9.02.2008

Writing for dummies


So I'm at the stage of brainstorming for a new pilot idea. Hello counterproductive!

For me anyway. I always find that when I'm trying to wrestle an idea into being is when I just can't do it. My subconscious throws up the "out to lunch" sign and gives me the finger. Just doesn't work.

I've also never been good at writing what I should be writing. What's necessarily hot, or popular at the time. Whenever I try to follow trends, I end up with a lot of garbage -- of the finger and lunch sign variety.

So I find it's best to not try to think of something. I consciously work at not working. It's funny that this works. It's different from procrastinating. Because when I don't have any ideas, I freak out. I'm desperate to start writing. So my mind is always spinning. But if I ignore it -- focus on a book or some project, work at some odd project I'd never do otherwise like writing a children's book -- the mind is still spinning regardless and it all tends to work itself out.

In fact I find that the best solution to not being able to grasp that idea that's just out of reach (when you feel like you have nothing to write about) is just to write anyway.

In my spec writing, I've been known to employ a dummy script policy. When I decided to spec Boston Legal, I did all the leg work. I watched every episode multiple times. I reverse engineered the outlines for my favorite episodes, and I brainstormed like a hoe bag on fire. And when I felt like the legal framework was going to collapse my pretty half-constructed house of cards, I whipped up a dummy idea. I took the themes I was interested in and threw them into some half-cooked pair of cases just so I could whip warp speed through a script. It got the cold feet out of the way, let me warm up to the voices, and it just got the ball rolling.

And, as I've been thinking about it, I guess as of late I've been doing that during this brainstorming stage as well. I often come up with my most successful ideas when I'm already in the middle-to-end of writing something else.

So when I'm not writing and I'm at a loss, I just find anything to write. I take an idea that isn't working and I start rewriting it anyway. Or I take the first thing that strikes me and I start writing out scenes Marco-Polo fashion.

So now, as I'm realizing I need to settle into the "not working" phase, I've decided to take an old pilot that I wrote a couple of drafts of and then tossed into the proverbial "Eh..." drawer and give it radical revision pass.

I've picked this one because I came up with a forehead-smacking-ly better title for it. So why not?

Let's see what happens.

ps. My fiancée has to read Don Quixote for grad school. And she's not thrilled about it. So I offered to read it with her. It's also give me another chance to read it as I gave up on my first attempt years back. What better than a Round 2 with Don Quixote to parallel my obtuse efforts to make Herculean leaps in my writing? Wait...

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