Who would you most like to hear from right now?
How long do you think you could go without communicating with other people?
This is what I love about writing. This is what I hate about writing.
I wrote a scene of Psycho Ex last night. A quick, simple, self-contained, direct, 1-page, 2-characters-in-a-room scene that I has pretty happy with. So what did I do? I screwed it up and asked some people to read it, with a couple of simple questions. Of course, instead of answers they had loads of questions, all of which I thought were irrelevant: do we know these people? do they know each other? why are they in the same room? But what else should I expect from sending people a scene on page 80-something with nothing else to go from?
If the script wasn’t so overlong and fat I would send the whole thing to this point, but that would require me to shift over from “creative” mind to “critical” mind, and then a lot of time to edit and tweak, and I don’t want to take myself out of “creative” mind until the first draft is done. Plus I don’t want to waste all the first impressions of a large number of readers – must wait until the big obvious problems are fixed, otherwise they will just focus on the big obvious problems. The first draft will be WAY long but I can’t worry about that now. I just have to write scenes.
The writing process of this script is so unbelievably different from any I’ve ever used before. But then again they are all different and there is no “standard” process. Despite all my efforts to sit down and map out the specific timeline of the rest of the script (I have the note cards all written up), I cannot seem to do this. My process lately has been to just look at the note cards, take a scene that I know will HAVE TO be in the script, and then just write it. Then I go to the next one. I will sequence them later. Usually I will figure out that scene X would be perfect right after scene Q while I am deep in the middle of writing scene F, so I’ll switch over and move them into sequence with the screenwriting software. This is the most random access digital editing process I have ever used to write. Some times my brain cannot really do it, and I cannot figure out how to resume this way of thinking/working, and it kills time with all the gear-switching. But as soon as I get into the flow of writing a scene I am okay. This is why I say “I just have to write scenes” and not think about the structure at all. Currently the “document” (script outline with full scenes written until page 80-something) comes in at 108 pages. An overlong disorganized monster that keeps growing with many many scenes to go still. The bad news is that I am deep into it. The good news is that I am deep into it. I guess this means I have hit critical mass of brain involvement so there is no going back now. Now I just have to go forward without a plan for going forward. This is what it is – not necessarily fun but a waking dream that is impossible to stop. This is the zone. Is the script/story any good? That is an impossible question with an unknowable answer that is less than irrelevant. Must… shut… up…
I get weird when I get sick. And when I get very sick, I go into some kind of altered state. I become helpless, like a two-year-old. Seriously.
I can’t think straight, I can’t function. My mind races in a kind of dream/nightmare/panic logic. I become super-emotional and have been known to profusely and tearfully thank people for being born, usually while lying on the floor. This can last for days.
But then when I take the very first step toward getting better, something beautiful and earth-shattering happens: I wake up from that mental state and look out the window into the world for the very first time. And it’s not the cliched “the grass looks greener, the air smells different” stuff, it’s more than that – I’m seeing the grass and smelling the air for the first time. The world is the same, but it is a completely new me, completely mentally reset after a few days in the wilderness. Routines are forgotten and my patterns have been erased. I re-invent them again in time, but for a few days I do confront and explore this world for the first time – everything is new, and none of my rituals have been invented yet. I don’t already know how or what I think about things – I have to think about them again, from zero. I have no preferences or predetermined structure in the way I think about anything. I have no ego because I don’t even know who I am or what the world is. I am outside everything, even myself.
This is a strange and wonderful gift. As a writer/creative thinker, it is ideally supposed to be the optimal permanent state. But as a real person living in the real world, this is impossible and often unattainable. Except for these odd days.
A few weeks ago I had strep throat, so I got to experience this panic and exhilaration again. I have re-embraced the world and re-invented my routines and rituals since then, and those moments are only memories now. But I hope those moments are not wasted or forgotten. I hope the inspiration of those moments can remain close and serve as a powerful motivator when I need it.
I resolve to keep those moments close in my mind for as long as I can in 2009 and beyond. I resolve to remember that all my routines and structures and assumptions can be dropped at any time because they are merely empty illusions. The world is bigger than my eyes can open. Everything is stranger and more beautiful and heavier and lighter than even the headiest head can take in. Even though the sight will blow your mind and knock you on your ass, you’ve got to look at the Whole Thing sometimes.
And if these memories fade away as they inevitably do, I can always get really sick again…