Hit the Books

For Book Club, I’m enjoying THE MAGICIANS despite the slow start (anything is sedate after THE HUNGER GAMES books), but in screenwriting life I’ve recently found solace in some old favorite guide books: Syd Field’s SCREENPLAY, Christopher Vogler’s THE WRITER’S JOURNEY,  and THE SEVEN BASIC PLOTS by Christopher Booker. These books are my comfort food in book form. For me, reviewing chapters from them is like eating mac ‘n cheese after a particularly stressful day. They give me perspective and make everything seem okay and logical. I needed these things because the project I’m working on is really challenging me. We’re in the early outline/treatment stage, and I’m a bit intimidated by how much this story is fighting me. Or, rather, more likely, how much I’m fighting the story.

I feel like we’ve already had too many knockout fights in the ring, and when we’re not actively jabbing at each other, we’re in the trenches, both suffering through the muck. At least in the latter scenario, we’re on the same side, but I still don’t feel like we’re a team. To add to the frustration, I think we can be a great team. Or, at the very least, I know I want to be on its team. I see the potential this story has and, man, do I want to be on its team. Seeing its great promise is inspiring for a glowing minute and then, if left to my own unchecked neuroses, it can quickly become a roadblock. The burden is on me to not mess it up. The game is mine to lose.

And then I remember that this is how it is pretty much every time. Resistance is working its magic and trying to convince me of all the reasons I should give up. Very clever, Resistance!

I need to remember that I felt the same way about SLOPPY FIRSTS. I broke through that wall by finding that the only way to move forward was to work with abandon and then walk away. I had to immerse myself in the story and go from there without judgement, with an open mind and heart, trusting instincts, not second guessing, resisting micro-managing of the story. Then, it was critical to stop thinking about it. As my mom always says, important creative work is done by our brains when we’re doing something else. That magic can’t happen until we’re “doing something else.” I tend to want to work until I figure out the problem even if it means beating my head against the wall for hours. This leaves no time for the subconcious magic, and it renders me a miserable crank, which is not my favorite way to live.

The result? I did a little work this morning but now I’m doing laundry, writing this blog and baking a potato. A bit of Oprah is in my future too. Hopefully, after a small step away, I can leap back in.


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