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The only two words a writer needs to know

Another week. 57 pages in the vault. Still aiming for my arbitrary March 15th deadline.

I never get writers block (and by never, I mean rarely, I don’t want to jinx myself). When a script is outlined properly or the characters are strong enough, there is always something to do or say. Another great way to keep the block at bay is to make a point to see creative work. It could be in or out of my discipline: live theater, movies, art museums. The catch is that I have to make an effort to go see it. There is plenty of amazing quality and artistically exciting work on television (I am currently juggling season one of Game of Thrones and season two of Homeland) but it takes no effort to sit on the couch and watch TV. Going somewhere makes it an experience, and that shared experience with others keeps you more engaged.

I had two experiences this week that led to the title of this post. Last night I attended my first meeting as a member of The Actors Studio Playwright/Director Unit. Member requirements in the Unit are simple: (1) show up to once a week staged readings by other members, (2) take a break for coffee, (3) return and critique the work. Then, when you are ready, present your work. The critique last night was rousing to say the least. Opinions flew, inappropriate stories were shared (inappropriate mostly because they were completely unrelated to the play on display), and disagreements were vehemently shouted at each other while the playwright observed like a tennis fan. While some of the critique was unhelpful (and occasionally downright wrong) I walked away with a reminder of a valuable lesson. One word which should drive all creative writing:

CONFLICT

The play seemed a bit slow at times, and one of the other members of the unit pointed out a simple detail the writer either overlooked: there needs to be more conflict, and more conflict earlier in the script. There were very compelling characters, and the story was relevant and one that I have not seen explored, but it felt slow because the conflict was either not there, or buried under the surface.

We enjoy stories that have a conflict.

The other word stems from a trip we took this past week to Disneyland with our niece. Gabi is two and a half. She loves Minnie Mouse. That afternoon she got to meet her idol:

Gabi and Minnie

This has nothing to do with this blog post, but it’s freaking adorable.

What is relevant is that we got to see the parade down Main Street U.S.A. We were lucky to catch it, as it probably only happens seventy times a day. If you haven’t been to a Disney park (then you are evil) allow me to set the stage: Main Street U.S.A., clogged with olde tymie shops selling new tymie, modern pricey Disney memorabilia. The cobblestone street is shut down as a Mardi Gras style parade (with 100% less boobs) proceeds down the street. Most Disney characters get their own float. There’s an Aladdin float, a Little Mermaid float, a Mary Poppins float, and many of the princesses are relegated to one float, sort of like a greatest hits mix CD. They dance, they sing (lip synch) and they wave to the crowd. And the crowd LOVES it. It’s hard not to love it, unless you are legally dead. It’s an exuberant display of joy. It’s pure ENTERTAINMENT.

And that got me thinking. Standing there, waving at the Lion King, I was reminded that whenever I am writing a script, no matter how personal, small in size, or small in genre it is, it has to be entertaining. Not necessarily as broad as a parade down Main Street U.S.A., but at it’s core, has to entertain one very important person:

Me.

If I am not entertaining myself in the story, then how can I expect to entertain others? If I can’t write a script without saying “I’d watch that movie” then there is no way I can get others on board. Even so-called high art, whether it’s an all black painting on a wall or making eye contact with Marina Abramovic, is all a form of entertainment. If people are going to congregate in a room and stare at something, you have to give them something thought provoking to see.

These are very important words to keep in mind while I am at this stage of the writing process. Is there conflict? Is it entertaining? Everything else comes later.

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