Welcome to another edition of A Day in the Life. Here, creators share some insight into their daily routine, informing how they create and what structure they need (if any) to make a little magic happen. It’s sort of like the comic book version of MTV Cribs, only no one says, “This is where the magic happens.”
Ryan Parrot is the author of Dynamite’s excellent Death to the Army of Darkness, as well as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for BOOM! Studios and Volition for AfterShock. Outside of comics, he’s written for the TV series Chance and Revolution. Follow him on Twitter @ThatRyanParrott.
What’s the first thing you do as part of your daily routine/workday?
Youtube doesn’t count, right? Actually, the first thing I do is done the previous night. Before I go to sleep, I write down everything I want to tackle the next day by time, not by task. I almost never get to all of it, but it helps allocate my day, especially when I’m working on multiple projects… which I always seem to be doing these days.
Do you keep to a set schedule or just wing it during any given week?
Ah, I should have checked this question before writing my last answer. But I start out trying to stick to a schedule, but… if I find myself not wanting to work on something (usually whatever is due first), then I start on the thing I want to write that morning. I always have issues with motivation, so I go where the passion is to start and hope that leads into productivity.
Is there one particular place you work, or a specific set up to be most productive?
RP: Right now, I have two spots. If I’m just having fun writing, I’ll work at the kitchen table. The problem is my wife is also a writer and prefers the couch, which is in my eye line. So inevitably, I’ll start asking her questions or sharing stupid things I find when I’m supposed to be writing… which slows me down. So, if I really need to get stuff done, I go to the breakfast nook. The privacy tends to keep me a little more on task. But only a little.
What’s the absolute highlight of any given workday?
Finishing something. I have a project list with everything that’s due and projects I want to work on as a reward. On the top of it, says: “What are you finishing today?” So when I get to scratch anything off the list, it’s literally the best part of the day. And yet it so rarely happens. Sigh.
What’s your least favorite part of any workday?
3 p.m. Usually, because it’s right after lunch, so I don’t have that to look forward to, and I realize I haven’t accomplished anything and I get angry at myself. So I’m a little cranky and annoyed with everything until I’m able to finally finish a few pages. It’s a daily struggle.
Are you listening to music or podcasts throughout the day?
Maybe a podcast in the morning, but most of the day I listen to movie soundtracks or atmospheric music. Max Richter is a personal favorite. I can’t list to anything with lyrics when I’m writing dialogue or they’ll find their way into my writing. And you can’t have Ash Williams quoting Lil’ Wayne… or… can you?
When you work, do you have a daily “quota” to reach (number of pages, word count, etc.)? Are these “metrics” important or not?
I know it’s uncool to say this, but when I’m on deadline for several books, I actually do go with a “pages per day” approach just to make sure everything gets done. Say, I have a script due in a week, I’ll do three pages a day on that book. Even if I’m on a roll, I’ll force myself to move on to the next project. Is it the best way to write? Probably not, but it keeps the trains moving.
Do you have any habits or special routines that are essential for a truly productive day?
Usually… it’s not starting on a computer. I have a dry erase notebook (highly recommend) that I love, so I’ll write all my pages in long form until lunch, take a break and then type them all in during the afternoon. I tend to get a lot written on those days… and it kinda gives me a draft and a revision. There’s just something about slowing down the writing process to the speed of my hand that really helps.
How important is diet during the day? Do you drink 10 gallons of coffee or a bowl of cinnamon oatmeal at 11 a.m.?
I gave up coffee a few years ago and I think that’s helped my mornings. But I do think if you run into a problem or don’t feel motivated, go for a walk, take a shower or work out. It can free your mind up to solve things and then when you sit back down, suddenly writing gets fun again.
Do you read/consume comics or other media during the day? Or do you need to keep a distance from that while working?
I wish I could read more comics, but after a long day, it feels like work to me. However, I do go on kicks of reading screenplays. Especially any unproduced ones by writers I admire. Getting their voices in my head helps remind me that I need to work harder and not simply write the first line that pops into my head.
Are you working steadily with breaks or do you tend to work in spurts?
It depends, honestly. Sometimes, I’ll look up and I’ve been writing for six hours straight. And other times, it’s hard to keep going for ten minutes without playing around on social media or something. I think the key is to not beat yourself up too much and accept that some days will be better than others.
How do you usually wind down the work day — emails, more reading, etc.?
Right now, It’s almost always working out. Being stuck inside, I have to get at least 30 minutes of some sort of workout or I won’t sleep. So when 6:30 rolls around, I have to give up whatever I’m doing. Then, I’m usually done… until midnight when I’ll inevitably sit back down and scribble out a few ideas before making my to do list for the next day. It’s a vicious cycle.
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