I’m writing an original television pilot script right now. I’m on draft #2 after my dear filmmaker friend (whose storytelling skills I completely trust) gave me copious amounts of feedback.
It wasn’t exactly negative feedback, per se… But he did prompt me to really think about my choices. Does the very first scene represent the central theme of the show? Does each scene in the episode have a purpose? Is the final scene compelling enough to make you skip ahead to episode two?
I had to admit that the answer in all of these cases was no.
I know intellectually that “writing is re-writing” and that you need to “kill all your darlings” or whatever. But I really liked my first draft. I worked hard on it.
Was it the best it could be? No, clearly not. Will I need to cut the hilarious scene where the 16-year-old main character is teaching herself to play a Bikini Kill song on the guitar when her mom knocks on her door to ask if she wants to join her to watch a documentary about Slovakian gypsies? Sadly, maybe.
After receiving the feedback, I spent a couple weeks away from the project, silently cursing all of the amazing television writing out there.
Atypical? NO. A show that good can’t exist.
The Chi? How can every scene flow so naturally and simultaneously surprise you in the most delightful way? Grumblegrumblegrumble.
Beneath this negativity was a fear. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do what my friend was asking of me–that I didn’t have it in me to write a really good script. Or maybe that I didn’t have the willpower. That, perhaps, scared me more.
Finally, a few weeks later, I sat down and took a stab at draft #2. It was slow at first. I kept feeling constrained by what I had written before. When you replace a scene with a new scene, that new scene sometimes leads you to a new place and the old next scene no longer fits. Then you find yourself re-writing the whole script because none of the old scenes are quite right anymore. And of course, you have no assurance that the scenes you’re writing now are going to stick. You might end up scrapping them later for something better.
It’s infuriating and terrifying.
But as I continued pushing forward, I began remembering something… This process is also also kind of fun.
It’s actually REALLY FUN!
Somehow, I had forgotten.
I think this happens to us a lot. We feel resistance toward a project, particularly a project that is personally meaningful. We might feel a sense of dread, fear, self-doubt, etc. and we think that working on the project will be horribly painful.
And it is painful at first.
But once we get into it, we often start having fun, because solving creative challenges is satisfying!
And we’re like: holy shit! I forgot how fun this is.
However, the next time we sit down to work on our project, we’re back at square one. We feel that aching feeling inside and we don’t want to do it. Working on our project sounds like the worst thing ever. It’s as though our memory went blank. We completely forget about how fun it is.
It’s wild, huh? But I guess that’s Resistance for you.
I try to remind myself that something can be both super challenging and fun. In fact, it’s overcoming the challenges that makes it fun. You can’t get that kind of satisfaction from doing easy things like messing around on Facebook or even repeating work you’ve done a million times and could do in your sleep. Remembering this doesn’t make the Resistance go away, but it helps me move through it.
A timer helps, too.
Sometimes I’ll set a timer for 5 minutes and just go nuts. At the end of the 5 minutes, I can stop writing if I want. But I’m usually “in it” by then and I’ll want to keep going.
So, here’s where I’m at now: I’ve re-written the first five scenes of my script and I’m continuing on, slowly. The new scenes are very different from the first draft. I have no idea if my new stuff will stick and I’m trying not to worry too much about that and just move forward.
I’m also trying not to get discouraged by good television writing. That’s silly. Better to be inspired by it. (Still, it is sooo painful sometimes how good it can be!).
I said I’m trying. 🙂
So, yeah. I’m both slogging and soaring my way through the second draft right now. I’m not sure how that can be, but apparently it’s possible.
Do you ever feel intimidated by your projects, particularly the ones that are both meaningful and hard? How do you proceed anyway?