January 18, 2014 – Day Fourteen
I saw the sun today.
For six minutes.
Looked just like I remembered it.
Went back inside.
January 17, 2014 – Day Thirteen
Literally me today.
January 16, 2014 – Day Twelve
So that’s what it looked like when I got here.
This is what it looked like today:
Strangely, though, the fog seems to act like some kind of productivity blanket (I was about to type “or shroud,” but the fog’s spooky enough on its own) – making me feel like I’m all curled up away from the world…
…which, okay, yes, for all practical intents and purposes I was curled up already. But you know how there’s a difference between when you dance in front of other people, and when you dance by yourself? (Don’t pretend you don’t understand what I’m talking about, you lying dancing liarpantses.) The fog makes me feel like I’m dancing in a room with no windows, no prying eyes, no judgments.
See, I don’t know how other TV folk write specs, but me, I need full immersion in the show before I feel confident enough to recreate it. Like living in Spain to learn Spanish. The original story I bring to the spec is the easy part: it’s molding that story to someone else’s vision that takes work. This means watching episodes over and over and over until I can “hear” the characters’ voices without trying. It also means – same as I did for my “Sopranos” spec 200 years ago – logistically breaking down and diagramming a couple shows, as seen here in my oh-so-cryptic code:
(That’s “Poison Pen”, by the way: S2E4, by Robert Doherty and Liz Friedman.)
This allows me to see the fundamental architecture of a script, like a reverse-engineered outline – as well as letting me track certain patterns inherent in the show, i.e.: on average, how many locations are they hitting per act? Over how many days does the story take place? How many interiors vs. how many exteriors? The number of amazing deductions Sherlock makes in a scene? The number Joan makes? (Answer: surprisingly, a LOT. To be honest, I didn’t realize how well the writers were balancing the deductive labor, since Sherlock usually makes the more outlandish leaps of reason, and those are the ones that stick with you.) What kind of space is given to the topics of addiction, or Moriarty, or the dynamics of working with the police? And on and blah and on. Like I said, total immersion.
(And if you’re not a writer, I apologize, because that entire previous paragraph probably bored the fuckstuffing out of you.)
All this shit is what you’d normally hash out in a writers’ room with a bunch of other people. Unfortunately with a spec, it’s 100% All On You, So Do Your Homework And Don’t Fuck It Up.
That’s what I mean by a productivity blanket. The fog erases the outside world and allows me to disappear into “Elementary”’s.
So don’t mind me, I’m just gonna keep practicing my little dance in here until I’m ready to hit the club.
January 15, 2014 – Day Eleven
January 14, 2014 – Day Ten
Act Two down.
Hello, Acts Three and Four.
January 13, 2014 – Day Nine
I am one of them.
I have just placed the outline for the Teaser and Act One in the 14th honeycomb on the right.
Sure, it’s just masticated nectar at this point, but soon…
Soon it will be sweet bee vomit.
January 12, 2014 – Day Eight
Entering the deep waters.
You guys stay here.
January 11, 2014 – Day Seven
[[WARNING: SPOILERS FOR ELEMENTARY SEASONS ONE AND TWO BELOW]]
Schizophrenic atmospheric conditions: foggy, cloudy, sunny, windy, rainy, wrath-of-god-rainy, Treenados. The weather needs some Haldol.
Tomorrow I start building the new architecture of my original story. Not as daunting as building something completely ex nihilo, but not not daunting, either. Obviously a lot’s changed on the show since I left off the spec last year (for example, it turns out Irene Adler and Moriarty are the same person, who is also Margaery Tyrell on Game of Thrones, thus officially making Natalie Dormer THE biggest badass on television, dragons or no motherfuckin’ dragons, khaleesi) — and so adjustments have to be made.
Definitely nervous, but the same way I imagine a guy feels in the batter’s box: yes, there’s anxiety, and a weird, very public, dread — Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a three-and-out of my hat! — but there’s also this burning desire to swing so hard you knock the cover off the goddamn ball, just like Chipper Jones did a couple years ago. An internal revving, a “bring it,” a “let’s do this.” (Note to aspiring screenwriters: never, never, ever actually put those phrases in a script. Trust me, I’m saving careers here.)
Am anxious to rise tomorrow, to do yoga, to get started.
January 10, 2014 – Day Six
Remember how I said I worked like a MONSTER yesterday?
Was reading Sherlock this afternoon on the couch, when suddenly the book got really close to my eyes, then eased back to a normal distance, then got really close again, then slowly back to normal… it was only when it happened the third time that I realized it wasn’t the book moving — it was my head. I was, quite literally, trying to read and sleep at the same time. And as the time-honored saying in my clan goes: Fuck that. I’m taking a nap.
So I did. Right there in the middle of the afternoon, on the couch, curled under a blanket, for two solid hours.
Let me tell you, they may’ve been two of the greatest hours of my life.
Not because of the sleep — though the sleep was fucking fantastic, seriously — but because I didn’t feel guilty about it.
So if you do as much headshrinkery and yoga as I do, you get real familiar with the phrase, “Give yourself permission to… (whatever).”
Give yourself permission to feel anger.
Give yourself permission to relax your shoulder muscles.
It seems a little odd at first, the notion that there’s some other “you” you need to appeal to in order to get something done — some higher, more-authoritative “you” that apparently reigns over the rest of… well, you. (Freud would call it the superego — though for some reason, that’s always given me the mental image of a red capital E flying around in a cape.) If you wanna get all neurological about it, we’re talking about your frontal lobe, the area code in your brain that spans higher reasoning and judgment — the part of you that keeps you from doing insane and dangerous things, like speeding in the rain on a mountain road, or befriending a rabid lion, or trying to steal a sip off my mom’s margarita. All that shit will get you killed, son.
Even Bill Nye would agree — that’s how scientifically accurate this is; I’m not fucking around — there is technically a “you” that’s sorta in charge of the rest of you. (“Sorta” is a science word.) And as I’ve learned from both the yoga and the headshrinkage, just being aware and conscious enough to ask that “you” for permission is usually enough for “you” to give it over. After all, it’s not as if your higher reasoning is gonna be like, No, I do not give you permission to relax your shoulder muscles! I like the way they’re feeling all pinchy and hurty and tight. I hope our whole neck cramps up tomorrow!
(Man, superego, you’re a dick!)
(Or maybe that’s just Freud again.)
No, it seems “ask and ye shall receive” actually is the case — and like all excruciating cliches, it is only redeemed by the merit of being true.
That’s why this afternoon, when my head nearly crashed into the book a third time, I thought about all the work I’d done yesterday, and all the work I’d accomplished so far that day — and how this retreat, in its remoteness and quietude, is almost forcing me to be more mindful, more aware of what I want and what I need — and as so rarely happens in my regular, driven, ambitious life, I finally — and fully — gave myself permission to rest.
I slept like that dog up there.
January 9, 2014 – Day Five
What writer’s retreat is complete without a library?
At last, the Box O’Books arrived! Also included: my zombie slippers and yoga mat. Y’know, the important stuff.
Worked like a fucking MONSTER today; it felt fabulous. Also I ate some bacon.
January 8, 2014 – Day Four
This is what happens when I have no TV at night.
I’m practically almost fucking Amish now… if the Amish liked to knit their clothes out of obnoxiously bright, sequined, and silk-feathered yarn.
So I’m Amishpunk, which is just like steampunk, only without all the newfangled technology.
January 7, 2014 – Day Three
So here’s the Overlook Hotel at dusk. Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me how amazingly incredibly perfect it is, I already know. So perfect in fact that I keep waiting for Someone In Authority to barge in, grab me by the neck, and growl, “Who said you deserve to be here?”
Sadly, I ask myself variations on that question more often than I’d like.
Only three days into the woods, and in the absolute drop off of bustle and hum, I find myself making casual realizations like this: that I often feel unworthy of the good things in my life. It’s as if I believe, deep in my bones (completely irrationally, I’m well aware) that at some point in the past I committed an unspeakable crime… only I can’t remember what it is, just that I owe for it. I owe for it. I’m on the red side of the moral balance sheets, and to wish for or receive anything beyond a basic survival amount of happiness is… I don’t know… flouting punishment? tempting fate? getting greedy?
Anyway, something horrible and indecorous that will inevitably lead to the end of the world. Not to be grandiose.
As I said, though, this particular irrational thought — that I am somehow unworthy of happiness — isn’t unique to my current situation. I carry it around with me every day. It’s simply that here in the Overlook, when 90% of the outside noise disappears, the echo of that thought sticks around a lot longer, clanging and re-clanging off the silent walls, off the inside of my head. And I am grateful for the quiet.
For in this moment, at least — and maybe it only takes a succession of these moments, staying mindful enough to create a succession of these moments, to make the feeling disappear permanently — instead of letting that sense of unworthiness slip back into my primordial angst soup like it always does, this time I’m grabbing it by the neck and growling, “Who said you deserve to be here?”
January 6, 2014 – Day Two
Went for my morning run — frost-covered fields, ice-encrusted hay crunching under my feet. Cold didn’t bother me at all — was layered as a wedding cake — but my lungs felt ready to explode. Pretty convinced there’s no air in the air here. EPA might wanna look into that. After the run, meditated. Like a boss.
Forgot how fast I read when I’m not distracted (i.e., with the TV on in the background, or constantly checking Twitter, email, Tumblr, phone games, etc.). Have already plowed through An Anthropologist On Mars by Oliver Sacks and You’d Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs, and just started Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney. Only one other “recreational” book until my Box O’Books arrives on Thursday — Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Feel like I’m adjusting my mental to the slower pace. Have a horrifying suspicion that I may be forced into town to procure knitting material.
Yes, fuckers. I knit scarves. Only scarves, but I can fucking knit. Yuk it up.
Script-wise, been re-re-reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Vols. I & II and taking notes — pointedly now, knowing the basic elements of my story, searching out pertinent twists on classic Sherlockian devices.
Lovely here. But.
I miss the Finance.
January 5, 2014 – Day One
Am somewhere beyond this mountain. Cabin is amazing in that way where you say the “MAY” part a really long time. Unpacked all my shit – surprising, for me – while blasting music, singing at the top of my lungs, dancing. Hope my happiness eats away at @saalon like a cancer.