A Lesson in Creativity from Screenwriter Mike Rich

Finding time for your passion project or next big thing can be difficult when you are also working full time on something else. Recently I had a dialogue with a screenwriter who shared some insight on scheduling creativity into your day.

I’ve had a lot of travels this summer and my most recent adventure was to Portland, Oregon where I had the opportunity to meet Mike Rich, the acclaimed screenwriter of films like Finding Forrester, The Rookie, Invincible, and Cars 3. I met Mike and his wife Grace at their home before having lunch and checking out the vineyard Eminent Domaine. We talked about everything from writing process to his films and career. His home is beautiful with an office view overlooking forested mountains, a home movie theater, and fully-stocked wine cellar. As a writer, filmmaker and movie enthusiast myself, it was wonderful to meet him and talk shop and he was a gracious host.

The way he began screenwriting was very different than how many get into the business. Most people may just start writing. But Mike researched the average length of a screenplay. It's about 120 pages. Then he calculated the number of pages he would have to write each weekday so he could have a completed screenplay by a couple months’ time. So he estimated that if he wrote for several hours every weekday -- after his morning radio shift; and before his kids came home from school -- he would accomplish his goal. When Mike began writing Finding Forrester at nearly 40 years old in the late 1990s, he was already working in radio as a DJ and newsman in Spokane and Portland. He was struck with the inspiration for the story from an on-air interview and wanted to begin writing a story. But there  was no guarantee he would be successful; screenwriting was just a hobby that he started in his 30s, he was also married with kids, worked full-time, never went to film school, and lived outside of Los Angeles. Even though his life was incredibly full and busy, Mike knew he wanted to find the time to tell this story. So he carved two hours out his weekly schedule -- after he finished a full early morning shift at the radio station, but before his kids got home from school. This was a sacred  block of time sacred in Mike’s schedule just for writing, and it eventually paid off. Mike finished the script and in 1998, Finding Forrester won the Nicholl Fellowship award. Finding Forrester went into production and being the first push in changing his life. I found it very inspiring to see a passion turn into a career through a few simple time management steps. I also want to recommend a podcast interview Mike Rich did with Applied Curiosity Lab Radio a couple years ago: “Turn Curiosity Into Creative Success.” 

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Written by Keller Davis.

Originally published in our newsletter Create.Chronicle as a section “Notes From the Desk of Keller”.