Thursday, March 18, 2010

Naughty Notes

When you finish a script, it's like giving birth. You're exhausted, mentally and physically, but your mind is still racing. What could be improved? What could be tossed? And of course, like any proud parent, you want to show your kid off.

I've sent my newest spec off to some fellow writers for their thoughts and comments, and I was encouraged by the early feedback. That is, I was until someone whose opinion I value told me what he didn't like about this draft. I know it has some issues, but I really didn't think it was that bad, and I still don't.

Now in the old days, I would've been crushed. When my seventh grade teacher refused to be my writing sponsor in a contest because he wouldn't believe that I'd written the short story I wanted to enter without any help, I was so devastated that I didn't write for a couple of years afterwards.

As I matured and grew as a writer, I developed a thicker skin, honed my ability to self-edit, and learned to trust my instincts and creativity. But it still hurts to be rejected, and it hurts to be told your baby is butt ugly.

One of my early attempts at screenwriting was a very down and dirty thriller set in the Florida Everglades I wrote in a burst in a week. However, the people in the writing workshop I was in at the time didn't like it and savaged it. I really took their comments to heart; in hindsight, probably too much. But what did I know? I was a virgin. I began a furious rewrite according to their notes and wrote all the heart and passion out of it. I was never able to capture that passion, not for that script. But it's funny that I've since seen the same plotline that I used, or variations of it, in subsequent films. Either I was ahead of my time or there were a lot of clueless assholes in that workshop.

Flash forward a couple of years, and I had myself some managers. They had notes on my scripts. A year, a year and a half later, I'm still rewriting my scripts. One draft would please one manager, but not the other. I was becoming increasingly frustrated and unhappy with my writing. Worst of all, I began to doubt myself creatively. If I couldn't please myself, how could I please anyone else? I mean, how bad a writer could I be, the script that Showtime had bought was virtually a first draft! While I wrote it, I didn't have a manager or an agent or a workshop to tell me where I'd gone wrong. I relied on myself, my voice and my faith.

So now when it comes to notes, I'm much more laid back. I'll digest them, absorb them, discard what doesn't reasonate with me, absorb what does and reinterpret them in a way that speaks to me emotionally. I'm not interested in hearing how other people would do it. I'm not other people. The only thing I have that sets me apart is my voice, my style. If I lose my spark, my individuality, my faith, then I might as well stop writing because I'm just regurgitating what other people think or feel.

In other words, if I can't do it my way, I'll get off the highway and take the back road. It might take me longer, but I'll get there.

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