At Freedom, we love our users – not just because they use our product, but because they’re cool – cool people working on cool stuff. Academy Award-nominated screenwriters, best-selling authors, editors, designers, star TV actors and writers, academic researchers, explorers, and entrepreneurs – the Freedom community is packed with curious, creative, and efficient go-getters. We love to share their stories and advice, because how better to learn about productivity than from the productive?
Meet Paul Guyot.
Paul is a TV and film screenwriter, author, and producer. He has co-written and co-produced TV shows and films such as NCIS: New Orleans, The Librarians, Leverage, Judging Amy, Snoops, and the 2017 box office hit Geostorm.
But before writing the roles that Hollywood’s finest actors would fill, he got experience and his big break by working as a stand-in on sets. During this time he was able to stand-in for actors such as Don Johnson, Charlie Sheen, Christian Slater, Bruce Willis, and Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat, all the while soaking in everything he could about the movie-making process. Eventually, Paul landed a dream job – personal assistant to the great Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat, which would ultimately lead him to make writing his profession. The rest is history.
Paul currently splits his time between St. Louis, MO and Los Angeles, CA and we he’s not writing, you’ll find him golfing, fishing with his son, or coaching his daughter’s soccer team.
With tons of experience under his belt and a few good stories to match – we figured we’d let him tell you how he found the focus and time to do it all.
How did you become the screenwriter and author that you are today? What were some of the steps you took to make this your career?
As far back as 5th grade, I was writing stories about my friends, mostly just to make them laugh. I didn’t even know writing could be a vocation until high school when a teacher told me I should think about it as a career.
I started writing short stories, and then screenplays, even heading to Hollywood after college. I worked as a stand-in for 10 years before I ever got paid for my writing. But it was during those years that I wrote all the time. I just kept writing, and when you do that, you get better. Like anything – the more you do it, the better you get.
I never worried about trying to get an agent, or sell something, or any of the shortcuts so many are searching for today. I just wrote. And eventually, my work found its way into the hands of people who could hire me. And they did.
As a screenwriter and author, how do you find the focus and motivation to meet your deadlines?
It’s very difficult. We always work harder for others than we do for ourselves. So focus and discipline is critical. Motivation shouldn’t be an issue – if it is, you’re in the wrong business. Discipline comes from trial & error, doing it over and over. Focus is always tough. That’s one reason I love Freedom. It keeps out things that mess with my focus.
At what point did you realize that tech/apps/sites were taking a toll on your productivity and time? Or, when did you know that you had to do something about it?
During the height of the blog mania, I had a screenwriting blog that was getting 5-10K hits a day. I would write about writing. One day I realized that I had written enough on that blog to equal two full novels. I knew that was wrong, so I stopped. Then, when Twitter and social media blew up, I found myself being easily distracted by the candy that is sitting right there, just a click away. It was on Twitter that I discovered Freedom.
Do you have a morning routine or work rituals that help prepare you for focused work?
I meditate and do morning pages as described by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. When I’m working on a deadline, I will wake up and immediately begin writing – before checking my phone, email, anything. Because when we wake up and check our phones and email, we are putting our brains into a reactive state – reacting immediately to what we see. But if you wake up and begin writing, your brain goes into a proactive state, and is much more creative and functional.
What resources or tools do you use daily and have found most beneficial to your productivity and/or writing/working process?
Freedom is my go-to app/resource. I use it all the time. Sometimes for a quick 20-30 minute burst, other times, I’ll set a session for 4+ hours.
What project are you currently most excited about?
I’m working on two feature projects right now, both of them based on true stories. Both of them powerful tales of triumph and courage. They excite me. I spent the past year as a Co-Executive Producer for the CBS series NCIS: New Orleans.
What are your biggest distractors and how do you combat them?
My biggest distraction is social media. The interacting with other people, especially with other writers. I’m very involved with the Twitter hashtag program #WRAC18, which is a group of screenwriters, both amateur and professional, who hold each accountable for getting work done. I have made several good friends from social media, so it can be a definite distraction from work, but we’re all in the same boat, bailing the same water.
What is a piece of advice you would give your younger self in regard to writing and/or productivity?
Believe in yourself and your work. Trust the process, don’t second-guess.
What do you do outside of your work routine that helps you stay productive?
I was exercising a lot in 2015/2016, and it was great. I truly believe being healthy helps the writing process. I got out of my routine in 2017, and gained a lot of weight. I’m trying to get back to where I was. Sleeping is another thing that can’t be underestimated. Getting into a quality sleep routine does wonders for energy and focus during your waking hours. And as stated, I meditate every day
To learn more about Paul and his work, you can visit his site at PaulGuyot.net.