2.16.2011

Your Inner Moppet - Pt. 1


I’ve been reading and thinking about the inner workings lately. The messy insides that get lost when you’ve been chasing after a goal for too long. What you actually want, what you’re actually good at, what you need versus what you want. It’s all part of dissecting my last five years in order to help make sense of the desert, to figure out how to redirect myself and make the most of 2011. Which I have declared MUST be better.

As a note, I’ll be talking for the most part in terms of writing, but even I am seeing this in terms of the larger picture.

So, Part One of Your Inner Moppet:

INNATE ABILITIES


Everyone’s heard the classic rigmarole on skills/passions: it shouldn’t feel like work, you should be able to get lost in it, follow your sense of play, your joy, yadda yadda. But something I read as of late on innate abilities struck me as new. Not new new, but it’s a new angle. To frame it, think of those Russian nesting dolls, where there’s a smaller wooden doll or figurine inside of a bigger one, and then yet another smaller one inside of that and so on.

Everyone who writes will say that his or her talent or skill is writing. But that’s not it exactly. It’s true, they may be talented writers. But so are a lot of people. That’s not what sets them apart, that's not their unique innate ability. A lot of people write well. They may write strikingly good technical manuals, or incredibly effortless scripts for daytime talk show hosts. They may write Emmy winning television or remarkably effective smut. But something sets them all apart, and it’s not just if you can find their work in the idiot box or the adult book store. Aaron Sorkin isn’t going to be confused with Chekov. Graham Greene isn’t going to get all mixed up with Anne Rampling. Shane Black isn’t Peter Morgan.

Everyone wants to tell a story, to excite or move or make someone laugh. But one writer’s unique ability may lie in balletic dialogue, another’s may be in creating atmosphere, or in orchestrating complex webs of plot and intrigue. A writer may be uncannily able to see into the depths of people and create incredibly tangible characters. Another writer may have a close relationship with loneliness or grief, and may easily open you up inside, like a song that always chokes you up. Another may write of sex and obsession at the level of The Bard.

My point is that you may be a writer. But that’s an outer doll. What’s that inner ability? Along with finding your voice, your style – it’s something else to think about. The fact that you can write isn’t going to set you apart. In Los Angeles, the West End, or in Lincoln, Nebraska. A lot of people can write. What’s going to set you apart is what you do well with it – what you do better than most people.

It may not even be something as explicit as dialogue or atmosphere. Maybe you dance with loss, maybe you want to make people believe in love, like you need to. Maybe it’s more personal. Maybe exorcising doubles as entertainment for others. Maybe you have no idea. It's an interesting idea, and not necessarily easy to pin down, even if you've been writing for a while and with some success. But saying that you write action films or mystery novels isn’t quite it either. That’s yet another outer doll. Keep looking.

I am.

Ps. Lord knows I wouldn’t want to watch an episode of Breaking Bad penned by Chuck Lorre.

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