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Home » Archives » November 2006 » The Worst Advice So Far!
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11/09/2006: The Worst Advice So Far!

So I'm finally watching the pilot of "Friday Night Lights." Fantastic. There's some lovely writing in there. There's a lot of that thing where you're being forced to make inferences about who people are and how they're connected without ever being told anything overt, and there's just enough info so you can get a handle on it without it ever feeling engineered. And overlapping dialogue, I'm always such a sucker for that and never feel like I use it enough. And strong regional voices and funny moments that never feel jokey. I finally had to turn it off. I'll go back to it later, but right now it's beating up my self-esteem. Sometimes watching something really good is inspiring. Sometimes it's paralytic, because you end up staring at your own words and muttering, "Why aren't you better?"

So, reasoning from this experience, you know what you might find fun and inspirational? Read something bad. Something really bad. It doesn't have to be in script format -- in fact it's likely not to be. Look for something abominable -- there's loads of it on the web. Read someone's first try at Simon and Simon fanfic or whatever. Find something really bad and truly roll around it in.

What you're going to notice are all the things that you do really well. The things you do so well that you don't even think about them anymore. The mistakes you don't make -- totally on-the-nose dialog, stories with no events in them, characters who are clearly awkward stand-ins for the author of the story. If you're writing spec scripts, you aren't sitting at a keyboard for the first time, pushing the notion of fiction around in your brain like an interesting new insect. You've either learned, or have always instinctively known, things about writing that others don't (yet) have access to. It can be very encouraging to remind yourself of all the things you know, all the weapons you have in your arsenal, to look back at the road you've traveled to get here.

By the way, it's possible this is terrible advice. Most teachers point to the inspirational power of great works, not to the power of "at least I didn't write that." But sometimes terrible advice might be just what you need!

Lunch: fake veggie pork sausage and fake eggs. I need to buy some real food.


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