This morning I watched the rough cut of my new short film Waiting for Goodbye with tears spilling into my coffee. Being that it explores the feelings of a young woman as she spends her last morning with her beloved dog, I suppose my reaction was a good sign. We were looking to capture a heart wrenching emotional journey of grief and loss, so crying my face off meant we did our job well.
But that wasn’t the whole story.
“So, how many of these will you ever actually read again?” my husband asked as he tripped over the stupidly huge piles of books obscuring the bedroom floor. Considering there were more than I could count, I opted to plead the fifth.
Like a lot of writers, I compulsively collect books – especially ones that promise to jumpstart my imagination, kill writers block and make me a genius storyteller. But given that I was about three paperbacks away from securing a starring role on Hoarders, I reluctantly decided to whittle down my literary stash. But the upside of this purging of the pages was that I rediscovered several gems that I (and maybe you) can’t live without. Not only did they shape my outlook on writing, story craft and creativity from the first reading, they have drawn me back time and again whenever I need a shot of inspiration or education.
“Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain
I hate to admit it, but one of my worst habits is comparing myself to other writers…usually when I’m in the throes of fearing that I’m not good enough at what I do. Of course, this is wildly unproductive, and I know it. Constant comparison is a recipe for allowing the unholy trinity of Fear, Resistance and Doubt to barge into my psyche and send me scurrying off to Procrastionationville.
But worst of all, it takes all the fun out of writing.
Years ago when I was still a scripting newbie, I decided to enter a fairly well known screenplay writing contest. One of the perks of coughing up the $50 entry fee was receiving an evaluation of your script by a professional screenwriter, so I was pretty excited about that. I envisioned that even if I didn’t win, the person critiquing my story would tell me that it was hilarious, engaging, unique…and, with a few tweaks here and there, virtually Hollywood-ready.
A few months later, when the winners were announced (and none of them were me), I received my evaluation via email. I was nervous as I opened the document, but still eager to receive some encouragement from a pro. Instead, my eyes jumped immediately to these words:
When I sat down to write this first post, I’d thought that I was set on talking about the current state of my writing life. The novel whose characters seem to envelop me in a warm hug one moment, then kick me in the shins and run away screaming, refusing to cooperate like a flock of bratty toddlers the next. A recent and welcome return to my first love, screenwriting. And of course, the daily dance with Resistance.
But there was one topic that kept repeatedly elbowing its way to the front of the line, no matter how many times I ignored it.