On not knowing what it is

Per my previous post on avoiding writer’s block, I’m working on more than one project right now. One of these scripts is brand new, though some of the ideas have been percolating in Evernote and a previous script for a while now. And it’s at this point, where I’m making the transition from idea to actual pages that I’m running into an issue:

I don’t know what this script is for.

It could be something low-budget. Possibly even something I’d want to produce myself. It could be a little more action-packed and blockbuster. It might not even be the story that I thought it was when I committed to figuring this one out.

This is the part where I bring up the fact that I’m bad at Buddhism. This kind of thinking is focusing on the end result and not on the act of writing. It’s a less mindful approach than working to discover the story and see where it needs to go as opposed to figuring out what kind of box I’m trying to place the finished script in.

Coming from a film school background, there were plenty of late nights working with specific limitations. “We only have 15 seconds worth of film left.” “What do you mean we can’t shoot on the shoulder of the freeway?” “How can we show that in a way that doesn’t involve 1,000 animated paper cranes?” These were concrete obstructions imposed by the need to have something to turn in by the end of the semester.

Sometimes a lack of constraints can be a frustration. I need to be reminded that in this draft I can write literally anything, and that’s OK. It’s all wide open. It’s a time to remember that if the first draft shows promise, external constraints will come soon enough.


  1. This post is very relevant to a lot of my struggles lately. I’ve been sitting on the opening scenes of a script for ages, constantly changing my mind on the direction I want to take it. I have other ideas for projects not-yet-started that keep getting in my way, ala “this story will be more mature so this other one should be more familiy-friendly, and this one is more humorous so this one should be more dramatic, etc” because I’m afraid of all of the finished projects ending up too similar to each other. I’m just now finally coming to terms with the fact that I need to stop thinking, and just write.

    1. Comparing projects is another tricky situation. There’s a certain amount of bleed between ideas because of the fact that they all came from you/were ideas you latched on to.

      There’s a line I pulled from the WALL-E commentary track I didn’t include in this post that may apply. The gist of it was that writing is a little like paleontology. You start digging and find some fossils, and you start to assume what kind of animal you’re digging up. It may look like a stegosaurus at first, but as you dig, you may see that what you have is a T-Rex. At that point, it’s up to you to do the work of going back and restructuring things to fit this new idea of what you have.

      But sometimes you don’t know what you have until you start digging.

      Good luck!

      1. That’s a very interesting and helpful little metaphor. I’m definitely trying to keep it in mind as I push forward. In the meantime, I’d like you to know how much I appreciate the helpful pushes this blog offers, and I’ve nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. My post about it is here: http://coffeestainedblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/one-lovely-blog-award.

      2. Thank you! Glad you’ve enjoyed the blog, and I hope you continue to find it helpful.

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