5.20.2008

Write-Fight

"Take things as they come, but when you're writing, write as if you're in a fight."
-matthew michael carnahan

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I've been digging into the first draft of my Dexter spec and sketching out a new pilot idea that's finally congealing in my head. I usually have a rough start in the beginning. I'm fine once I'm writing, but getting started is a fight. Not because I don't want to start writing, but I'm often afraid that the idea will flounder on the page. Taking the story from my head to paper, it can be frightening. And usually the idea struggles right back. It too wants to be better, so last minute it morphs and twitches, trying to change what it is, seeing if some last ditch effort might propel it to some kind of certainty.

But I've had a lot of time to think about this recently as I hurt my back moving some boxes this past weekend. Nothing serious, it's just an aggravation of a skiing injury I had in February. But I've been lying around, making sure I recover as quickly as possible. I hate life's interruptions -- but this was probably a good one. It broke my all-too-common pattern and forced me to confront it.

It's fear. Fear is everything. Or I think it's a component in everything. It often gets lumped with weakness and vulnerability. And by focusing on its negative connotations, people miss its value. Fear is a signal to the body to pay attention to something. Not to mention that fear is connected to excitement, exhilaration, love and joy. If you care about something, fear is involved. You can't get a rush if fear isn't a component. 'No Fear' is the most ridiculous slogan I've ever heard. Embracing fear is the key, not eliminating it. That'd like cutting out a sensory organ. Fear is a window.

And that fear at starting a first draft, it opens up onto a certain clarity. A clarity maybe most easily achieved while lying on a hard wood floor. For me, anyway. But go ahead. Lie down. It's good for the back.

This fear reveals that my story has merit -- and I'm afraid of losing it.

So, essentially, it's a fight. And one I don't want to lose.

I remember reading the above quote in a screenwriting magazine. And it stuck with me. You can't fight life's interruptions. But in your writing, you can fight for all you're worth. If my memory serves me right, Carnahan was expounding on the following:


"Be orderly in your everyday life and violent and original in your work."
- Gustave Flaubert



I love that. And I thought about it as I spent a lot of time lying on my back, staring into space and sketching out notes and fine-tuning my outline over and over when I should have been writing.

So I stood my ground and I wrote.

And it wasn't pretty. The writerly me has a wicked black eye, bruised ribs and a bloodied lip. But I wrote, I took on the page, and I fought for my story. I was violent as hell -- and the battle has begun.

And it can only get better. Either way, I think I'm making the black eye work. Pulling. It. Off.

So get charged up, angry, and violent. (But keep it on the page.)

ps. Tell me you saw the latest Battlestar episode. I caught up a little late, but thank god -- they're so on their game. Two weeks! I can't believe we have to wait two weeks for another one! How many are left until the break? I'm doing all I can to shut off the critical faculty of my brain in regards to BSG. I want to be as slow and dim-witted as possible. No guessing, no predictions -- I want to be caught completely by surprise. Blow my mind, Battlestar writers, shock the hell out of me.

pps. I really wanted to go to the Breaking into the Box event at the WGA last weekend. But that was a fight I lost to my bank account. So no go. Sigh. But Michael from Red Right Hand went, and put up an interesting post on it. So if, like me, you didn't get to go, read up.

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