Here it is, the final installment in this trilogy of posts about a recent crazy creative journey (Read Part 1 – The High and Part 2 – Coming Down here) of writing a crazy screenplay called (for now anyway) Sweet Acid. Not that the journey of writing this screenplay is over–I still have tons of editing to do, and then need to figure out what I want to do with it–but that the crazy emotional creativity roller coaster has subsided.
And as for what got me back to normal? It’s nothing shocking. I think just about every working writer or artist or creative person in any field has said this. The cure for all that insane intensity–the good, the bad, the swinging between the extremes–is to keep doing the work.
And in a certain way, it’s still there. I’m still excited about the project and had a great time talking about it yesterday with the friend who my character Lenne is based on. But I also experienced the other side of the creative process, the doubt and self-loathing, the coming down off the drug-like high of creating.
The crash came along with writing the end of the first draft of the screenplay. Maybe it was just the fact that the initial mad dash creative side of the project was over. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel excited about this project so much as terrified.
Holy fucking roller coaster, Batman. And the ride isn’t over.
The last two weeks have been a completely new kind of writing experience for me. It feels a little weird to be able to say that at 33 years old, especially considering I was writing little stories since, like, first grade. But it’s true.
It was so intense. It felt kinda like how I imagine being manic might feel. It felt like being in love. It felt like being on reeeeeeeally good drugs. It was all rushing and inspiration and not being able to sleep and waking up early with ideas and thoughts of how to work parts of it together. And it was a lot, lot, lot of writing.
Here’s what happened. For my university, there is a requirement called a senior capstone. I’ve resisted it as long as I could, putting it off term after term, imagining the anonymous diatribes I wanted to write against the requirement in the school paper as if that could somehow exempt me from having to take a capstone class. But this winter, I had to sign up, so I picked Research Experience for Science Majors, hoping to, you know, get some research experience.
I just got home from AWP in Seattle. For those who haven’t heard of it, AWP is this massively huge swarm of writers that descends on a different city each year. This year, AWP took over the Washington State Convention Center, an Annex and the Seattle Sheraton. Someone told me that the total number of people registered was 14,000. Unless you count music festivals like Lollapalooza and Coachella, I’ve never been around that many people in such a concentrated space.
There are oodles of writing-related panels. In fact, for every time slot, there are, oh, I don’t know, twenty or more different offerings. And then there are outside events, readings, contest winner announcements, drinking with some vague literary theme in mind, and then more panels. There’s also a bookfair, which is huge. This one was split into two separate rooms, that’s how huge it was. Booths everywhere. Books everywhere. Writers milling around booths and looking at books everywhere.
I was a total AWP virgin, open to all kinds of impression and experience.
So, here are some things I learned over the last three days:
As I’m sure is glaringly obvious, I watch a lot of TV. But somehow, despite all the time I spend watching Netflix, it’s almost always TV episodes. I don’t make as much time for movies as I used to. And even when I used to watch move movies, it always seemed there were so many good ones I hadn’t seen for any number of reasons.
I want to do more screenwriting, and as with any form of writing, getting better at it means immersing yourself in that form and medium of storytelling. Or I’m just giving myself an excuse to start getting DVDs in the mail from Netflix again (the streaming movie selections are a bit limited) and spend more time watching movies. Either way, I would love some suggestions.
So give me your top five to ten movies (or more!) you think I should see. They can be your favorites, or great examples of a particular genre, or even movies you hate (as a writer, it can be good to familiarize yourself with the not-so-great examples too, and who knows, tastes differ. Or you can have no particular theme or reason at all. Just give me some suggestions, and some descriptions of why if you want, and I’ll start compiling an epic film educational queue.
I’m not saying much about what movies I already love (or hate) b/c I want to be open to all suggestions, but if you’re really curious, I have a faves list on my FB. But since I’m looking to branch out, I just don’t want to limit anything to similar titles or anything like that. Really, all suggestions welcome!
For anyone who writes stories, makes music or does any sort of creative art, this has to be one of the most common questions you are asked, and one of the most common questions you want to ask others.
It’s a mysterious thing. I think so many people are curious about it, even people who themselves are involved in the creative arts, because it’s not always concrete and logical (those aspects do come into play, of course). Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where that first seed or flash or image or idea originated.
Sometimes you know. The idea for Total Eclipse of the Heart, which I wrote originally as a short story and am now having fun working into a screenplay, came to me pretty much fully-formed in a dream, including some of the dialogue. Actually in the dream I was taking a screenwriting class (which at that point in time I had never done in real life) and struggling with writers block, then came up with this idea for the story and in the dream I was reworking it and molding it. There were so many details, so many subplots and so much complexity for a story that came from a dream.
That has never happened before or since but it was pretty cool when it did. It kinda made me feel like I had to write the story.
It all started with a duffel bag. There was this really awesome Breaking Bad duffel bag on eBay that I was looking at. After the auction ended, I went looking for it elsewhere, googling, and accidentally came across the script for episode 301 “No Mas,” in which Walt and Hank have an exchange about Walt’s duffel bag filled with drug money. It soon became clear that reading the script was way more valuable than some duffel bag so I started googling and looking for more scripts. One kept popping up in all my searches, a script for Season 5, Episode 1, titled “Truckers Deluxe.” Some sites labeled the script as fake, others seemed to claim it was real.
Now, I’m usually a spoiler-free kinda girl. You might even call me a purist, with slightly limited willpower. I want to experience the story the way it’s written to be experienced, not know it ahead of time. I remember a few years ago, it was announced that there would be a wedding on the season premiere of Grey’s Anatomy, and a bunch of people wrote all over the Facebook page about which couple it would be, with no spoiler alerts, and I was pissed! For that reason, this year when it was announced that someone would die on the season finale, I stayed far away from the Grey’s FB page. Anyway, the point is, I try to avoid spoilers.
But this was Breaking Bad and I am more addicted to that show than the methheads on the show are to their blue crystal. So I couldn’t help myself. Plus it was probably fake anyway, right?
I’m so glad I went, too. I almost didn’t. I haven’t really written much in awhile, and have felt like work takes over my life. But I had put in for the time off back in April or something, so I said what the hell and signed up. I thought if nothing else, at least I’d have a few days away. The festival was held at Moran State Park which is a good drive from my place, so I stayed overnight in one of the cabins during the festival.
The festival blew my expectations out of the water! The instructors were EXCELLENT! A lot of them teach at Vermont College of Fine Arts which has a low-residency MFA writing program. In the mornings, we had small workshop groups. I chose the non-fiction track, and so each morning, our small group gathered to very thoroughly discuss our work. Each of us had to submit a ten-page sample of our writing before the festival, so we spent considerable time each morning, working with a few people’s work each day. It was great. I forgot how great it is, not only to get feedback on your own work, but to work as a group on others’ stories. You learn so much. I felt so engaged, like my inner artist was engaged in a way it hasn’t been in so long. I was exercising my writing muscles. It was great even to go over some of the basics of story arc and point of view. I didn’t realize I was so hungry for this sort of thing. But oh was I ever! It fed my soul, and my soul has been a bit starving as of late.
So, after further investigating UW’s English department, I realized they really don’t offer the array of writing classes I want. I’d spend most of my time there taking literature classes, which isn’t necessarily terrible, but I want to be writing, and not just analytical, critical essays. I have three semesters left if all my credits transfer, and I don’t want to have to put writing on hold for that long while I get my degree. What irks me to no end is that UW offers these “extension” programs aimed at the working adult, and they have extension classes in everything I want to take – memoir, creative non-fiction (as in articles and essays), screenwriting, genre fiction, literary fiction. Such a delectable selection! But of course, when I asked the English department, I found out that in no way can any of the extension classes be taken for credit.