It has been a good three chapters since I have even mentioned the movie,
so I was thinking I might talk about that again for a little while. You
may remember that our hero(me) was stuck with having to write a story for
his little short film he was going to make.
The first step was figuring out which story to write about. Not to be confused with figuring out what to write about. You see, as an
egoist, I keep a notebook with all my
bright, little ideas that I know are just so special. That way, on cold nights, I
can pull it out and remind myself what a genius I am. So all I really had to do was open
the book up and pull out an idea I already had. It was a lot easier to have faith in myself
before I started comtemplating actually bringing one of my ideas to fruision. Still, I managed
to pick one idea that didn't seem to stink and to sit down and start writing on it.
Now the concept of writing has an ethereal overtone to it. There are people who write stuff. They have always been writing stuff. They will talk about things they have written as far back as Jr. High. Then there are the rest of us. I never really wrote in Jr. High. Sure, I might have written a wildly inventive story to cheat my way of doing research for a paper or two in
school, but I had never had that mythical writer thing going.
Though I thought too highly of myself to waste my time writing for the school newspaper or yearbook, I have found several occations to, as so many others have, sit down in front of the typewriter and fool myself into thinking I was about to write the great novel/short story/screenplay/play/whatever. These unfinished tomes(or in my case, barely started) litter my drawers, computer diskettes and attic servering as a constant reminder of why I should get a job assembling head assemblies for General Motors, something I would be doing right now if General Motors hadn't expressed concern with how much of my life I wasted not writing anything while other people my age were already fully trained head assemblers.
Still, when I wrote, I did attempt to be very serious. I had this vague, far away feeling that there was a science here that I was unaware of and if I just did everything right, great writings would unfold before me:
Okay, let's see, I got some paper. The computer is turned on. Got a drink. I can reach those potato chips if I get hungry. Phones off, answering machine turned down. Let's just move those potato chips over here. Okay, let's start. The beginning is so important. How would Micheal Criton start a book. Something catchy. Not that I want to write that kind of book. I think I would like to write more of a classic adventure. Like a modern Heming... Oh! You know what? I shouldn't have those potato chips there. If I end up eating them, I will get grease on the keyboard. Do I have pretzels? Yes. I'll go get those. Good thinking. Better refill my drink also.
Now, before I get back to the story, I would like to point out that, since Ever, I have discovered that a large part of writing skill is not the ability to worry about things that need to get done, but to worry about things that you have already figured out. You also need
acceptance of the fact that
you are likely going to have to make more then one effort before you find a project worth
But in this case, I didn't need to worry about it. I had, after all, given Rob the task of writing the script. All I had to do was come up with the story. At the time, in my 10k ignorance, I
really felt like the words I had written in my notebook would qualify and, given
the opportunity, I would have shown Rob those pages and said, "Go for it."
And Rob, in return, would have likely done the logical thing and slap the crap out of me.
But I was lucky on two points: (1) Rob was in school and didn't want to start worrying about this project until the summer(still some time away) and (2) the idea was a good one (to me, anyway). I suspect you won't know what is a good idea and what is not until you have written 45 pages about something you have committed to write 120 pages on. At that point, you are either going to be fired up about the script and find it hard to take breaks to eat meals, or you are pretty much wondering what the hell you were thinking when you started this.
If you felt like you were going to make that particular screenplay and that was going to be inspired genius, but that screenplay isn't working, then you are busto. You can't write anymore or even think about why you can't write. All is forgotten. Maybe the trash can is used. Maybe it is copied onto some diskette (along with college papers and other things you feel are important to save even though you are never going to look at them again), then filed in a shoebox next to your diploma(see chapter 1). Whatever you do with it, the important thing is, it's dead.
You kill it in your mind as some childish endeavor.
For some of us, this is an annual ritual.
Now,on the other hand, if you dedicated just to writing and forward momentum stops then, well, you drop what you were
working on in a drawer and
say 'I will get back to it.' or 'I might get back to that' or 'who cares?'
Then you grab a bottle, go out, get drunk for a few days (or weeks, depending on your writing 'style'), sober up,
and start something else. Or something like that.
I figure even a hardcore writer may have to wait a good twenty years before 4 out of 5 started projects have taken an acceptable form. Unfinished works exists either as a failure or an "extended outline": The difference between the two is attitude.
So I was lucky the idea was good, since if it wasn't I probably would have been dumb enough to press on with it anyway (there are those who argue that is just what did happen). And I was lucky I had to sit on this story for a few months. This saved me from only having the little three page sketch to show Rob because I just kept thinking of things. And I would jot them down. Eventually, I had so many things I had to get organized. So I sat down and wrote up a sheet
|with all my ideas in the relevant order. I merged ideas that were similar, or threw out the redundancies. In fact, what happened was I just naturally stumbled upon a process my English teachers had been attempting to shove down my throat for the last 10 years of my life. It was a good thing I didn't realize it at the time, or I might have stopped writing on principal alone.|