Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Why I Write

It has been, if you couldn't tell, a rough couple of weeks for me and writing. If you ever wonder why writers are, on the whole, superstitious about the writing headspace--"mood" isn't right; it really is more like a place--this is why: without devaluing the (hugely important) plowing-through that happens on any long writing project, inspiration is not to be trifled with. Inspiration is moody. It likes to be catered to. It likes routine, except when it prefers spontaneity. You get to know its patterns, and if you do what it wants, it'll make it worth your while.

The spirit comes...and it goes.

Recently, for me, it went.

The logistics are hazy--busy, out of town, blah blah blah etc.--but suddenly, I had a holey outline and a bunch of characters that I couldn't quite hear anymore. The deadline for Scriptapalooza came and went, and although I did submit a script--the 30 Rock spec I wrote for the Disney Fellowship last year, which is still eligible, if not exactly new news--the pilot I had hoped to submit hadn't seen the light of day. It still hasn't. It won't for a while yet. I've tried to be nice to myself about it, to wait it out, to fill up on other people's writers'-block stories. I've scheduled myself time to write, and shown up (and then packed it in early and played around on iTunes instead). There's something to be said for routine, but everybody knows that torture is bad.

And then, today, the whole thing came flooding back, half-new.

I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again: as long as I live, I don't think I'll ever understand how this works. I don't want to understand. It happens when I'm doing laundry, or when I'm crossing the street, or when I'm doing the dishes: I don't know and then I know. Today in a meeting at work, my new colleague told a little story about herself as a child, and there it was--this new character, born twelve years old and mostly whole, who singlehandedly changes the entire tone of what I'm writing. Two possible pilots will, I think, now combine, because one was funny and one was dramatic, and life is like that. It's going to be much more fun (to write and to read) than what I've been hacking away at, and maybe that's the secret. Maybe I lost the fun in my story: a tragedy in every way. I still don't know exactly what's going to happen--some of what I've got will need to be reworked anyway, to make room for what's coming--but the smell of smoking brains seems to be gone. It's the best feeling ever.

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