Evil Gal Productions

Mere Smith
is a recovering Southerner,
longtime TV writer,
author and blogger.
August 8th, 2011 by Mere Smith

Passport to Burundi


Coming back from a weekend in which I did… are you ready for this?  no, seriously, are you ready?… absolutely no writing.

Knowing me, you wouldn’t think such things possible, but I swear to baby Jesus in the manger, if you put your mind to it (and have your significant other hide your computer), and take in a cubic ton of a certain herb, AND work very, very hard at watching old, crap movies on TV — not-writing can be done.

Though emailing, texting and tweeting on your phone doesn’t count.

It doesn’t.

It doesn’t, dammit!

Perhaps my relief at not-writing can be attributed to the fact that, at this moment, I find myself torn between so many projects — both fictional prose (short stories and The Novel) and screenwriting (Web series and TV pilot) — it makes for a lot of head-spinning… and not in the fun, retro “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” sense.

You see, I tend to be one of those writers who fully immerses herself in the tone, style, and voice of a story — like being shut in a sensory deprivation tank, unaware of anything outside it — meaning, for me, switching back and forth between projects is exceedingly disorienting.  I have so many voices (yes, in my head) that they’re constantly battling each other for type-time supremacy.  And once I’ve surrendered to one, it fights like a bitch protecting her pups to stay at the top of the keyboard.

Unfortunately, whenever I either get stuck in that story — ’cause the goddamn character won’t make up his/her mind about what he/she wants to do next (fickle fuckers) — or necessity (aka My Career or The Light Bill) demands I write words For Money, it takes me a while to disentangle myself from what I’ve been working on and meet (or reacquaint myself with) whatever the For Money project is.

Most of the time it feels like relearning a foreign tongue you used to know back when you were five.

Sure, you can recall some simple words, maybe, like “dog” or “tree” — but other than that?  Not much.  The only way to truly remember is to return to the country of origin, take up residence there, listen to people’s conversations, pay keen attention, and still screw up the language until you finally remember how to say “pockmarked sweaty asslicker” in Swahili again.

This can be problematic, as there are so many countries to which you can travel.

Each project can be written as surreal, or poetic, or romantic, or blood-and-deathy, hard-boiled, whimsical, farcical, or admixtures of all or none of the above (basically, anything you can think up).  Meanwhile every individual story comes with its own point-of-view, vocabulary, theme, structure, etc. — just as every country has its own politics, history, and cultural customs.  And the very last thing you want to do is blow your nose on the ground like Genghis Khan whilst visiting Buckingham Palace.  Or ditching the metaphor for a moment, to allow the farcical to worm its way into the blood-and-deathy.  That can really suck the wind out of your terrifying sails…

…unless the story has already told you that’s how it wants to be written, like in my piece “Dead Girl” — where farce and horror had sadomasochistic sex and made a baby.

(And as a sidenote, is it technically a shameless plug if you’re selling something on your page when your readers are already on your page?  Isn’t that like Ellen DeGeneres saying, “Hey, watch ‘Ellen’!” while she’s actually on “Ellen”?  I don’t know.  My head hurts.)

Bottom line is, if you are blessed with uninterrupted time, try to concentrate on one project at a go — hopefully to its conclusion.

You never know when they’ll pack you off to Burundi again.

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