Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Writing Life

After a week of brutal slogging, I resolve a tricky problem with the plot of my TV spec. The solution is a complicated five-page scene in which I manage (I think) to both be funny and clear up a number of story inconsistencies. For an hour afterwards I allow myself to reflect, contentedly, upon my TV-writing powers.

This morning, I realize that my five, laboriously rendered pages can be replaced by a half-paragraph speech. I do nothing. The pages I already have are fine, I tell myself. Not just fine: outstanding! Such brilliance, surely, should be preserved?

Today I steel myself and make the cuts. The script is already too long and the pages in question introduce a plot-line that distracts from the main story. It's true, the jokes were good. But if I came up with good jokes once, I can probably come up with them again. At least, that's the hope.

All this work for something I don't even like. Bleah.


Seb said...

But if I came up with good jokes once, I can probably come up with them again.

Tim, don't kid yourself - you know you can come up with them. You know it beyond all shadow of a doubt.

You are not, as Matt Groening once put it, "a barn, creaking, creaking." You are one of the finest writers alive; and even if you aren't, you and I both know you are orders of magnitude better than many who are making ridiculous amounts of money. Sooner or later, you will believe that with the intensity I do.

To quote Angela's favorite movie: I should do something very extroverted and vengeful to you. Honestly, I'm too tired.

Cartooniste said...

There is a passage about this in "The Writing Life," by Annie Dillard. She compares writing to building a house. At some points, she says, it becomes necessary to remove a major supporting wall. Then, the only thing to do is grab the sledgehammer and duck.

Dezmond said...

Tim, you are a TV whore.

Wombat Lord said...

Seb: Thank you. I wish I believed it all the time. Last night I was explaining to the wife the necessity of frequent self-delusion to a writer. Because, if you ever admit honestly what you're trying to do, and how hard it is, why would you ever try? She can't always understand why I tell her something will be easy and take only a month, and then end up lasting six. It's because I'm constantly giving myself the sunniest picture available, and then trying to pretend it's true.

Cartooniste: great stuff. I should read Annie Dillard again. Is this in "Bird by Bird?" Or is that Annie LaMott? It is, isn't it. Why are there two people named Annie writing about writing???

I've read nothing by Annie Dillard, I don't think. Except "Little Women." She wrote that, didn't she? And "Moby Dick."

Dez: you're going down in flames, you tax-fattened hyena.

But I am a TV Whore. If I could obtain money in another way, I might. We'll see what happens if I actually get offered some kind of tv writing job. That will be a big dilemma.

Thank you all for reading!

Except you, Evans.-

Seb said...

Annie Dillard is the reason I never took a creative writing class at Wesleyan. Her course description ended: "no elves or kid stuff."

Between that and the English department's refusal to allow my RA - who is now, may I add, an award-winning novelist - to write a creative fiction piece for his thesis, I gave the Department a highly indignant finger and never looked back. I am better for it, I think, for otherwise I might never have come to know Syme, Ovidius Naso, or Catullus.

It goes without saying that I have never read anything else by Dillard, though I expect her reflexes are rather dull by now and she is apt to be crushed under the weight of her diligence. I have exhausted what little forbearance I have in refraining from launching into a very long stream of invective. Confusion to Dillard and Boney both, may God rot them; and I crave your pardon, Cartooniste, as I am well known to be a man of vicious and intemperate disposition.

Johannes said...

Dezmond, isn't that the lawyer calling the kettle a whore, as the old saying goes?

Aprapo of nothing, does anybody need, or would like, a Colace prescription? It's a top notch stool softener - really opens the sluices.

The drug rep paid for my lunch yesterday and gave me six clicky pens and a notepad, so...

No Geodon though, as great of an antipsychotic as it is, their pens stink.

Maybe a little of both for Evans though.

Nien, was not head of Gestapo at all, I make joke.

Cartooniste said...

"I lost the body," says Bedfellow.

Seb, I will say this much. First, she wrote "The Writing Life" like twenty years ago, and it better than anything else I have read captures the mental world of writing. Or attempting to write. It speaks both about discomfort and discipline, and about facing the inevitability that this passage, which took so long to perfect, which accomplishes exactly what you want it to accomplish, *must* be thrown out. Must!
I read it first at thirteen, when I was in no position to understand it, and now that I have gone back to it I have grown to appreciate her thoughts on writing as a discipline, or as a practice. I love that she would ban elves from taking her class.
Further, I must say, speaking as someone who has been in a position to read and grade "creative" final projects (in a gender studies class at a Big Snooty University), I have to say that they tend to be irredeemably awful. And totally inappropriate for an English thesis. I have no doubts as to your friend's talent and prestige, but if your friend were to revisit his/her work circa age 22 now, as an award-winning novelist, I suspect that he/she would agree with me.

Seb said...

I love that she would ban elves from taking her class.

It was mortally offensive to me at the time. I still find the artificial barrier between speculative/imaginative fiction and "literature" irritating; some (Wolfe, LeGuin) are deemed to "make the grade," while others do not. Well, there's no problem calling pulp pulp if that is what it is, but if you want to learn to write what small snotty liberal arts university deems pulp, you are apparently out of luck, and ought to transfer. Meanwhile, those such as Wolfe who outshine many of those shelved with Faulkner and Pynchon are still shelved with Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ann Rice.

Seb said...

Further, Cartooniste, Dillard's comment grates on me, aside from its unapologetic snobbery, as a very sad sentiment in an educator. Instead of taking those raised on pulp and attempting to help them mature by showing them such talents as William Burroughs, David Lindsay (who?!? rubbish!), and Ursula LeGuin, this attitude simply regards them as beyond redemption.

God rot her, I say, and the devil damn her black.

Seb said...

I would much prefer it if these comments could be edited after posting. In summary, Cartooniste:

1) Clearly I am out of my depth in talking to you. I mean that honestly.

2) Equally clearly, my prejudice against Dillard is just that -- mere prejudice -- and may be safely disregarded.

Seb said...

Since I brought him up, this is the fellow in question. I hope I am not doing him a disservice, which seems to be one of my few genuine talents, by dragging him into this discussion.

I have sent him an email asking his opinion, but as is the case with so many who knew me at Wesleyan, he may wish nothing more than to see me dynamited or slowly killed.