One of the decisions I made for 2017 was to do things that are difficult. One night I was thinking that it had been too long since I did something that was really hard for me, where I really challenged myself.
I felt this was especially important because I have finished one major writing project (my screenplay) and have not started another yet. Well, the screenplay is not “finished,” exactly. But I like the draft I have, and I am taking a break from continuously nitpicking at it. I figured I could use some distance from it while I wait to hear from people who are looking at funding it.
Any decisions in that regard have been put on hold for a few months to wait and see what this Trump presidency will do to investments in entertainment, if anything. That’s fine. I get it.
This is the second in a series. To read part one of The Fear of Those Who Are Different, click here.
A story I relate to my classes each semester regards a proposal made a number of years back in, I believe, the Oakland Unified School District. It stated that the required literature assigned to high school students must be written by authors who reflect the gender and race makeup of the student body. So, for example, if the required reading included ten novels, and fifty percent of the student body were female, then five of those books would need to be written by women authors. And if sixty percent of the student body were Hispanic (which was the word of choice at that time for people who came from countries whose primary language was Spanish), then six of the authors would need to be Hispanic. And so forth.
My daughter was home from college for winter break, and after watching yet another news story about a horrible crime steeped in hatred, we found ourselves discussing how much hatred there seems to be in the world. My daughter resignedly asked if I thought there would be a time when people are simply accepting of others.
Here is a great article about a gentleman who was extremely successful with the first screenplay that he wrote. I am posting it for two reasons: one, the strategies I used for writing my screenplay are very similar (so I must be on the right track), and two, it is possible!!
What is more important? The effort or the results?
I guess it depends.
I teach at a university on the side of my writing. And I teach writing – no surprise I am sure.
But I had an interesting exchange with a student yesterday. She was upset that she received a C on the report that I had just returned in my business writing class. I have turned this class into much more than simply business writing, however. I have emphasized professionalism and leadership as well.
I’ve neglected this blog, but I am back! A large reason I have disappeared for a minute is because I teach part time at a local university, and the new semester began. I am teaching more classes than I usually do, and so I have been busy getting into a groove.
But as I grade papers, I have been thinking a lot about feedback and it’s importance. I tell a story at the beginning of each semester about a poetry class I took in graduate school. As I paged through the first essay returned to us, I noted periodic checkmarks, which I assumed meant that I was hitting a point the professor was looking for. On the last page, he wrote “Good” and gave me a B. Hmmmmm. That made no sense to me. I must have uttered my confusion out loud because a student next to me assured me that the problem was probably that I had a lot of grammar errors – hence the B.
I can’t help it. I guess I am not done with this whole idea of creativity, especially in regards to education’s impact on it.
I just came from a beginning-of-the-year meeting with other college English teachers. And my head is spinning. I have learned that I am a dinosaur, and I need to keep my mouth shut at this point. I wish I did not feel that way, but I have had my share of voicing my opinion and have learned that the system is way bigger than me and the cost of speaking up is very high. Hence my giving up a tenured professorship a few years back to teach part time.
More and more I understand the importance of creativity for surviving (and thriving!). But I also see the failure of so many people to live creatively. Teaching someone how to tap into their creative being is the best gift we can give each other.
A few years ago, I met a gentleman who was a film producer, producing (and sometimes writing) countless movies for television, the kinds of movies I watch to escape. Much like when I read Danielle Steele as a teenager because I just needed a break from the intensity of a Tolstoy or an Orwell. And I loved her books for that. And I enjoyed his movies for the same reason.
I am not posting on here as much as I would like to, but I have a good reason for that. I am in a writing frenzy as far as my screenplay goes. Every time I think I should write a post (and I have a dozen or so topics and partial posts in my queue!), I can’t tear myself away from my screenplay. But I am pretty sure that’s a good thing!
The last couple of days have been full of thinking about how to fill a couple of holes in my script. I cannot even begin to explain the satisfaction of finding solutions to those holes. In fact, I am feeling really emotional right now because I just solved a problem with the mentor character. And I felt compelled to share my feelings here.
I don’t know how many people can understand the satisfaction I feel. No, that is not the right word. The triumph. That is more accurate. It literally brings me to tears. It is that beautiful.
So I sit here at Starbucks doing my best to hold it all in, amazed at the characters I am creating, and falling in love with them over and over again. Who knew this was possible?
The is my first shot at fiction (and I chose a screenplay to experiment on!). I never considered myself creative enough to write fiction. And just to prove the saying “Whether you say you can, or whether you say you can’t, you are right,” I have never been able to create a decent story in my few feeble attempts.
But this project is different. I know I can do this. And so I am. And I am amazed at what I am capable of.
I am in love with my story, and I am in love with my characters. I can’t wait to share them! Thanks for indulging me. Now, back to work.
Wanted to share this article that a friend recently forwarded to me. It is great, especially for me since I am writing an animated feature. But I want to include it because this is about aspiring screenwriters, and one of the writers of the animated family hit Shark Tale was once an aspiring screenwriter also. The more I learn, the more I realize that there are an infinite number of paths to writing a screenplay that is produced. And I thought this gentleman’s story of getting to that place was worth learning about!
After all, if one person has accomplished something via a particular path, that means someone else can also.
Enjoy! And while you’re reading this, I’m going to go watch Shark Tale again!