Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting Comfortable

July 9th, 2011

Yesterday was my birthday. Meh. Forty-one and precious little to show for it. The older I get, the less this stuff means to me. Maybe next year I'll manage to get myself a little something useful for my birthday: a screenplay sale for my current project. Another goal to strive for.

After being away for a few days visiting my Mom (which is always nice), I've come home to more heat n' humidity and am finding it impossible to get anything done, I had the suspicion that getting out of the apartment to get some work done might be a good idea. And in that instant, I had a flash: a complete vision, which included all the particulars of where and under what conditions. I felt that I needed to get my notebook -- and a Diet Coke and chocolate chip cookie for the proper caffeine and sugar regimen -- then travel down to this great Park off of Beacon Street, lay down in the grass on said hill and just let the creative spirit take me where it would.

I'd never really done that before, in terms of trying to write, and have typically felt a little awkward whenever I try to relax or "lay out" like "regular people." It's like, sometimes I see people just relaxing and enjoying the day, throwing their Frisbees back and forth and cavorting with their gorgeous friends and significant others, and sometimes I feel sort of uptight, in a way. Exposed or vulnerable or something, as if I were going to be attacked or made fun of for some odd reason. As if the Wolves walking by would see me as the Weak Sheep in the herd and therefore sum me up as an easy target.

Part of it comes from being a local resident working in retail; in that where ever you go, you typically end up seeing someone you know or have regular dealings with when all you really want is some space. Sometimes it's someone you like, someone you enjoy seeing and talking with... but sometimes it's the Douchebag Kid That Comes From Money who, for whatever reason, tried to shoplift from your store and now wants to screw with you to look like a big-shot in front of his friends. Or the Angry Drunk you had to kick out for being a public nuisance who you still see around town giving you the evil eye as if to say, "Someday it'll be your turn, buddy." It's also partially something I (dis)affectionately refer to as Fat Guy Syndrome. Comes from being made fun of a lot as a kid. If you grew up popular or well-adjusted, you probably wouldn't understand. (No worries, though. I came around, eventually.)

Most of the time I can let these feelings go. Between the heat of the previous few days, the feeling that I'd been squandering my vacation time and the hyper-personal nature of the story I'm working on, though, I was surprised that this vision of this particular where-and-when-to-write came to me in the way that it did. So, wanting to be creative no matter what, I got my things together (that is, my supplies and my head), packed my stuff and headed out there.

Turned out, the Park was a great idea. Two Dudes were in the spot on the hill that I wanted to be in, so I found a nearby bench. Not too comfortable, though. After about a half hour the Two Dudes left and I grabbed my things, went over to my originally preferred space and found what seemed like my Optimum Creation Zone. Stretching out on my stomach and facing the field, baseball diamond and tennis courts beneath, I went to work. It went perfectly. I cranked out about six pages of all-new material for the backstory, right on the fly; things I needed to really make the crime plot work. Nothing Earth-shattering in the screenwriting world sense but very valuable to me, personally, and my story structure. Between moments of brainstorming, I smiled as puppies played in the nearby grass. I watched those Frisbees flying between those gorgeous friends and significant others and all those things that gave me pause earlier that day became wondrous and beautiful.

I started to realize just how negative thoughts can kill one's creativity. I almost didn't go out there at all, I almost didn't do anything that day. But once I did and once I decided to let those concerns of mine go, and once the words started flowing, I was able to relax and make progress.

I'd forgotten how good that could feel.

July 14, 2011

My week's vacation ended a few days ago. "Back to the daily grind" means "less time to create." But then again, that makes the time that much more valuable. Today was a day off. Not wanting to waste it all, I decided to get more backstory done and set up how it progresses into the current timeline narrative. Couldn't go back to the park today, though, due to rain. I know now that it's much easier for me to work on the project away from my room. Far too many distractions here amongst the DVDs, vinyl LPs, books, Atari games and Internets. I figured I'd try the local (and air-conditioned!) Library instead, grabbed my notebook and umbrella and headed over.

I'd never looked for the best spot for writing in there before. I made a few laps around the halls, desks and hidden corners. Looking for the perfect combination of relative silence, lighting, solitude and a window view of the outdoors, I settled into a quiet corner near a soothingly-ticking grandfather clock and started in. After about an hour and a half, I'd gotten close to four more pages of the main outline completed. Next will be the real work. The narrative proper. I should get my notes together and Xerox them for easier travel. Might need them in the coming sessions.

Theatrical Reviews
Taxi Driver (1975, 2011 restoration) ****
Down By Law (1986) ****
The African Queen (1951, 2010 restoration) ***1/2
Page One: Inside The New York Times ****1/2
Hobo with a Shotgun **1/2
Jaws 3D (1983) **

DVD/Home Video
Coma (1978) ***
Firefox (1982) ***
Big Rig (Documentary) ***
The Gauntlet (1977) **1/2


Chris Miller said...

Glad to hear you are a writing machine. Finding a good place to write is almost an art in itself. There are times when the noise of a busy restaurant work to help me focus, but lately I have been trying more to verbalize my thoughts out loud. Not as easy or comfortable as you might imagine. Pretending to have a cell phone conversation while you narrate is incredibly awkward in public.

--mcc said...

Thanks, dude!

Try this: just say you're an actor trying to learn some lines. I'd bet you'd get some really interesting responses. And probably some phone numbers.

It was waaaay too hot & humid for writing in the park, this weekend. I finally had to bite the bullet and put my air conditioner in, after holding off as long as I could. Hopefully my own personal igloo will help me be comfortable enough to be creative on days as oppressive as these.