Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Vacation Diary

July 8. Woke up this morning a little frightened and wary about the mad scene rewrite. The energy leading into it is completely different now, which means I can't even look at the first draft. If I do, I will try to rebuild it from the original pieces, instead of junking everything from the foundation to the attic and starting from scratch. That is the scariest part: starting from scratch.

When I described it to Shannon, I said it's like carving a path in the forest. You have to keep going back to that fork in the road and chopping away until you find out where the correct turn is. Until you make the correct turn. It's all about recognizing the sidetracks. Sidetracks are short cuts. If it comes too easy? It's a sidetrack. If you tap it and it sounds thin? Sidetrack. If you stay on it, it will only lead you to another one. But once you come upon the true road, or a branch of the true road, the path you're taking will always reassert itself -- you'll feel wrong if you step away from it, and it will force you back onto it if you stray too far. Yeah, you can take side trips here and there, just as long as you keep them close to the main drag, just as long as you don't lose sight of that compass needle pointing you to home.

All of which means nothing if you stare at the forest long enough, if you stare at all the trees in your way long enough, and start questioning yourself too much. You always do, so there's no avoiding it. You always say to yourself, not just "Am I going the right way?" but "I have no idea where I'm going--how can I ever find the right way?" It's scary. Actually two kinds of scary. The kind that says "This is impossible" and the kind that says "You know you can do this." How do I deal with the scary? I throw away everything I've written before, put pen to paper, pick a turning point where the dialogue can go somewhere else, and start chopping away. And the road always appears. It always does. It may not look like the right road tomorrow, but that's tomorrow's task, not today's. Today's task is to get from A to B a better way than yesterday. That's what I owe the work.

I joke about the fact that I have to write the equivalent of four different plays just to get a single one that's good enough to put up on a stage. But I never joke about the fact that when I look at an empty piece of paper and just start writing whatever comes into my head, the words always appear. For that I will always be thankful.

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