Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chapter Four - Part Two -- Swamp Cookie

It's been harder to write this "chapter" because it deals with uncomfortable feelings. Discomfort is such a challenge to admit. We're expected to be decided and firm by the time we're in our 40s right? Instead I find myself less decided than ever. My certainty seems to have vanished just about when I turned 40, just when I needed to be certain. Instead, I became more and more experimental until I experimented my way out of an 18 year marriage, into tango, and into a new love. That has taken so much space and time that my career has not had much attention at all and no certainty. I couldn't, for instance, be certain that I wanted to write screenplays for certain, or if it was just something I was convinced of by virtue of relationships.

My writing has always been so much an internal process. Case in point, this blog. These are the scripts I can remember writing:

1. Knock and Wait Awhile (an adaptation of a Cold War novel -- completed in 1989 just when the Wall came a tumblin')
2. Java Jive -- a lame story about a coffee house on an island of intrigue (this one was entirely an experiment)
3. Squeegee -- an autobiographical coming of age story (not about Princess Di, but trying to reconcile the fantasies of a child with the realities)
4. All Nations -- a prince and pauper story about a rich kid who accidentally catches the wrong summer camp bus to the derelict camp for inner city kids in So. Central LA (did I feel like I'd gotten on the wrong bus in my life or what?)
5. Spy in the House of Normal -- my first attempt at writing about domestic violence(no one who read it could believe that a victim of domestic violence could walk around acting normal in the world, HAR)
6. What Women Want (not the Mel Gibson flick) 3x -- three versions of the Lady Ragnell Sir Gawain tale, one was set in Arthurian times, one in contemporary, and one in the wild west all with the premise that a woman really wants to simply be in charge of her own life and be accepted as she is (this was in the more and more conscious years of the failing marriage)
7. The North Face -- a writer-for-hire job, for the ex and his financier, about love, betrayal and a murder taking place on the North Face of the Eiger. (this was the last straw of the marriage.)

I'm pretty sure there are others, but I've put them out of my mind. I can tell you there were another dozen ideas that are in various stages of development. I've learned so much about screenwriting from these experiences. Each script was a teacher. Each script was a gift.

I feel frustrated that this field I'm in hasn't been successful (defined by a production of one of my scripts) and the temptation is to think, "this just isn't for me," or "this field is damaged beyond repair." But, I feel even more frustrated to see this empty, pristine, wet, muddy field and know that I could plant it with some seeds again and with everything I've finally learned maybe, just maybe it will grow this time.

I've been living in a swamp of emotions about writing scripts because my scripts have been primarily processing the experiences I was actually living through in one way or another, and through it I couldn't really see it. I couldn't put it together. I couldn't get the lessons of my own stories. I hadn't the perspective or the ability. I grasped at the truth, but since I had been committed to living in a fantasy I suppose part of me simply did not want to look at what I was really saying. So, of course, I couldn't even read my scripts when I finished them. They made me miserable across the board.

I love the quote from "Illusions" by Richard Bach, "The IS ain't no swamp cookie," and the reference is that God doesn't stay the same, unmoving, but instead circulates, moves and breathes. My field cannot become a swamp. I have to figure out how to channel the flow of emotions, rather than sinking in them.

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