Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Getting In the Mood: How Screenwriting is like Sex

It occurred to me recently, while I was staring in boredom at a flashing cursor on my computer screen, that writing is a lot like sex. Sometimes, you’re really into it, and it feels great, and satisfying, and you don’t want to stop. But sometimes you’re not. Sometimes there’s just this limp hunk of dialogue glaring at you, and you cannot bring yourself to punch it up. It’s not turning you on. It’s making your head hurt.

So then you have a couple of options. Either you can scorn your lover, put on Judge Judy, and eat a bag of chips…or you can try to make it work. And here’s the thing… maybe you’re not aroused, but if you let it happen, if you let the script touch you in some new kind of way…is this getting weird?...then usually it starts to feel pretty good. And you start to get in a rhythm. And you feel close to your writing.

This is not to suggest that writing always has to be a sensual experience to be gratifying. Only that the two practices are analogous. And if you’re open to letting yourself go a little, if you get out of your own head, then sometimes you discover it’s not about being in the mood, but about releasing yourself into some other reality.

You’re probably thinking this sounds pretty cheesy. Or that it’s easier said than done. Or that you’re a virgin, so this is all pretty foreign territory. Well, okay. Valid assertions. But think about it this way: When you’ve finished a great scene, don’t you just want to throw your head back and revel in the glory of this moment? Don’t you feel ecstatic? And isn’t that feeling worth pursuing, even if you’re not all revved up from the start?

I don’t dispense this advice because I always dive in, no matter how blah I may be feeling. I dispense this advice mostly to myself. Because I am almost never in the mood to do good writing. And when I am feeling somewhat inclined, it requires a lot of foreplay to get me where I need to be. But when I make myself forge ahead, it’s rarely a mistake. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s mediocre, and later on, I go back and try again. And in the end, every time you give it a go, it’s a learning experience. Have I sufficiently confused my discussions of fornication and composition? Good. Then I’ve made my point.

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