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Stay Productive, Not Busy


Here we are, over two months deep into the Quarantine season. I think it expanded beyond everyone's expectations. It has gotten out of hand. Adding protesting into the mix, it's a troubling year so far, to say the least.

I started my break from work without any knowledge of when I would be back to my day job. I took the first week or so to sleep in and enjoy the unknown amount of time catching up on much-needed sleep. I'm a motivated person by nature, so I would get anywhere between 5 1/2- 6 hours of sleep a night because I never learned just to stop what I'm passionately working on and call it a night. My first week off, I slept 10 hours a night. I'm well-rested now.

Once the first month passed, I focused on what my priorities were and what I wanted to accomplish with this time freedom. Luckily, no one in my immediate proximity was sick or had access to ill individuals, so I had little to worry about besides the occasional errand or public environment I went into.

I always struggled to find the time I needed to get my passion projects done or give them the proper time so I don't feel as if I'm rushing to get them done before bed. I was usually at my day job for 12 hours a day between starting, breaks, and getting overtime. My wife started working with me, and she finished later than me, so naturally, I'd wait until she finished to leave as well.

I made a list of the things I wanted to do, and I was able to get a majority of them done.

  • I caught up and finished my screenwriting course, which helped much for my pending scripts and gaining the knowledge I needed to advance into freelancing or contending in screenplay competitions.

  • I went through 4 novels with ease. Reading 30-50 pages in one sitting was a limited privilege I rarely had.

  • I sold a handful of items from art prints, to Ikea furniture, to collectible figures (or action figures. I have no shame), old Apple accessories, and a few more. An extra $480 for groceries and bills goes a long way.

  • I reorganized my storage unit while having more space available from recent sales. The organization never felt so good!

  • I focused 2-3 hours a night towards short stories and polished my website with a better aesthetic than before. Releasing a book by the end of summer/fall is still a timeline I'm still aiming to reach.

  • I caught up on a series a friend and I conceptualized back in 2016. We are currently working on new drafts and expanding the story.

  • I watched a ton of movies. Movies released last year, 80s gems I never saw, and a few in between.

Now, some people still don't have the time freedom I'm fortunate to have. Whether you're working full time, on the front line in the medical field, or taking care of kids full time, I understand time is a limited resource even with more available being out of work.

My point is that this time is a luxury most people won't ever get back. I am incredibly grateful to have a great job, but it gives me little ability to prioritize my dream. It's been great to relax and not stress about when I'm getting things done. My priorities have shifted, and I'm able to see more clearly what is essential when my free time is at stake.

For those of you who always wanted to do something but never had the time either, I compiled a list of things that's possible with an unknown timeline. With websites like Youtube, Lynda, Udemy (among many more), there are several ways to learn in the comfort of your home for little to no cost.

Coming out of this entire pandemic experience without being any smarter or wiser is a foolish way to go about it!

Here goes:


Photography

It's safe to assume that you probably have the latest smartphone on the market. If not, there are still higher capabilities on your phone that would make the Canon 5D sweat these days. Going outside, down the street, even to a local park will provide a plethora of exciting images to share with the world. If you're just starting, don't be shy! Plenty of apps are available for mobile editing and retouching. Apple and Amazon have lens accessories on their websites if you wish to take it more seriously. If you like what you capture, compile it onto either Instagram or Facebook. In time, you'll be able to pick up tips and tricks from fellow photographers. Better yet, reach out to some while you have the time and take their tips on your next photo trip!

Filmmaking

As stated above, there's a high chance your smartphone is recent and loaded with technology capable of 4K. One of Lady Gaga's recent music videos filmed with the iPhone! Sure, your budget is much lower. Still, with a few accessories, you can meet the basic requirements for a well-constructed video.

  • Beastgrip offers a wide variety of cases and cages for filmmaking. At reasonable prices for accessories, you can build a rig and film on your smartphone for under $200.

  • You can find any app for editing, coloring, filters, and more through your App store.

  • Sites like Youtube and Tiktok are blowing up with everyone stuck at home. Using those to start your channel will bring a steady audience if you post every day. It doesn't have to be a large production at all. You can dance, give advice, play music, or make short skits in the freedom of your home or yard! You'd be amazed by the reach that is available if you commit to it.

  • Online courses are endless for learning filmmaking skills. Start with Youtube and see where you go with it. Free is better when you're starting or have limited income.

My friends Nyv and Lucy have a great site and Youtube channel for conversing with filmmakers, essays on the current industry, and the dos and don'ts of filmmaking. Check them out at levelnineproductions.com.

Writing

I have two different aspects to this one: screenwriting and novel writing. For novel writing, it's easy enough to use Microsoft Word. Most indie-publishers take submissions in Times New Roman double spaced. That's easiest to do in Word. I'm a big fan of Novlr. It's easy to organize numerous projects, and the screen adjusts to block out distractions while your typing away at your story. It's $10/month, mobile compatible, and offers access to self-publishing. If that's too pricy, stick with Word to start.

For screenwriting, Celtx and Final Draft are two of the most popular. Celtx offers a low-cost service that can integrate with other users. Final Draft will run you more money but is the industry-standard software. I use Final Draft and haven't looked back since.

Writing courses are a gamble, in my opinion. Having someone aid you on skills is helpful, but I'm a firm believer doing is always better than having people tell you what does and doesn't work. You don't get ripped by reading about push-ups. Find some interviews or courses online for free, and it'll get you started.

Something as simple as keeping a notebook or keeping ideas in the notes section on your phone can help you keep track of ideas and work on them in your free time.

Your Channel

Everyone is watching everyone right now. Log on to Facebook, and you will see a live stream, a gamer streaming, a Tiktok post, or a celebrity doing an interview from their living room on a now streaming late-night channel that was formerly on TV. You can build an audience with ease. You have several options:

  • Keep it simple with Youtube. A user-friendly way you can do just about anything, and it will gain momentum over time. Figure out what you're passionate about and record yourself talking for 20 minutes. If you're uncomfortable in front of the camera, do it for 5 minutes and slowly build up to longer durations.

  • Gaming is a MASSIVE industry that reaches all generations. Older fans like the classics but still play some of the newer games. Streamers now focus on Call of Duty, Fortnite, Apex, etc. display their abilities while playing live. You can accept donations and build your production value. If you just like playing video games in your free time, this is a significant way of branching out and growing a fanbase.

  • Tutorials regularly get steady traffic. If you have a unique skill that you can share, it's worthwhile to record yourself and show how to do it. One video can even expand to a series of videos of your skill. Showing more of your unique abilities is a secure way of having people come back for more when they want more knowledge of the craft.

  • Tiktok. You can network and make a series of humorous skits. Livestream, post every day, and post on all your channels, and you'll see growth in no time.

  • Vlogging has grown significantly over the years. A video diary of your day to day life can be interesting if you have a particular focus in mind. People like David Dobrik rose to fame, just hanging out with his friends and tormenting his family. Who knows? Find out what you would want to share and get started.


There are tons of other things to pick up while you have the time. Read that book you never have time to finish. Learn how to fix your car yourself. What can you part with that you don't need, and someone else might buy? The list is endless.

I knew I wanted to get my projects off the ground, and I know I will soon. I'm fortunate that my friends and family are all safe in this pandemic, and I can focus on things that make me happy instead of groveling that life is miserable right now. Life could be and is miserable without a pandemic in the equation. It takes a level of personal responsibility to assess your situation and figure out how to make it better. The TV will always be there, but your well being will eventually run out.

Which will you pay attention to the most?

Feel free to message me if you found a new skill in your downtime. I'm excited to see what you have learned or improved on, given the extra time.

Talk to you again soon.

-Joe

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