The One Thing

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Editing is about making decisions, thousands and thousands of them. Everything from whether to use a one-frame audio dissolve that will ultimately go unnoticed to how to arrange the scenes of your story in order to create the most powerful dramatic arc—the kind of choice that will ultimately determine the success of your work. Decisions lead to other options which lead to other decisions and on and on, seemingly forever.

It’s easy to get lost in trying to predict how a single choice will affect the rest of your work when you arrive downstream. It can feel overwhelming. And Lord knows, I’ve done my share of fretting.

When I think about the work to be done on my current project, part of me wants to crawl under a bed with a bag of candy and a stack of comic books.

But I don’t because I have two weapons in that fight. I have a workflow and I have a strategy.

Each evening before I leave the office I ask myself, what is the one thing I need to do tomorrow?

I give myself reasonable goals—a scene, for instance—things I know that I can accomplish so that once I’m done, any time left feels like a bonus. The pressure is off and I feel free to play and experiment and have fun.

It’s so simple it almost seems dumb.

But here’s the catch: completing that one task keeps the fear away because I know that I’m always making progress. As Tim and I tell each other when a story feels too complicated to untangle, The only way out is through. One decision at a time, one scene at a time.

Determine the one thing you need to do today and do it.

And as the Zen masters used to say, “A movie of one hundred minutes begins with the first edit.”