September 6, 2010 by jamesessj
I’ve been in a serious funk lately. Ever since, really, late March — which would make it a five-and-a-half-month funk, which is rather long, as funks go — when I sent a script to a guy I’d met (on Match.com; let that be a lesson to the youngsters out there) who was also plying the screenwriting trade, or attempting to, and his response was less than I’d hoped. He pointed out a number of issues that I hadn’t even noticed…some basic, some more intricate. I took the criticism much too much to heart, and for a long time couldn’t look at one of my scripts without feeling as if I were fooling myself. But not anyone else. Anyone else would spot the lack of talent, the lack of skill, the lack of anything worth reading or producing.
So I stopped writing scripts. I tried, a month or two later, to work on a new one, entitled “Art,” and got about a quarter through it before — again, I went back and reread what I’d written and it just sounded so false; so contrived; so, frankly, lousy. So I stopped with the scripts. Entirely. I worked on other projects, from plays to short stories to novels.
Until a couple of weeks ago, when a friend of my roommate and I got to talking. She’s in the midst of a career change, and one of the things she’s always wanted to do is produce a film. I told her of my efforts at writing, my desire (hold on to your hats) to direct, and she told me about a mutual friend of hers and my roommate’s who’s made his own films and wants to do more. She’s in New York at the U.S. Open at the moment, but when she returns, we’re scheduled to, as they say, take a meeting.
Even that, however, was not enough to kickstart the script-writing portion of my brain. That would have to wait until this last Friday night, when I watched Woody Allen’s “Shadows and Fog.” Woody is always good for a foot to the rear, and that’s exactly what occurred: I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place.
I broke out the old scripts. I reread “One More”…”The Cemetery”…and the work I’d done on “Art.” I was shocked at how good they were — and I don’t say that as self-congratulation, but rather as a comparative to how awful I’d perceived them to be, back in March. I had not realized how skewed (and skewable) my opinion of my own work could be, and has been. What happened, I’ve come to believe, was that after five months of furious creative work, in which I finished six different screenplay drafts, I was exhausted — burned out. The incident with Mr. Match.com was an excuse; a reason to move on to something else.
But I’m back, now. “Art,” ironically, is an idea that came to me in January as I was having a discussion with a friend, centered on the question: If I had to choose between love and writing, which would it be? A preposterous scenario, in real life, but since when have movies got anything to do with real life? And anyway, I did live out a variation of the theme: I chose between my emotions and my — if I may be so grandiose as to call it this — art.
Emotion won out. It probably would win again, under similar circumstances, since I’m incapable of growth. But at least I’ll know. I’ll be aware of the choice I’m making. Maybe that’s growth after all.
But I hate to think so, at my age.