Tough writing day.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the new medium: THE NOVEL
(It feels like you should say it like that, in big bold capital letters: THE NOVEL. Or maybe it’s only bold the first time you write one. Maybe the second one gets italicized, the third one… ironic quote marks? Maybe you don’t even care with the fourth one, you just tell everyone you’re writing an article for Rolling Stone. In any case, I’m still on my first one, so it’s really big bold capital letters.)
I cut my professional writer’s teeth on screenplays (which autocorrect just wanted to turn into “screw plays,” proving that autocorrect is already well familiar with the Hollywood process) – and a script maxes out at about 60 pages for a TV show. A feature can run to 120 – but that’s only if the dialogue runs super fast and you’re planning to cut 30 pages.
And all the white space, good lord! A script is more white space than writing – how I long for the halcyon days of telling a story through a 60 page haiku. Now my eyes are positively stuffed with black lines, dark word caterpillars crawling across my vision – rows and rows and rows of unending text stretching forward, stretching backward, page numbers irrelevant at this point.
The medium may have changed, but the feeling is familiar. It’s one I think everybody experiences from time to time, that cresting panic of “what the hell am I doing?’, of “this is too big,” “I got in over my head,” “they’re all gonna find out you’re a huge fraud and turn on you like Carrie in the shower scene, pelting you with tampons as you cry and bleed all over yourself!”
(Okay, last one’s probably just me, but I saw the movie at a formative age.)
Ironic, then, that the silver lining of that panic is its familiarity.
I don’t think I’ve ever written a script where I wasn’t seized at some critical moment by the absolute certainty that I would not be able to finish it. That I was destined to disappoint anyone who had ever counted on me creatively – and (worse), I would disappoint myself.
At first this panic was paralyzing – I pulled all-nighters, trying to make up for the fact that I could only type a half-page before I had to bolt out of my chair and pace and smoke and convince myself to sit back down to type another half-page. And remember – this is a half-page of haiku. When I first started out, my pace was nothing short of glacial – and frankly, it’s only marginally faster now.
But a couple scripts in, I cobbled together a kind of mantra that kept my ass in the chair longer and longer, that eventually allowed me to give up the smokes, to where now I can do all of my panicking-and-recovering directly at my desk. And now I tell myself this same mantra about THE NOVEL.
“You’ve felt this before. You’ve gotten through it. You’ve finished pieces in the past. You may not know exactly what you’re doing right now, but if you keep showing up and keep showing up, eventually you are just going to wear this motherfucker down.
“OUTLAST THIS BITCH.”