25 November 2005

Illusory Procrastination

“I'm searching for marbles all day long!”
-- Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemmon), in MR. ROBERTS

I have a Pulver-esque quality, sometimes. I give the appearance of being distracted, of not being focused, or not actually committing fully to some project, when in fact I am deeply committed and engaged in an internal manner than does not lend itself to easy or quick recognition.

Surely there’s a great deal of self-serving nonsense to that, but equally surely there is a faint stink of truth to it, as well. Usually, when I am truly interested in a project, I will spend a great deal of time just mulling the project in my head, circling it slowly from all possible angles using my mental camera, looking for every conceivable point where problems might lurk, or where elegant potential solutions and improvements might be sleeping unnoticed. I hate rushing into any important project, consumed by the childish need to “do something” rather than think things through, and then look up and realize that I’ve wasted a great deal of energy and opportunity because I failed to recognize some critical factor which became obvious only in hindsight.

I once remember hearing a big-name pro screenwriter (no name-dropping today) casually mutter “I always delay writing. I try to avoid writing for as long as possible, because II’d rather make sure that once I start that I actually have a decent idea of what I’m supposed to be writing.”

I chuckled aloud, as that was the first time I can recall hearing someone else articulate pretty much my exact take on the situation. Yes, there is a joy to be had in just slinging words (witness the popularity of these damnable “blogs”), but when you are actually trying to “get somewhere” with your writing — telling a story for specific purpose and effect... for possible financial gain... — it seems worth the time and trouble to make sure you understand what the hell you are trying to do.

So for now, the new Rom-Com seems to languish. I have 30 ragged pages scribbled into the WP program, and I know that at least 30% of that will be tossed aside like fishguts, but I can’t quite bring myself to even try adding more actual pages just yet. I like what I have so far — the beginning and the ending — but these portions always seem clear in my head at this stage. It’s that damned “middle” which always poses a real problem.

Which of course is kind of like building a bridge over a river, and saying “well, the approach ramps are done, so all that’s left is the part that crosses water.”


So for now I tote around a reporter’s notepad into which I scribble lots of odd notes and random ideas about such issues as “theme” and “questions” and “why?” and I list “cool scenes” and “clichés I hate” and “scenes to avoid” and “cool ideas” and all sorts of odd bits of mental fluff.

Between FADE IN and FADE OUT, nothing seems to be happening. But between the ears... "my mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.”

Hell, sounds good, anyway.


MaryAn Batchellor said...

I have filled several "reporter's notepads" and journals. Great things to have handy when you're eavesdropping in the dentist's office and hear a choice piece of dialogue.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Also, it's been two days. Wanna drop that name now?

oneslackmartian said...

I read that James Thurber said that writing was all in the mind. Being at the typewriter was the simply the physical labor part of writing. His wife said she would be talking to him, and he would be staring off into space. She would say, “Stop writing.”

Nice bucket here.

oneslackmartian said...

By the way, my mind is a swirling, sucking, eddy of despair in a forever darkening universe.