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Home » Archives » July 2006 » The Heady Thrill of Obeying the Law
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07/16/2006: The Heady Thrill of Obeying the Law

Hello again! I'm just back from a weekend trip to Las Vegas. It was 113 degrees there! I was outside for less than a minute, but the experience was very similar to being ironed. It was fun to laugh and exclaim and run from the air-conditioned interior of Treasure Island to the air-conditioned interior of the Venetian, but if I'd been outside any longer, the fun would have evaporated, along with all the moisture in my eyeballs.

Fun often depends on the amount of time spent doing something.

Shelah from Studio City writes to talk about the evaporation of her fun. She actually asks another question in the letter, which I will get to in another post, but along the way she makes this observation about what happens as one writes more and more spec scripts, and I just had to comment. She writes:

"… quite frankly, this whole experience has sort of made me lose confidence in my skills. Instead of getting better, I feel I have regressed. When I wrote my Sopranos, I didn't know all the rules, just the basics, but at least I was having fun. But now, knowing the rules, I am always second guessing myself."

Raise your hands if you're with Shelah. Holy cow, that's a lot of you. I went through this same thing myself. When I wrote my Star Trek: TNG scripts it was like writing Fan Fic. There was an almost guilty pleasure in the doing of it. I can control the characters and make them say whatever I want? I can make anything happen? *Anything*? Whee! It's like making your Ken dolls kiss each other!

Then you slowly start to realize how much you don't know. And you second guess yourself. And everything you write starts feeling formulaic and stilted, while your original stuff had this great original chaotic surprising rhythm that you've lost.

Well, the horrible truth is, if you're writing a spec of an existing show, you're not really being asked to demonstrate an original chaotic rhythm. You're supposed to capture the existing rhythm of the show. A spec pilot can have more chaos in it, but it still will benefit from learning about structure and act breaks and all that. So some of what was lost was an illusion to begin with. What felt like unrestrained exuberance to you might have looked like an unmade bed to a reader. I'm sure that's of tremendous comfort. Ah, well. There's always real Fan Fic if you want to run wild. (If you don't know about Fan Fic, google it. An interesting subculture or subgenre.)

But can it still be fun, coloring-within-the-lines? Yep. It sure can. When you get more comfortable with the skills and techniques, you stop second guessing yourself because you're confident in your choices. And then you can have creative fun while still playing by the rules.

Be patient. Everyone goes through this. I think, in fact, that this is the bit of the process that separates the writers from the dreamers. Push through this part, and it'll all get better. Really. Every script I write has at least a couple scenes in it that make me genuinely joyous.

Lunch: One bite each of every kind of food in the world from "Cravings" buffet at the Mirage. Try the bao.


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