Monday, September 16, 2013

Muscle Memory

You know what is so funny?  I went a very long time without writing.  I think it was maybe the year after I graduated from college that I simply checked out creatively.  

I chose screenwriting for film and television as my major, and from that moment on, I was in a seemingly endless cycle of writing and rewriting.  While I loved the process very much indeed, I'll admit that I struggled with the most simple aspect of storytelling: what to write about.  

Some of my classmates made this look so easy.  I envied their ability to concoct wild stories of rescue or political satire.  I would read over their work, look up at them, then back to the page and think; Where the hell did that come from??

I have always had a very natural ease with writing. Whether a poem, an essay, a short story, a screenplay or even something in iambic pentameter, the words have made their way to page without much thought or mental editing.  

But when I sat down to write a screenplay for the first time, I was absolutely stuck.  Instead of just writing one scene, I would get caught up in how that scene would somehow affect the entire script and as a result, I would just sit there in bewilderment at the blank screen. 

Another problem I encountered with screenwriting was chopping out entire chunks of descriptive pros.   You have to switch off that part of your brain that desperately wants to dazzle the reader with delicate and beautiful sentences.  In fact, my professor would often tell us that screenplays should have mostly white on the page.  

So, with that in mind, I began strength training this muscle that I hadn't even known existed before.  It was an exercise in setting up meaningful and effective dialogue.  Writing for a visual medium, means that all those pretty little descriptive pros are actually replaced by everything you see on camera: courtesy of the cinematographer,  the actors and director.  

So when I graduated college, I felt numbed by the process of the rewrite.  Not only is writing challenging enough when you are having to consider its future offspring of film and television, but the aspect of a seemingly endless cycle of rewriting is enough to make any writer want to crawl into a hole and hibernate for about five years.  And so naturally, that is precisely what I did. 

Well, seven years to be exact.  I guess I needed to live a little and gather up some new material.   

And now, all these years later, sitting down to write is so natural it is almost scary.  It is like a muscle memory.  Without much thought at all, I sit down with my laptop and write.  Before I am even half-way through my first cup of coffee, I am more than half-way finished with my daily writing exercise.  

But I have to admit that I am still mesmerized by these writers who sit down and tell an entire story.  That is where I fear that I am a little... stuck. 

The past seven or eight years have provided me with a treasury of new material.  And that may be the very reason I began writing again a few months ago.  I had to put into words some of the harsh lessons I have learned.  And as I often do with most everything in life, I frequently opt to put a comical spin on it.  

But telling an entire story is something entirely different.  It is much more daunting than my daily challenge of writing something new just as soon as I wake up.  A novel? A screenplay? A plot? A theme? A hook? Red Herring? Chapters?? Act 1... Act 2... Act 3... Eh, I don't know...

I may not be ready to sit down for that quite yet, but I do feel that each and every day I write... I am sneaking up on the story that is just sitting up on top of my dusty shelf of a brain, just waiting to be told.

Until then, we'll just have to wait and see what happens next. 


Hemingway Special

2 oz White Rum
1/4 oz Maraschino liqueur
1 oz Grapefruit Juice
1/2 of a fresh squeezed lime



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