Script writing can be an agony of trying to stay focussed and actually get shit done. When I am writing I do really enjoy it. It’s getting myself to sit down and DO it is the hard part. Sometimes it is the thought of just how much I have left to do that is the most daunting part – e.g., my current script has 33 of 90 pages done. So… a third done. Or – TWO THIRDS left to do!
So it becomes a battle of optimism (“We can do it!!” ) over pessimism (“Fuck.” ). I frequently read about successful screenwriters who have that insane discipline where they sit down and write 5 pages a day, every day. Not a page less, nor one more. Five pages. Every day. Every week.
Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t work that way. I don’t do outlines, or synopsis or treatments. I’ve tried all that and it has invariably faded away. Now, I’m fully aware that this is a function of my shitty work ethic and my distracted seagull attention span. But I also know that if something works for me, on a truly fundamental level, that it will stick – naturally, automatically and permanently. I’ve found through YEARRRRRRRRRSSSSSS of trial and error that my creative brain works in a very specific way, which unfortunately does not lend itself to a systematic, mechanistic approach to completing a script.
I find that my mind needs 1) time to ruminate and 2) works in chunks. I’ll feel an idea or a concept trickling into my imagination, often over several weeks or months. It’ll be vague but steadily building in a certain direction. Writing anything down at this stage is very risky and quite likely to scare it away. I must wait. My mind must think. It must ponder, like a background process on your computer. It must ingest images, data, words, experiences, anything and everything. Then it starts to push forward and I instinctively begin articulating the idea to my nearest friends and family (always to my wife first :] ). Eventually the mental push comes to creative shove and I start to write.
This is where it gets tricky, in terms of GETTING SHIT DONE. I often find that writing is a mental bear trap, with my mind hovering just above its rusty jaws. It’s great and all to have a good concept or a set of fantastic images; its translating that into words on the screen that is the stumbling block. Now, I word good. I word very good. I language heart and I read hooray (this is how the current generation, the Twitters, talk, yes?). Forming sentences, editing them, dialogue – it’s all pretty smooth for me. Not easy, but smooth – and there’s a big difference. Smooth means I can assemble a readable or interesting sentence quickly and consistently. But is it the right sentence? Is it the right tone? Is it right for that character? This is the hard part. The mind-numbing, spirit-breaking crux of the issue. It certainly helps that I have this huge, always ready knowledge of the English language to draw on. However it doesn’t solve the second part of the problem (is it right for this moment in the script) and if anything can worsen it (but it’s such a cool sentence! I WANT HIM TO SAY IT GODDAMMIT!!!) and can plummet me into endless loops of agonizing and rationalization of why he would say it or why he wouldn’t or maybe it would be better for another character to say it, however that character is actuallyawomansoisitnowevenappropriateforherTO –
And the bear trap snaps shut.
This becomes a subconscious fear that holds me back from putting my fat farmer’s son fingers on those treacherous keys. Fear of failure; and not in front of others, but in front of myself. Nobody sneers at me harder than I do. Some people thrive on that, it drives them forward, faster, harder. For me, it just makes me feel shitty and stupid.
For while anyway.
And then because I cannot resist it, because I have ZERO FUCKING CHOICE, I start to write, again.
And I’m happy.