So I spent a pretty fair chunk of time revising The Script, finishing this past weekend. I was feeling good about my efforts, how I had neatly excised the extraneous, improved the dialogue, and changed some things that just weren’t working.
Fat, dumb, and happy, I dove into making the changes on the computer. And that’s when it hit me.
This piece still needs work. Sure, it’s better. In some places, a lot better (in my opinion, anyway), but much of what I saw was still ‘other than good.’ I got through maybe 10 revised pages before stopping. I didn’t care for what I had seen. My expectations of magnificence and glory came crashing down in a crescendo of mediocrity.
What should I do in this instance? Chuck it all and surrender myself eternally to my day time jobs of cat milking and pachinko machine tuning? Start another project?
The former isn’t an option, since I don’t actually do either of those jobs (but we can dream, can’t we?). Seriously, just quitting isn’t much of a solution. I’m much happier, in general, when I’m writing, even when things aren’t going exactly as planned.
The latter might sound like a good choice, but I fear I will end up with ten things started and none of them done. Have two irons actively in the fire is working out ok right now – when I get stuck on one thing, I can work on the other for a couple of days, and as mentioned previously, any work writing is work that counts for Score.
This is what I ended up doing: I went back to The Novel and put about a thousand words into it, did a little ‘world building’ type stuff (I had an idea for a different alien species that I fiddled with for a bit), and then went back to work on The Screenplay revisions. The second session went much better than the first. It still isn’t perfect, but as I got deeper in (I made it to about the 45th page before taking a break), I noticed that things fit together more smoothly, the big problems are getting squared away, and it is going to be much better than it was, which is sometimes the best you can do. I’m not sure yet that it’s going to be ready to send out to my reviewing friends after this pass, but there is a chance it might be.
My advice, then, when you get stuck, or think what’s on the paper would be confused with diaper contents, is this: Don’t give up. Don’t start a new project. Set it aside for a day or two. Let your brain chew through the problem for a bit then come back to it with a different perspective.
Remember these two things: 1) James Joyce reportedly struggled for hours over each word he put on the page. It wasn’t easy for him. Don’t expect it to be easy for you. 2) Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have Oscars for Screenwriting. If they can do it, anyone can.