You never know which days are going to be the successes. Most days you can’t tell which way things are going to go, and that’s kind of the fun of it. But every now and then you get a day that seems so certain to head one way yet suddenly spins on a dime and starts pelting it in the other direction, for better or worse.
Well, it seemed like today was meant to be pretty shitty.
I woke up deciding it was Wednesday and it all went downhill from there: I reorganized my day according to what I thought I had to do both today and tomorrow, cancelled meetings, rearranged others, and generally wondered why I hadn’t considered any of these factors before now. Was I really supposed to be meeting someone in a York bistro at 2pm at the same time I was meant to be (ugh) signing on in Scarborough? I started thinking this was the beginning of mental illness until my brain slapped itself upside the head and realigned my interior timezone.
Upon re-entering the main Earth continuity, I enlisted my older brother – who was over on a mission to fix the leaky upstairs loo – to solve the problem of my dodgy laptop screen, which tended to whiteout if not placed at the correct angle. It’s irritating, sure, and maybe a little uncomfortable on train journeys when I had to literally shake the thing back into working order, but I could live with it. Well, he fixed it…and replaced it with a much worse problem: now the whole top fifth of that screen is grey and completely opaque. It’s a netbook. They’re not exactly known for having huge screens anyway and now it’s practically useless. Not that I’m not grateful to my brother for trying but, well…I do all my writing on the thing and I know it’s just going to send me nuts.
Maybe it’s a sign that I’m meddling in areas of the arts that weren’t meant to be meddled in. Or I’m just a cheapskate who would only shell out for a dirt-cheap second hand laptop. I think I prefer the first one.
After this came the always undignified process of signing on, made all the more embarrassing by the fact that this was my fifth week ‘jobseeking’ (I am, honest) and I still hadn’t received a single penny. So I was just telling a stranger about my ambitions for fun, I guess.
But then something great happened: I sat down, ate some ice cream and actually did some actual, honest-to-god work on Scars. Realising that if I tried to use my laptop in its (and my) current state I’d probably loosen a few more screws in my head, I headed for the beach and a cafe a friend works in, first draft in hand and ready to be torn to shreds. Over the next two hours I painstakingly crossed out any and all unnecessary dialogue and scenes from my first screenplay, something I’d needed to do for about a month but had been too lazy or distracted to accomplish. By the end, I’d lost about 40 pages and solved a bunch of problems I previously didn’t even know how to think about getting my head around.
Some of them were scenes I already knew I’d lose, others were ones that I discovered wouldn’t work because of the character and plot changes I’m going to make, and others still were scenes that I just couldn’t understand why I’d written in the first place.
I felt a hell of a lot better after doing this, my frustration and anxiety about moving on to the second draft almost gone (but not totally – I think it would be a far worse thing to have no anxiety about these things than to have several significant complexes) and a feeling that I’d made the story new and exciting to myself again. I think that may well be the most important thing you can feel about anything you’re working on, creative or not (unless you’re just doing it for the paycheck): If you’re not excited about something, then why the fuck are you doing it at all?
I’d recommend it to anybody, although I suspect people a lot smarter and more experienced than me – i.e. most folks – already do this.