Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why I Write: To Share

I’ve realised that one reason I write is to share.

As a concept, sharing goes a long way towards explaining why I write. (I’m not sure I need to explain why I write, but long-term readers of this blog will know that’s one of my interests!)

Sharing to me suggests that my script/film is an act of approaching the audience and saying:

“Take a look at this. I think it’s interesting. If you think it’s interesting too, let’s explore it together.”

Sharing implies a mutual process. As a writer, I need to be able to show why I am interested in my script. And I'm asking, not telling, an audience member to engage with the work.

Sharing starts with the writer and an act of offering something up. But it’s not a solitary act.

I’ve often heard writers say they write to communicate. I’ve said this myself, but never been entirely happy with the concept. ‘Writing to communicate’ strikes a chord with me, but the chord doesn’t sound quite right – like there’s one note out of place.

The thing is - writing to communicate sounds a little one way to me. Like I’m the only one with something to say, and everyone needs to shut up and listen to me.

I’m naturally uncomfortable holding the floor like that. I don't want to hold a megaphone and force the audience to listen to me. I don’t want that responsibility for starters!

I prefer the idea of sharing. Offer something to the audience. See if they’re as interested as you are. And if they are, let them do some of the work as well…

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How I Write: In The Flow

On Sunday, I found my writing flow. I thought I'd write down how I found it and what it is, partly as a reminder for myself for when I don't have it!

First thing Sunday, I was working on The Gap but finding the process hard going. I wanted to be doing anything else, and found myself continually procrastinating.

More than that - I realised I was stressed.

I was stressed in exactly the same way I would be if I was at a dinner party where I wasn't enjoying myself, but was making an effort to look like I was having a great time.

That realisation woke me up. Instead of being in touch with the writing, I was at a distance. And I was finding working like that was a draining experience. It was tiring me out!

So I did something totally different. I wrote a dialogue between my two main characters.

I let them talk about their issues, but in a very unreal way - something I'd never use in the finished script. I let them be my mouthpieces and just let them talk about what they were concerned about. Or rather, what I was interested in.

What I was looking for was not to get to the heart of them, but to get to the heart of my interest in the script. The nugget, to throw back to an old idea.

And I got into the flow. The writing wasn't hard anymore. It was rejuvenating actually. I wrote the first scenes for The Gap that I thought were actually good.

I haven't been able to totally hold on to Sunday's flow experience. It hasn't taken permanently. However I have been able to get back to feelings similar to it. And I'm continuing to write stuff which I think is better. So I think Sunday has made a lasting impact on me.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How I Write: Maturing My Scripter Self

I've realised that I have at least two writing 'selves'.

The first, which I'll call the Planner, is my more familiar self.

In my Planner self, I'm figuring the script out from a distance - I don't want to get too close. I'm considering the questions of theme, of structure, of the purpose of a script. I come up with plot, characters, and situations, and can write a million and one notes (for the current script, 'The Gap', Hix and I have put together a Foolscap File Box full of notes...) I can stay in this Planner self long enough to kill a script - to have written it to death in my head without actually having written it at all.

The second self, which I've been experiencing again as I start to write 'The Gap', is my Scripter self. In this self, I'm actually writing, but in many ways I'm running scared. I'm usually just trying to blat it out. Thinking? Consideration? Who needs it? I just want to get the scene written as fast as possible and get it done.

The Scripter self picks up directly from the point I left him, which happens to have been the moment I finished working on my previous script 'Run' last year. I use the same style, the same tone, the same voice for the characters... And I can sense my Planner frustration (what's happened to all that good work we were doing!!) with the results the Scripter self is firing out.

I'm not suggesting that this differentiation of writing 'selves' is utterly unique to me - in fact I hope that other writers reading this post may be able to relate. But I am very conscious that in my case, I've spent a lot of time in my Planning self for the last ten years, and far less time in my Scripter self.

Consequently I'm feeling that my Scripter self has a lot of maturing to do. I need to be able to loosen up and consider options while I'm actually writing. I want to be able to calmly think about the best ways to express character and the heart of the scene, rather than always going for the easiest course, just because I want to be done with it as fast as possible. If I want to be a professional writer, then I need to be a lot more comfortable in my Scripter self.

I'm hoping that my Planner self can help my Scripter self, so that this maturing process doesn't take years! But it seems to me that getting more comfortable with my Scripter self is the most important thing I can be doing right now as a writer. So if it takes years, it takes years!

Finally, I'm sure there's some things my Planner self can learn from my Scripter self too - like when to let go and just do it!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

How I Write: By Ambush

Yesterday I started writing 'The Gap'.

I wasn't expecting to. Well, I knew I was heading in that general direction, but I knew that I wanted to write a step-by-step outline for the project first, and knowing me that would have taken at least a month...

So I knew I wasn't ready. But then, all of a sudden, I was.

I picked up my pen, grabbed the back of an old script (which is what I use for scrap-paper), and worked my way through my first scene. (Not a good first scene, but it'll get better). And past that first scene I can feel a whole reservoir of words.

So, I've officially started writing 'The Gap'.

Thinking about it today, I've realised that starting to write my last script 'Run' was exactly the same. I don't see the actual writing coming.

I dawdle around the edge of the pool, afraid to dive in. And eventually there's a moment when I realise 'Hey, I could just leap in now'. So I dive in, swim around, and think 'There, that's not so bad'. And then I feel ashamed about the dawdling before taking the dive, and all that thinking work feels like procrastination...

So either I have to sneak up on the script or the script has to sneak up on me.

How about you? Does the writing take you by surprise?