It's been nearly a year since I checked in here because I finally realized last December, 2013 that I had to give some time to my brain for healing fully and stop making any other goals move up the list of priorities above that. It takes a long time for a brain to heal, or for a person to come to terms with what is what after brain surgery or trauma. Though hard to grasp that in the midst of impatience, I've made some progress in accepting that there are things that are not going to change quick enough for my satisfaction, and I've taken up an attitude of doing what I can reasonably and sustainably. This influences everything from mundane chores to my most creative endeavors. I am coming to terms with my right to live for my own sake.
As writers, we have to adjust constantly in order to get it done. If I could write quickly for years, and thought that was great, but didn't succeed as well as I'd hoped, writing slowly now is chalk full of challenges I'm discovering. I am in a constant state of developing beyond where I once was comfortable. Sometimes it floors me that I would still want to write when it is so difficult! But, I do and so day by day I'm creating a new practice that I can live with and feel good about with a different endgame in mind.
Did I say endgame? Yes, I did. For many years I believed the endgame was to create "successful screenplays" that could be produced in Hollywood, for a price I could retire on, and create a returning audience that I could produce a dozen experiences for over a decade. My endgame was all about working as a professional writer, and I spent years studying the craft, and trying to make my ideas fit into the expectations of a professional screenwriter. This turns out to be only the BEGINNING.
Everything is in constant process of change, and I don't mean just my brain. The entire business that was my endgame is on the verge of transmutation in terms of the way things are done. The movie industry is in metamorphosis, and yet they keep making money with fewer, and many affirm less wonderful movie products. How many box theaters have closed in your neck of the woods, and yet some theater distributors have just had record number producing years? If you need proof that the industry isn't relying on old formulas, look at the stocks of giants like Sony, Viacom and Time-Warner. The only game in town isn't Disney and they're pretty well planned out for some seven years with enormous investments in the tried and true franchises like Marvel and Star Wars. Kickstarter and other crowd-funding sources have become the second-full-time job of any producer or director to find the finances to create a film. Stalwart film distributors like AMC Theaters have been in overdrive trying to create new experiences for the theater-goers to get them out of their home theater set ups. Meanwhile Apple, Google, Amazon and Samsung continue to promise private home entertainment that far surpasses the interactive experience an audience can have publicly, even if the privacy of that experience is questionable. Isn't this just what I was writing about several years ago? Yet it is still unfolding...
What is a writer to do when the rules fly out the door? Well, remember this one thing...just because the way the industry as we know it has been dying, doesn't mean it is gone, and certainly doesn't mean the audience is dying. The audience still wants great, moving entertainment and dare I say it? Art. The popular term today, "content," is the fruit that everyone still loves. The audience needs it to be fantastically nourishing in today's world. Because, no one can actually know for sure which way the new industry of on-demand, on-line, niche theaters, and free/advertiser supported entertainment is headed, now your choices are your own as a writer and creator. It is a terrific time for writers because the answer is simple.
Write what you want to see. Write how you want to be entertained. Write in a way that moves you to laughter and tears. Write stories of life lived through these tumultuous times. Write stories to break our hearts. Write stories to lift us up. Write stories in your own best length, and with or without all of the special effects available. Write stories to become interactive. Write stories that take the time to dive deeply into research. Write stories that take time to develop well. Write stories with characters who have something important, and more than what we expect, to say and let their voices be heard through all of the devices available.
It takes courage. This is true. Can you expect "overnight" success in a world where successful directors are teaming up overseas, or taking on crowd-funding sites just to finance their projects? Uhm. No. Overnight success will be surprising and probably faddish for the next decade. Money will be wasted. Time will slip by, guaranteed, but if you can see that this is a ten year development process ahead, and that there will be fits, starts and flops, then there is hope for you. Isn't that what you kind of expected anyway? Isn't that a writer's life?
I have favorite screenwriting masters who I revere for their respect/disrespect of structure and their original ideas, and I do not claim to be one of them, yet. You can find them on Youtube, or visit a number of great on-line web classes. I am a great teacher though for getting a writer going, and maintaining commitment through a project even when it becomes hard and unpleasant. Did I just say that writing can become hard and unpleasant? Yup. If you're still excited about this endeavor, and you'd like to work with a coach who knows old-school screenwriting structure front and back, but is excited to push beyond that, to push towards a future that envisions more depth and the ability to draw the audience back again and again for a new experience, then check out my rates (they haven't changed in 2 years!) and send me a message (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am the one who can keep nudging you through until you have a piece of work that you feel great about, that has respectable structure so that it doesn't fall down in faddishness, but also breaks through the unnecessary and opens a story for today's and tomorrow's audience.
Ayn Rand had some things right. We have to create for our own lives. We write with the understanding that there is immediate reaction and long-term judgment, but we can't care one iota about it. We have the right to ask for our own terms and to stand by them. I'm not sure I would recommend tearing things down in quite such a legally tricky manner as Mr. Roark did in The Fountainhead, but certainly walk away from those who would tear down your work and add artifice to make it fit some ideal that no longer exists. This is not the time to look backwards, Writers!
I want to add a little testimonial that I received this week from one of my current students, whom I've been working with for over a year now, though I am blushing. Just so you know that I'm the real deal, and I'm not going to rush you through this process:
I was thinking on my way to work ….what does our relationship, coaching sessions and journey remind me of...?
And then it hit me. I feel like you are my Anne Sullivan and I am Helen Keller! - Gina Higgins