On Feeding the Soul

I’m at a Starbucks waiting for it to become 6:30pm so I can meet the other members of the Writer’s Guild I just joined.   We’re going to meet at nearby restaurant for dinner, and then begin a process of exploring each others’ work.  Each of us had to print six copies consisting of 10-20 pages of our work.  The idea is that we’ll each have two weeks to read each others’ work, then meet again, and talk about it. 

The first meeting was “Write Only.”  It mostly amounted to a lot of talking about our projects, as well as about Writing in general.   This time, the focus will be on critique.   I must admit I’m a bit scared to bare my artistic soul to six total strangers, especially after I saw the way I reacted to the earlier critique of three years past.  Hopefully, I’m in a generally better place in life these days, as well as more distanced emotionally from some of the more difficult themes I hope to address in this piece.

I did read through the first four Scenes the other night.  It was as expected: that which was good was very, very good; and that which was bad was horrid.   I couldn’t help but notice, however, that the good parts seemed to be those where the most difficult themes were presented.   This was encouraging.  Then I received a fantastic stamp of approval from one of the five people to whom I sent the four Scenes.  Included in his compliment were these words:

I have been wanting to write a proper, more in-depth email about it, but let me say when I got to the bottom of the document, I was clicking wondering why it was not going down anymore.   Then I realized I had read it all!   I wanted more.  I was immediately hooked.  Captivated.   I had planned on reading it a little at a time, but read the whole thing in one sitting.  

mark-twainI now believe I know what Mark Twain meant when he said: “I can live for two weeks off of a compliment.”  After I read those words, I instantly ascended into a state of such artistic elation that my growling stomach was placated without receiving a single bite.   Three years ago, all I was getting was mockery and ridicule.  But upon hearing the words that every Writer loves to hear, it was at least three hours before things like eating or sleeping had any appeal.  Why should I bother with feeding my stomach or resting my mind?  Somebody somewhere had just fed my soul.

On Identifying with Darkness

On the script, there have been a few developments. I know if Jack is reading, he’ll be interested in these internal turns of event. My friend Danielle has strongly urged me to truck through the impasses even if what I am writing is lousy – and bless her heart, that does make sense. She’s a writer herself (a good one), and so she knows the basics of hammering out the “rough draft from the heart, final draft from the mind.” But in this case, I found that it absolutely is not working to do this, for rather unexpected reasons.

What happened when I tried was that I led the characters into this really weird place where I found myself actually identifying with their darker attributes.   Then, although arguably I might have been writing something that was artistically good, it wasn’t spiritually good, and I myself had to cease from the writing process, in order to cease from personal sin.   Also, it took the script into this very strange tangent where it really ought not to have tread.  When I looked at it the next morning, it looked as though it had awkwardly morphed into an entirely different show.

This has caused me to question the extent to which I dramatically feel the inner intentions and motivations of my characters. As a result, I have decided to cease writing whenever I encounter that energy. This is causing me to transform the nature of the protagonist-antagonist dynamics in my characters and their associated conflicts. I’m bearing in mind that their conflicts pertain largely to ideological differences in worldview. Ms. Mortalis (I’m starting to hate that name) is attuned toward detecting the criminal aspects of all people – that’s her nature. She’s a suspicious person. It doesn’t mean she herself is a criminal – she’s just tuned in that way. Winston is more of an idealist who tends to see social evils while overlooking personal evils, and who exults in drawing out the good in all people. This dynamic is what causes their intrigue pertaining to each other, and is at the thrust of all their interactions.

It’s weird to be writing a show that I didn’t finish three years ago, and to be painfully determined to finish it, as opposed to picking up an entirely new project, one that I might easily finish joyfully.  But I somehow feel a moral obligation to do so.  Also, I must admit that my new friend Mary has been more than encouraging. She’s a musical theater actress – and the choir director at my church – and I’ve noticed that she grasps the kinds of themes I’m trying to convey.  The last person who put any real effort into reading this piece was the professor I mentioned earlier.  It’s pretty obvious that either he didn’t grasp what I was trying to do; or if he did, it irked him on some strange personal level — otherwise, he would not have employed character assassination in his critique.  

So, on the up-and-up, it’s nice to have at least one person in my life who is willing to read what I’m writing, and whose comments are more attuned to what it is that I’m trying to accomplish.  Also, a handful of local theater people and a couple of journalists have tuned into it, which sort of increases my sense of mandate to get it into producible form.  I guess the next step would be, once this draft is finished, to organize a sit-down read-thru and just see how it reads. I do need to get a move on.

Danielle’s advice makes sense, but I also know that she is trying to protect me from experiencing further rage toward the professor, whose involvement in those whole thing is nil from his standpoint (of course) and ought to be nil from mine. But that’s my strange personal Cross, involving the sense of failed friendship and abandonment.  I literally have to force myself not to think about him as I write.  If I do so, I become too depressed, and I can’t go on.

But I will keep at it, unlike what I may have said earlier, when I was discouraged.