blog: the oh so elusive gift of surrender

(Click on 'BLOG' in the navigation and then scroll down for Part 1 of this blog from April 4 )

So when Mr. Green chose to not rush in and prop me up with the sort of platitudes I really wanted to hear (“You can do this! Of course you can do this!”) I was left to face the goddam abyss.

Like any sane person with options, I spend as little time as possible there and my active mind raced for a getaway plan. I could justifiably blow off a little steam shrieking at Mr. Green: “Thanks for kicking me when I’m down!” etc. But in a moment of grace, or was it blind panic at the gravity of my situation, I said nothing. I sat there staring blindly into the middle distance.

To let it all go and ask someone else to write the darn script - oh dear. My past life of writing ‘collaboratively’ flashed before my eyes. My stomach seized, there were stabbing pains in the chest and meanwhile my mind soared at the thought of the freedom and carefree hours.

But maybe I have no choice.

It actually felt like I was cracking into two, along a vertical fault line.

While the soup in the bowl in front of me got cold, the oh so elusive and precious gift of surrender bloomed in my interior cavities. Twenty-four hours earlier, the Runes (thank you, Mudd Lavoie) had advised: (Perth) "Let go of EVERYTHING - no exceptions, no exclusions. Powerful forces of change are at work. Becoming whole….”

I got up from the table and went out for a two hour 'walk' storming and sobbing all around lower Manhattan. (There's 'surrender' and then there's an extended version for people who really like to suffer.) The walk, complete with brilliant sunshine and 40 mph gusts of Arctic wind, cleared my head and I realized that I’m willing to do whatever is necessary.

Since then, I’ve written an outline and am studying scripts of other television episodes. And even though my mind always feels locked against this inscrutable concept of 'structure’, something opened that afternoon.

Three days later, the insight about 'structure' is a little fuzzy, but I'm holding on to a friendly feeling about it and to some kind of faith that I don’t have to be so scared. Facing the abyss has its own rewards. In case my little story doesn't convince you, take a look at the script for the pilot of Breaking Bad. 

blog: what I haven’t been able to admit even to myself

I’m very happy to report that my dark and miserable night of the soul is over … at least for today.

It all started in responding to a friendly email from my pal Sheila the playwright, where In the privacy of a private email, I was able to choke out the words and admit what I haven’t been able to admit even to myself:

“Am between rock and hard place (I resist saying ‘death spiral’) with this rewrite of the pilot. Filled with fear and shame. I don’t think like a writer. I’m NOT a writer.”

It seems that those two lines to Sheila were lead that turned to gold. They miraculously jimmied open my psychic log jam and I was able to look squarely at the enemy: I’d described it.

Effortlessly and without thought, within seconds, I was madly googling ‘tv pilots’ and other related terms. It quickly became clear what my problem is and that it’s not uncommon.  

a) I’m basically self-taught, work intuitively and have no external criteria. I absolutely love everything I write until I reread it the next day and decide it’s terrible.  

b) ’Structure’ has never been my friend. But without any structure to grab on to, it feels like I’m not merely circling but actively going down the drain.

Making episodes of The Louise Log, I got away with working intuitively, without learning any craft. They were short enough and I didn't have to show the scripts to anyone to get financing.  For this tv show, I figured that I’d gotten a Get Out Of Jail Free card by lashing myself to my structure-wizard co-writers. They could deal with all that and I could just channel my part of the script.

But after this past month of churning like an egg-beater, writing up a storm, rewriting up a cyclone and coming up with nothing usable, I’ve felt a level of confusion and insecurity I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. To make the leap up to a half hour show, I’m going to take a workmanlike attitude, learn what I can about structure and the craft of television writing and put one word in front of the other. I'll keep you posted. 

Structure, baby. 

Structure, baby. 

How my facebook friends pulled me out of a death spiral. #amwriting

Having admitted the problem, it becomes easier to come up with a plan of attack ... especially if you have smart friends who care enough to make suggestions in your Facebook feed (as mine did last Friday) which pulled me out of my death spiral.

Marta Szabo, Mudd Lavoie, Jessica Arinella, Corinne Friesen, Julia Wolfe and Tracy Wuischpard had ace suggestions which I’ll boil down to:

- get out and move your body

- have some FUN

- start scribbling like there’s no tomorrow

With the one exception of wishing that I hadn’t sought ‘fun’ in walking past the weirdest storefront window in the Village (with the large rabbit, on Waverly near Charles) I recommend following their suggestions to a ’t’.

I’d gotten sucked into the old perfectionism trap and was trying to come up with seven, beautifully constructed, tightly written pages to drop into the middle of the script.    

Having gotten out and 'moved my body', I relaxed ... and had an idea! Do what art students do at museums: copy from the masters.

And so I googled ‘best eps of 30 rock”, watched the 30 Rock episode called ’best-structured” (acc to Vulture: 1. “Tracy Does Conan” Season 1, Episode 7), understood for maybe the first time EVER what people are talking about when they talk about ‘structure’, watched it again and wrote down what happened scene by scene and a third time to see how long each scene ran, watched some I Love Lucy and did the same thing.

I’m probably not going to win any speed race in finishing this rewrite but at least I’m working on it and even having fun with it which is a huge improvement from the panicky death spiral during which the fingers were clenched around the pen, the shoulders brushing the ears and sounds of anguish coming out of the sides of the mouth.

Thank you my dear friends for your love, support and ace suggestions!

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Traumatized author after unintentional shock therapy with a five foot tall rabbit

Traumatized author after unintentional shock therapy with a five foot tall rabbit