Actually, yes, kids – writing IS easy. You just sit down, maybe sip a beverage or three, and let fly! If you’re lucky, you get in the groove, the zone, the flow – the MOJO! Go, Go, GO!!!!!
Unburden yourself, let loose, ride the wave, get it all out. Verbal diarrhea be damned! Spelling be damned! (this blog brought to you by “Google” & “Dictionary/Thesaurus.com”). Be you, own your voice, be entertaining and/or informative, make sense & for Christ’s sake, don’t go into wallowing sad-sackdom!
That’s it. Simple.
If you type it, they will read! They may not like, but they will read. Sure, go back and edit – add a joke or two to lighten the darker bits, but you are GREAT! People will LOVE what you write! People will love YOU! Then, YOU can love you!
Friends sometimes subscribe & give positive feedback to my rambles (even when I send a 3-part, 75-page rant about a horrible online dating clusterfuck – read it right here!). People love to revel in your drama, live vicariously through your messed up experiences, laugh & cry with you. Cool – as long as they’re connecting, it’s all good.
Then, I tackled the world of screenwriting.
… This ain’t no stream-of-consciousness venture (unless you’re into that sort of thing – but me, I prefer to be entertained. I won’t be making “Eraserhead 2: Son of Eraserhead”. Sorry)
So, I’d never actually written anything in script form before. EVER. I may have glanced at a few scripts here & there, but really didn’t know shite from shinola. HOWEVER, I had a great idea – so I thought… So I went with it, and “Fairfield Follies” was born.
About 3 years ago, I started writing a short that chronicled the misadventures of a motley cast of characters trying to put on a politically-correct holiday pageant. They were adults acting like children, caricatures of people, stereotypes in a movie that shunned stereotypes. I’M SO COMPLICATED!
There are parts that I would read, laugh aloud, then shake my head & admit that I’m going to hell. Then, I’d laugh some more. I wanted to finish this thing!
As I was writing, I got it into my head that short films weren’t really taken seriously or marketable. So, I started adding to it….and continued to add to it. What started as a 10-character ensemble short, expanded to a 110-page feature with 30+ speaking roles!
That’s right, kids – writing IS easy! See?
Well, I have a feature, and friends with experience filmmaking. So, it’s only natural that I ask their opinions. I’m ready for the worst. Really. It’s what I expect. I mean, I still hold onto the hope it’s a salvageable piece, that I’m funny. That I’m a worthy person, not a complete waste of oxygen, wine, chocolate & burrata. (Fuck you, I’m not giving them up anyway).
So, I send copies to trusted writers, directors, filmmakers, and I wait to hear their feedback, constructive criticism, accolades, chants of worship… Anything!
I continue to wait.
Ok, so my friends are busy with their projects, lives, whatnot. I get it. So, I continue to wait.
I hint, ask, harangue, beg…
Still I wait.
FINALLY – after several months, my reviews trickle in.
“Funny bits”, “I like this”, ‘so wrong, so very, very wrong’ (in a good way)….
OK! I’m on the right track!
But…. there’s no storyline.
CRAP! Such a triviality to pick on…
Ok, confession time. I don’t think linearly. I usually can’t tell a story from start to finish. I think in terms of sketches/scenes/lines – then try to piece it all together. When I write, I try to jump back to sew pieces into a funny patchwork. How in the HELL was I going to make this into an A-B-C…..Z story?
The direct and kind piece of advice I got – rewrite it from scratch. WHAT?
Bu-bu-but, I love the idea, the characters, the VIBE!
“Rewrite it from scratch – you know the general idea – this will help you focus it”.
O-o-okay…. I’ll try.
Then, I was given most horrible advice imaginable to help me mold this into a viable piece:
“KILL YOUR BABY”
That’s right, kids – that sentiment does not merit abbreviation or cutesy euphemism.
But, I trust in my veteran, successful mentors, so I go about enacting their advice.
Please, sit down. Get yourself a drink of water, or strong adult beverage. I’ll wait till you’re ready. I’m going to lay down a hard truth, and it’s not pretty.
Editing goes far beyond ‘killing your baby’. You’re not merely murdering your progeny – that would be humane, merciful, quick & easy.
Here’s the gruesome reality. Did you get that drink?
First, you stab your infant in its tender ribcage. You’re getting to the meat of your story, and cutting away the detritus. As you pull out the still-beating heart of your story, flotsam and jetsam splatter about. But, no matter, your eye is on the prize. You absently lick away the bits of brain and sinew land on your lips. You’re concentrating on finding the creme de la creme to re-mold into your winning work. You don’t have time, or the energy, to pay mind to anything else.
You place the sacred heart on a blank canvas before returning to your savage scrutiny. Maybe you stab its eyes out so it can’t see your demented vigor. You look for anything and everything that will add value to your tale. You slice & paste upon the clean slate, you sniff, lick, taste and man-handle your little one trying to determine its best bits. You cut out its yet-unformed teeth for the gold fillings you’re sure are there. You move parts around, discard others, and add new pieces along the way. You ARE Dr. Frankenstein, and you hope like hell your monster doesn’t turn out retarded.
And, when you’re done. When you’re exhausted, and bloodied, bits of gore and brain dripping from your panting chest, when you’re absolutely certain that you will mentally break with one more sliver of change – you step back. For one moment, one fleeting moment – you close your eyes, before gazing upon your re-creation.
Are the parts in place? Did I dig out absolutely ALL of the worthwhile morsels? Did I accidentally add an appendix? Why did I put the uvula next to the penis? Do I need the uvula? Or the penis?
In a last-ditch frenzy, you cut & paste the rest of the chunks you really liked from the deflated carcass of your original idea. Sure, the rosy cheeks may no longer go with the new mongoloid forehead, but it’ll all work in the end, right?
At this point in the journey, I was at my own personal mental edge. I needed to make sure this piecemeal mess before me was the end-result I was looking for. I can’t think straight anymore – so I decide I’ll send out draft #2. And, I’ll wait for the nod, the accolades, the validation that this filicide was worth it, or I’ll be told I completely fucked up & will be sent to the nuthouse post-haste. In the meantime, I’ll wash off the smell of death, dismay and despair from my sweaty soiled skin.
And, I wait.
Ok, this shit isn’t funny anymore. It’s been almost THREE YEARS! Someone, VALIDATE ME!
And, months later, I hear some feedback. At this point, I’m too tired to care. There are only a few points of focus – and it’s more nitty-gritty than complete overhauls. Apparently, the 13th toe wasn’t needed, the heavy dialogue is giving the poor thing scoliosis, the third eye wasn’t supposed to be literal. In short, a few more tweaks, and it’ll be ready.
I feel like Eddie Dean in “The Gunslinger” – trying to whittle a key from a virgin branch. Except this branch was my living, breathing baby. If I cut too little, it’s a fat, weighted sloth that no one will look at twice, except maybe to mock on Rotten Tomatoes. But, if I make a slip – a single excess sliver could paralyze it for life.
Christ! This is enough to make anyone procrastinate, and vow NEVER to go through this again. THE PRESSURE!
I hearken to the wisdom of my friend Richard Griffin: “Don’t fuck it up”. And, this makes me realize that to rush things would absolutely fuck it up.
So, my patchwork progeny sits aside for the moment, healing. I need a clear head before my shaky hand wields the scalpel. The only upside is that I have earned the right to use this fine, delicate tool. The first uncouth cuts and slashes were clumsily made with a wine bottle that I first guzzled to numb me to the upcoming evisceration, then broke upon my baby’s cranium to add some mercy to the process. Some may call it ‘christening the project’, but they’re full of shit. And evil.
It is a long, hard, and dirty road. Are you ready to embark? Would you choose a second path once the first was done? Would I have chosen the first, knowing the pitfalls and traps along the way? Could I bring another beauty into the world, just to mutilate it? Honestly, the thought scares the bejeezus out of me. But, my hands are already stained, and I am a masochist…and a writer. So, with hung shoulders, I resolve myself to the fact I’ll probably have an army of miscreants before I’m finally called to the pits of acrid penance.
Maybe, I’ll see you there, arms and neck stained with the bits of your own stories that didn’t quite make the cut – a birthmark to distinguish us to forever be known as “Writers”. For now, I wear my sleeves down, so as to not scare the straights. But, one day, this film will be a reality – and there will be no hiding or denying this cursed, and blessed, calling.
Thank you – each and every one who make the journey with me. Who advise, support, or just peek in from time to time. And, if you, too, wear the weary & elated aura of art, maybe I’ll catch you on the flip side.
In the meantime, questions, comments, advice, subscriptions are always welcome. Peace and love, my lovelies.