributor, internationally acclaimed filmmaker Dayyan Eng (Colordance Pictures). A visionary master storyteller, he also is the writer-director of festival darling Bus 44, celebrated rom com Waiting Alone, the genre-bending Inseparable and indie summer box office hit, WishedIn my Conversation with Dayyan Eng, he candidly shares his advice for getting your first feature made, tips and tricks for getting it done accessibly, wit and wisdom for how to approach it with savvy, and I love his vision for a globally inclusive storytelling community. Check it out ICYMI!
As we head into the holiday weekend after an exhausting school year, intensified for many of us by the fight for justice across intersections of identity… it’s a lot. It’s hard to find time, hard to make time, and it feels harder still knowing we should, but we can’t figure out how.
So with that in mind, this week’s issue is all about trying to help you figure that out – wherever you are at with your fight for your time and wellbeing – offering prompts for writing or reflection in anticipation of our hiatus next week for the 4th of July. As promised in our earlier mandate, this week I’m offering some lessons and writing prompts to help you creatively recharge.
ChiTown Screenwriting is building a community to connect creative collaborators to opportunities – focused on sharing wisdom and resources as form of collectivizing our wealth, providing access to workshops and events for professional development and virtual networking, and elevating projects and artists – however famous, however up-and-coming, to model uplifting and promoting one another.
Connect Friends to ChiTown Screenwriting
Connect Friends to ChiTown Screenwriting
As we shift into our summer season, we will be continuing our Conversations With series featuring special guest contributors, featuring guest essays, creative pieces, think-pieces, and provided no technical snags (as I encountered last week), continued round ups and RTs from around the twitterverse. (Revue is a twitter platform.) We’ll continue to feature workshops and events curated by my creative partner, Tamika Spaulding, and I hope to continue to feature spotlights as well!
Send me stuff. Submissions are open. Scroll to the end for more info.
With that, I hope you enjoy this week’s issue centered on taking a break.
On Writing and Creating: Do Nothing
Many of us have been running at top speed throughout the pandemic just to survive. As the shutdown compelled remote work from home, many of us found new ways to sustainably connect and with that, struggled to create boundaries to differentiate between work, and home without the space to do so naturally. As a someone who has worked from home for years, the transition was fairly seamless for me, but the expectation of accessibility, or the pressure I put on myself to get everything “off my plate” so I could just… [write, create, focus on self-care, play with the kids, relax?] was a lot. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
I’m taking my first vacay since before the pandemic *today*.
Writing this as I’m preparing to leave town, I’ve spent much of my morning thinking about all the things I want to get off my plate to remain organized when I return to work in an effort to clear my mind, so that I can effectively hit reset.
Often times, when I check off my to-do list, I find that with certain obligations met (for now) or formally resolved, my cleared mind naturally refills with creative possibilities. New projects. More I could do. Different things I could do. I’ve come to accept that is just how I roll.
Sometimes, it feels like the creative brain just needs a minute to empty, clear out, in order to refill and in doing so– perhaps? – reprioritize what matters to us, and what we want to work on.
So how do you do it?
If you’re someone who is good at relaxing, and good at doing nothing – maybe you don’t really need this bit of advice. But for the busy-mind, the can’t-quite-sit-still folks… my best advice comes from my brilliant friend Sensei Stephen Toyoda, who runs the Japanese Culture Center in Chicago: do - no - thing. Go someplace quiet, where you can be still. Empty your mind in meditation. Perhaps the only thing you do is focus on your breath.
If the to-do list is filling up your brain, write it down. If you can’t tackle it all in one day, or one weekend, so you can’t get that satisfying strike through on your list, put a date to deal with it, and revisit at that point.
For me, the goal of “do nothing” is to liberate myself from this idea that I have to, should be, could be doing something. For the writer/creator juggling many priorities, this is really hard to negotiate, and yet it is critical to our ability to rest, recharge, and regenerate in the face of obstacles – or rejections, letdowns, perceived failures – that we find a way to do this for ourselves, in whatever small or big ways make sense for us.
If I can’t sit still to mediate, then I get moving and focus on just that– listening to music, or nothing, and focusing on my feet hitting the pavement or safely navigating city traffic to the lakeshore path on my bike. If you’re looking for support in this, find it. Ask for help finding it. Doing nothing feels like it should be intuitive but for many of us – it really isn’t. I am so grateful to Toyoda Sensei for guiding and nurturing my meditation practice, and to Victor Spaulding for physically (virtually!) training me. If you’re intrigued, drop them a line!
Japanese Culture Center | Martial & Cultural Arts Classes In Chicago
VICTOR SPAULDING JR. - Train with Victor
Tips & Tricks
It’s tough to do-no-thing. Here are some tips and tricks I’ve cultivated, inspired by many teachers and coaches, including Toyoda Sensei and Victor Spaulding, to help myself get grounded, rested, recharged, in five minutes – or over a much longer period of time.
Be still wherever you are. Lie down with your eyes closed, while awake. Meditate. Attempt Savasana (Corpse Pose) in Yoga.
Indulge. What books or TV shows or films have you been wanting to read? If you can you go someplace comfy or cozy to do so – even better! What are some of your favorite things to create – make, build, do? Cook or bake. Paint or draw. Build – with legos or blocks or maybe something more involved if it suits you and excites you. Garden. Plant. Harvest.
Sit in nature and listen. If you need to try something – draw a dot to represent yourself, then draw concentric circles around yourself. As you listen to the noises of your surroundings, try to map where they are in location to you.
Take a mindful walk. Same concept as above, but was you walk, take note of the small details. Maybe look for small things you can capture on your phone, then go back and make a collage of your findings or compose a social post.
Embrace the blank page. I love treating myself to a new journal. Blank pages. Room to write or scrawl, sketch or doodle, map or design. I sit down with no objective and let my stream of consciousness guide my pen. Who knows what I’ll write? It usually untangles emotional knots therapeutically, cathartically, or leads to a creative discovery that I have been still enough to let myself explore until that moment.
Lesson & Prompts: Regenerative Writing
Embracing the blank page for idea generation is one of my favorite things to talk about in writing classes, because it cuts like a sword right at the tension so many writers and creators struggle with: what if someone steals my idea?
And as someone who has had their ideas stolen (and sold! for a lot of money!) I always tell my students that you have to work yourself into a place where you recognize that your ideas are gold, and there’s more where that came from, and you are a renewable resource of awesomeness.
I’m also a story professional, and have spent decades advising production companies, studios, and filmmakers on the viability and merits of their ideas.
To generate, and generate viably, I have a lot of techniques that I utilize myself, and that I teach my students and coach my clients through embracing. For this week’s issue, the lesson and prompts I’m offering are centered on regenerative writing, or meditating on our why to prime our creative minds to more clearly focus on the what-and-how.
Writing Meditations
The following writing meditations are intended as suggestions to be utilized ideally after a seated meditation or mindfulness exercise, like the tips and tricks offered above. I incorporate these meditations into my creative process on the regular.
I. Noise // Silence
Observe it.
What is the sound of your noise, or the noise that surrounds you?
What is the sound of the absence of noise?
What is the sound of silence?
Reflect on it.
What does it sound like?
Interpret it.
What does it feel like?
Taste like?
Look like?
How does it move?
Why does it move?
Set an intention about Noise or Quiet.
Do you wish for more of it? Do you wish for less of it?
Which noises will you hold onto, and which will you let go?
Which silences will you hold onto, and which will you let go?
II. When you close your eyes, what do you see?
What fills the space?
What scenes play in your mind?
What are the moments that linger from your dreams into your waking life?
What’s holding you back? What haunts you?
What will you do? What have you done? What are you doing? 
III. Inspiration: I Like For You To Be Still – Pablo Neruda
Glenn Close reads Neruda’s poem on the Il Postino Soundtrack. As you listen, pick an image or a line and – stream of consciousness – write what it evokes for you.
Pablo Neruda - I Like For You To Be Still - Glenn Close reading
Pablo Neruda - I Like For You To Be Still - Glenn Close reading
Meditative Journal Writing
Get comfy. Grab a pen or your preferred writing tools. Think about the story you’re trying to crack, the story you’re trying to refine, the project you’re trying to finish. With that project in mind, answer the following questions for yourself:
(1)   Why am I doing this?
(2)   What do I want to get out of this? *This* is anything, you define it.
(3)   What is my idea (for whatever I’m writing)? How would I describe it?
(4)   Why am I passionate about this idea?
(5)   Is it a story worth telling? Why?
(6)   How does it reflect my POV and voice? What’s personal about this story to me, and why am I the only one who can tell this story?
On My Feed: Wit & Wisdom
Kat O'Brien
This is what I do too - and what I teach my students is this + any other way to write yourself towards lighthouses, beacons that illuminate the way to reach the story you intend to tell with space for discovery along the way.
David H. Steinberg
You do you but in the spirit of sharing how other writers do things here's what I do: I write a detailed outline, then cut and paste it directly into Final Draft. I overwrite the script on top of the outline filling in where needed but I never start with a blank page.
Riz Ahmed Presents a 'Blueprint for Wider Muslim Inclusion' in a Callout to Hollywood
Corey Deshon
If you're paying for mentorship, that's not mentorship. You've hired a consultant.
Julie Benson
What this Prod said is categorically FALSE. I assisted on many shows, promised the gig for S2: show cancelled. OR promised a freelance: episodes cut. OR pilot didn't get picked up: no WA or SW gig. OR toxic sitch I had to quit. There are MANY reasons an asst doesn't get staffed.
Suzanne Egan
A TV writer/producer recently told me “if an assistant has worked for several shows and never been staffed, it suggests their writing isn’t good enough to get hired.”

False. It means their talent is ignored and they’re hungry for work because they’re underpaid #IALivingWage
Dani Fernandez
Tonight is the full moon. Release what no longer serves you. Breathe. Comment “u look good for your age” on your enemy’s photo. Let go.
Jeanne Veillette Bowerman
@Michael_Writer1 So many writers want to quit. So many. Then something pushes to write one more day, and that day ends up being the one that changes everything. #dontgiveup #pipelineauthors #pipelinewriters #scriptchat
On My Calendar: Writing Workshops & Events
If you’re zoomed out, you can still sign up to attend many virtual events and get the video recording later. We are in a unique time for unprecedented virtual access to amazing workshops and opportunities to continue to learn and engage as a community of content creators and collaborators. Thanks to my creative partner Tamika J. Spaulding @tjmadeafunny for curating workshops and events for us!
Save the date! More after the hiatus:
  • Writers Guild Foundation
  • Wednesday, 7/14 @ 4pm PT
Spotlights and Submissions
Connect & Contribute to #chitownscreenwriting
Writers and creators, in Chicago and around the world, please share ChiTown Screenwriting with anyone you think might enjoy it, and be sure to let us know how ChiTown Screenwriting can uplift or support you and your projects. As we continue to build community + opportunity, I’m actively seeking to hand the feature reins over to other voices besides my own. I got this party started, you can find me at the bar/on the dance floor, I want to put *you* in the spotlight/center stage!
Upcoming Issues | Call for submissions!
We’re looking for feature essays, random thoughts, creative pieces, images and/or videos exploring the following topics:
Ongoing Call for Submissions!
As this grassroots movement finds its voice and expands our reach, we’ll continue to solicit content contributions in the areas of:
  • advice on writing and creating
  • tips and tricks on twitter (tag me @uknowkatobrien if you got some!)
  • wisdom, think: self care, mindfulness, changemaking and more
  • workshops and events to continue our professional development, and foster opportunities for connection, and collaboration
  • as well as writers and creators you should know
  • cool projects launching that we should spotlight
Who’s someone that I should know, ChiTown Screenwriting creators? Ping me @uknowkatobrien.
If you enjoyed this, or have writing/creative life questions I can unpack and answer, or are looking for support to promote your work and projects, reach out and let me know? And please share widely! #grassroots #letsgo
Thanks for reading, and see you next week #chitownscreenwriting!
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Kat O'Brien
Kat O'Brien @uknowKatOBrien

ChiTown Screenwriting is a publication that I write and edit, for writers and creators to find community on their journey to getting published and produced.

More ambitiously, ChiTown Screenwriting is a movement, and a mindset. Global and local, we're a community connected by creative collaboration, and we're all about connecting collaborators to creative opportunities!

Each issue shares the wisdom and advice from storytellers and changemakers, with the goal of demystifying some of the more elusive processes and strategies for navigating the business, art and craft of getting our stories to our audiences.

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