Quoth the Bard, "Words...Words...Words"
“If you wait for the perfect time to write...you never will.” M. Atwood
Or perhaps, more accurately, write...write...write is a better title. Nothing like picking a screenwriting class for your first graduate course to get the blood pumping and scare the hell out of you.
Truth is, I am a writer who hasn't written a creative word in a decade. (Can I still call myself a writer?) I was working on a novel in 1996, during which I confronted a creative roadblock that I didn't know how to overcome. At around 150 pages, I set it aside to allow the quandary to gestate and work itself out in my subcouncious. A decade later, I still haven't worked it out. And the things I wrote when I was writing, I look back on now and shudder to read. But I miss the creative me. I wonder where it went and why.
The most frightening thing in the whole world is a blank page. Which is one of the reasons I am taking this class--precisely because it scares me. Because it has deadlines and professor's expectations, my hands will be forced into motion, breaking the empass, pushing through whether I like it or not.
I have this weird idea that my first draft of anything needs to be brilliant from the first keystroke. Be it because of my own expectations or those of others, I am used to getting superior work from myself straight out of the gate. When I no longer met that mark, I stopped participating all together.
One of the things that was drilled into our head today was that we all need to give ourselves permission to suck.
"The first million words you write," our professor, the effervescent Mick Hurbis-Cherrier told us, "will be garbage and you're just going to throw them out. They're no good. But you can't find your voice until you get them out of the way. The first skill of writing is to just to write. It’s physical, not mental. It’s work. Perspiration, not inspiration. It’s hard. Just do it."
You always avoid the things you need the most.
Of course there was a lot more to the class than this. Lots of What Is Drama?, What Is Character?, What Is Conflict?, etc. But the above is the stuff that went past my brain and found its way to my heart. This is the cud I've been chewing for the past 24 hours.
My other class, "Film History and Historiography" was fascinating in terms of ascertaining which came first--the chicken or the egg? Does pop culture influence film or does film influence pop culture? The short answer is yes!
"History isn’t self-evident or static," Professor Moya Luckett told us in that high British accent that makes anything she might say just a few points off genius. "It is fluid. It alters as our understanding of the past alters. All history is revisionist history because it is in constant dialogue with itself. And the assumptions we bring to the material shape the way history gets written. Film is one of the most engaging ways we encounter history and although it appears as a total representation of history, it is anything but. Everything is selected, chosen, discriminatory and controlled."
As interesting as "Film History..." was, however, it couldn't compete with the waters that the screenwriting class had stirred up. (The other thing I lamented over at some point in the day was that I was reminded of the fact that no matter how many films I've seen--and I've seen a lot--there are still so many more out there yet to see. Perhaps I should look at it as job security.)
The words of Irish poet William Butler Yeats echoed in my head all day, particularly the 1st stanza from his appropriately titled "Adam's Curse."
We sat together at one summer's end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, "A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.'