I’ve Been Lying to Myself – Screenwriting Day 4
This is the 2nd blog post in my screenwriting series, it all started here
Writer’s block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to
drink more alcohol. ~ Steve Martin.
*I wrote this screenwriting blog series about 6 months ago–it took me this long to get the BALLS to post it.*
Day 4 -
Today I will have about an hour at a coffee shop while my youngest daughter is at a class. Since she started online schooling, I haven’t been able to spend the whole day writing at a coffee shop or book store. I wrote almost my entire book, Journalution at Offerdahl’s Cafe in South Florida. I spent so much time there that I actually thanked them in the acknowledgements of my book. They fed me three meals per day some days, plus snacks and there was just enough background noise and distraction to keep the distracted-monkey-mind part of my brain occupied. It was perfect. So, today I’m really looking forward to trying out a new place to write.
But here’s the thing: I’ve been telling others, and myself, for years that coffee shops and bookstores are my absolute most favorite places to write. Yet, I’ve barely stepped foot in one all year. What’s up with that? More self-sabotage? Or just another way I’ve been lying to myself about what I really want. Let’s face it – if writing this screenplay was really a priority for me I would have dragged my ass to the coffee shop every day and written…but I didn’t do that. I procrastinated and pretended and stalled and lied to myself.
I came home from Sundance last January with the supposed intention of finishing my first screenplay and instead proceeded to read a lot of books on how to write a screenplay. I subscribed to a lot of screenwriting blogs and newsletters. I watched tons of movies by writer/directors…all in the name of research. But was it really? Was I really doing research? Or was I doing busy work instead of actually sitting my ass in the chair and writing.
I believe after only 4 days of real, actual writing, I can honestly tell you, I AM FULL OF SHIT.
It’s amazing what clarity comes with writing, or actually getting down to DOING whatever it is you say you want to do. At just 4 days in it’s clear that now, I am really writing. I am making genuine, documentable progress on my screenplay. I have written over 4,000 actual words of ‘for real’ dialog and description! Now that I fully know what it feels like to write 4,000 words of a screenplay, I am completely sure that I have been totally full of shit all year.
But not anymore!!! Here’s what’s happening on the page:
I have basically written the beginning and the end of the movie. There are huge chunks of plot to be filled in the middle. Sometimes it feels like I’m taking dictation. You know how every now and then you just sit and watch the scene unfold in your head? And when that happens, my only job is to write down what feels right, true and real for the characters.
Most of the time, it’s a big, fat, stinking struggle. But thanks to Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, I’ve spent a lot of time with the “board”. (for all of you non-screenwriters out there, this is a corkboard filled with index cards that map out the plot points of the screenplay) This is supposed to be helpful when writing becomes a struggle.
The board is supposed to work like a roadmap for your screenplay. However, I was never very in love with my plot points or my “board” to begin with and quite frankly, I’m pretty sure I’ve been doing it all wrong.
This is one of my favorite movie quotes of all time from Mr. Mom, “You’re doing it wrong” click here to watch it: The Jack Butler Method
During one my many struggles, I found this post by Merlin Mann about how to hack your way out of writer’s block. After giving us all kinds of extremely helpful tips from “Take a shower, change clothes-give yourself a truly clean start” to “Write crap” he offers this little story:
On the other hand, remember Laurence Olivier.
One day on the set of Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman showed up looking like shit. Totally exhausted and practically delirious. Asked what the problem was, Hoffman said that at this point in the movie, his character will have been awake for 24 hours, so he wanted to make sure that he had been too. Laurence Olivier shook his head and said, “Oh, Dusty, why don’t you just try acting?”
So, when all else fails, just try writing.
That’s my plan, I am now attempting to just write.
So far, I think my screenplay is very, very boring. I am fully convinced that this is a big, boring movie that will never see the light of day. But at least I’ll be done with it. I’ll have the screenplay that I’ve been dreaming about for over ten years complete. Then I can shove it in a drawer somewhere, say I did it and get on with my life. I mean, when I think about how much energy has been expended thinking about, talking about, planning and preparing for the “some day” when I get off my ass and write this thing I get kind of sick to my stomach. How many other really awesome and amazingly cool things could I have been doing with all of that time and energy? I can say for sure that I’ve wasted an awful lot of my life thinking about this thing. I just want to be done with it.
But there’s that other part of me that wants it to be really good. That’s the Virgo part (although, my friend Melani says it’s not just Virgos, it’s anybody who has ever tried to create anything). That’s the part that stops me. That Virgo-Inner Critic tells me it’s not good enough and asks me why am I even bothering with it. Today it’s taking a tremendous amount of self-control to just sit down and do the words each day and not be attached to how good (or horrifically bad) they are.
I’ve decided to use the definition of “successful screenwriter” that David Ross wrote about on Scriptfrenzy;
“By successful I mean those who can finish one script, rewrite it, then move on to the next one.”
So, my goal is simply to finish.
And at least I’ve stopped lying to myself (and anyone else I told I was working on a screenplay). I AM actually working on a screenplay. I AM actually making progress. The quality of that progress has yet to be determined, but progress is progress. Right?
NEXT: Charts & Graphs & Woody, Oh My! – Screenwriting Day 6 – Click here*