I have flashes of this movie that I saw when I was little. In it Chevy Chase plays a writer who moves to a small town for the tranquil environment in which to work. I mean, that’s what writers do – right?
I think I’ve kept that image in my head ever since, that that is how it is meant to be, and I KNOW other people have the same image. You know the one, where writing is this peaceful endeavor in a serene environment and fingers just magically move across the keyboard as easily as they would when writing an email. Come on, how hard is it to write an email? Everyone writes. It’s easy. And, my personal favorite, “Just go type it up.” (Yeah, that’s a whole other blog for another day).
I have come to realize, after many years of struggling to create the perfect environment (yes, the yurt is pretty cool) and waiting for the peaceful magic to float across my hands as I type with pure joy emanating from my heart and a smile on my face, that writing is NOT like that. In fact, it’s more like dressing in camouflage and going to war… every day.
Think about it, ever hear the term “bleed onto the page?” There’s a lot of truth in that phrase. It can be painful as fuck. Yanking the words out of the depth of your soul, in a just-so order that will somehow, by the grace of God, elicit emotion in the reader. We let each character invade us in order to make their feelings and experiences authentic, allowing their pain and turmoil to become our own. AND we all know putting your character through every kind of hell you can possibly imagine is storytelling gold – right? We make them suffer, and suffer ourselves in return.
Seriously, some days I crawl out of the yurt broken and in tears. Literally. These battles can be tough – on the mind, body, and soul. Think about it, you know those movies that are kind of painful to watch… but are still done amazingly well and you’ll never be the same because of that two-hour experience, yet seeing it once was enough because you don’t EVER want to live through that again. Yup. Now, imagine what it was like to live it daily, for months, maybe even years, as it was in development. But, it’s not just those movies either. Comedy is heightened drama! That’s what makes it so fucking funny. It’s so crazy awful and so real that we have to laugh. Seriously, that can be a whole other kind of battlefield – and you better make sure it’s funny – which adds another layer that I won’t even get into here.
So, why do we do it? Other than because we’re out of our fucking minds?
Stories are exciting! When a concept moves from the seed of an idea, to fully realized characters and they’re interacting with one another… OMG! When you don’t even have to close your eyes to watch the scenes play out in your head. And you’re fully immersed in the world and you love every second of it. It totally rocks and can make your whole body vibrate with excitement. It can be better than sex. Until…
You sit down in front of the computer and suddenly – swear to God – the most important thing on the planet becomes figuring out the perfect playlist to match the emotions of the story. Seriously, you can’t even think about typing the first sentence until THAT is SORTED. This is important stuff.
And suddenly… just like that, you’ve become the antagonist. You, yourself, are the challenge that must be overcome for your protagonist to achieve his/her goals. It is here that you step into one of the hardest battles in the war. Lose this one, and it’s time to look for another career. Everything is on the line. That force of evil is going to give you every reason in the world to avoid the page. I mean… it has been too long since you cleaned the fridge after all.
This is the moment when it’s time to see what you’re made of, soldier. The future of your characters’ lives is at stake. Their very existence requires your willingness to get in front of your computer, pull up your sleeves, take out your knife, and bleed onto every page. And then, the next day, do it again, and again, and again until you’ve given it everything you have.
It’s a war, fought one battle at a time, every day, page by page.
And it’s worth every moment. Every. Single. Moment.
There is nothing in the world quite like holding that final printed version of the story that once burned inside of you. Giving birth to the lives and journeys. Helping your characters find their way and finally grow into who you always believed they could become.
That’s where the magic is. It’s just that, more often than not, you have to fight for it.
I mean, sure… there are times when the muse shows up with lightning up her ass and your fingers can’t type fast enough. We’ve all had those moments when we bang out a script in ten days (my friend, Aza, banged an award-winning one out in three… 3… days! Hate him). But most of the time, for a significantly large percentage of the stories we tell, grab your gear, cuz you’re going to war. And you’re gonna love it.