The Juggler

As I mentioned in my previous post, one way to stave off The Beast is to shake it up and work on something else. That is a risky move, because as soon as you stop work on a script, there likelihood of never completing it increases. That said, I find it helpful to move from one project to the other, for a few reasons. First, it’s a surefire way to avoid writers block. Don’t know what the next moment is about? Go to another project. Second, it allows ideas to marinate. Just because I’m not working on something doesn’t mean it isn’t creeping into my subconscious. So when I go back to a project, there are already new thoughts raring to go.

Also, marinades are delicious.

But sometimes, script juggling comes out of necessity. And in the past month or so I have had to juggle FIVE different scripts. I don’t normally like talking about scripts before a draft is complete, but I trust you good people out there on the internet will keep this a secret. Right? Right?!? Write. Okay, let’s juggle.

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Not creepy at all.

Closure: Of course, this is the script that is the basis of this blog. I received notes from my producer, and all I had to do was make changes. Easy, right? Well, considering this is the only project without a deadline, it will often be on the back burner, placed in the back seat, enter through the back door, or any other similar analogy. That said, I recently dedicated a large block of time to getting it done, blocking out every other project. And I did. The latest draft was sent off to the producer yesterday.

Mayor of the 85th Floor: A full length play about squatters living in the Empire State Building in a possible near future when our society is in the process of breaking down. If Closure has spent time on the back burner in recent weeks, then Mayor of the 85th Floor has been tucked away in a box in the attic. I have been developing this script for years now, and for the past two years I have been guided by acclaimed director Asaad Kelada; we are both members of The Actors Studio Playwright/Director Unit. We are scheduled to present the first act of the play at the end of March, so out of the attic and onto a burner.

Guellen, Kansas: A ten-minute play I wrote as part of the playwrights lab at the Antaeus Theatre Company. A fun and quick diversion, the play had a staged reading as part of their Classics Redux series in January. Gotta love a project that goes from conception to completion in a matter of months. Consider this: from conception to opening night, new shows on Broadway average six years of development.

Untitled Woody Allen Spring Project: Okay, that’s not really the title. Also, I’m not working with Woody Allen on anything (yet). Back when I was working film in New York, the Mayor’s Office of Film and Television released a list of everything shooting at any given week in the city. Woody Allen’s movies were always untitled until the very end, which I think is a great way to avoid wasting time coming up with a title. All of his films went by “Untitled…” until, well, until they didn’t. So what does that have to do with me? I’m writing a new film as part of a writers group, where we individually go from concept to finished first draft in ten weeks. We are in week seven. Needless to say, this project, a sports comedy with heart, is on a front burner for the next few weeks. I have a lot of work to do, and can’t waste any time on a title (although I have one).

Planet Island: A very cool, sci-fi TV series about an island that appears out of nowhere in the Pacific that overnight is inhabited with…

…well, I can’t give EVERYTHING away in my blog!

Do any of these stories interest you? I would love to hear your opinion on any of these scripts. Want to be a reader for me? Let me know.

Bonus fact: I can juggle. For realz.

Return of The Beast

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Winston Churchill

The Beast came calling last night. At 3:30am, waking me from a deep sleep. My first thoughts upon seeing him at the foot of my bed was that his timing was so cliche, in the middle of the night. I expect more: The Beast is stronger, more cunning than that. He visits at any time and any place: in the car, walking with my son, watching TV, eating, anywhere. Only when I’m sitting at my computer, or in the middle of the night, is it not a surprise.

“Your script is terrible.”

I sigh, grab my pillow and get out of bed. I go downstairs to try and sleep on the couch; no need to wake my wife with his grumbling and seething, and my inevitable tossing and turning. The beast glides down the stairs after me.

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“No, no, it’s not terrible, it’s just cliche. Boring. Who wants to see your story? Who’s going to care?”

Ah, there it is. I’m not bad, just mediocre. Thanks, Beast.

“No problem. Just trying to save you the trouble of putting in effort.”

Leave me alone, dude. I have a busy day tomorrow. Lots of writing, you know. A number of different writing gigs.

“All mediocre. Unimaginative. Rote.”

Five different projects right now. All different. Interesting. Vital.

“Are any of them paying jobs?”

Well no, but the potential-

“Potential and a buck will buy you a shitty cup of coffee.”

I don’t drink coffee.

“Yeah? Writers drink coffee.”

Well, I drink soda.

“Soda is for adolescents and diabetics.”

I turn to my side on the couch and try to drown him out. While I attempt to sleep, The Beast perches on the coffee table, talons crusted with dried blood. Of course it’s mine.

No matter where I am or how fast I run, The Beast finds a way to show up. At any step of the process, the beast is there:

“That’s a terrible idea.”
“It’s a decent idea, but it’s been done before by people more talented than you.”
“No one will care about your idea.”

That one is a killer. No one will care. Sometimes I finish scripts that I think are great, and they wind up collecting dust on my hard drive. When I’m feeling down and bitter, I joke to myself ‘congrats! I can’t wait to print my new script out, then set it on fire.’

But that’s not me joking. That’s The Beast. And he’s not joking. Oops, I mean: And He’s not joking.

Why is The Beast so formidable? Because he knows me. He knows all of us. Every artist has a beast, regardless of the medium. And we artists know that-

“Oh, so you think you’re an artist, now? What gives you the right to lump yourselves in with people who have actually accomplished something? You’re a hack craftsman. At best. At worst, you’re a wannabe-”

Let me finish. We artists know that our Beast is waiting for us. Waiting for us to lose concentration, to lose faith, to become distracted or intimidated. Our beast can sense it, and waits around the corner for us to make the wrong move.

But there is good news: the beast isn’t invincible. I found a way to keep him at bay:

Keep going.

That’s the secret. Keep writing. Keep creating. And in this particular appearance, I have an advantage: I have five scripts that need work, and a few of them have immediate deadlines. Deadlines are great to shut up The Beast. There’s the ten-minute play being staged this weekend. There’s the first act of a full-length play being staged on February 22nd. There’s a screenplay I’m writing for a writers group where we have ten weeks to complete a script. We are on week four, revising the outline. Not to mention my new TV pilot which is complete, and Closure, which is the film project that this blog chronicles.

And that’s the secret. Keep writing. When The Beast pushes too hard, I switch projects. Clear the mind. Frighten (!) The Beast.  And when he comes back, switch it up again. Because The Beast hates progress. The Beast hates creativity. The Beast hates completion. And he can sense it. He knows when I get close. And that’s when he pulls out the big guns:

“You are an amateur.”
“You started this blog three years ago and you still aren’t satisfied with the script or raised one dime of the budget. It will never happen.”
“You’ve been writing for a decade and you still haven’t received a big payoff.”
“Your wife makes a good living in the arts, and you don’t. Clearly you are inferior.”
“You think the 28 people who read your blog really give a shit about any of this?”
“You are a white male. The majority of scripts are produced by your kind. You don’t have the challenges the system presents to minority or female writers. If YOU can’t get it made, then you must really be inferior.”
“You’re in your 40s. You are past your prime. If you couldn’t find your way in your 20s or early 30s, it’s never going to happen.”
“How are you going to provide for your son? You need to think about a real career.”

The Beast leans back and smile. He’s proud of himself. He sits on my coffee table, upright and regal. I shrink into the couch, struggling for breath. It’s now 5:00am. My kid will be up in 90 minutes. Two hours if I’m lucky. And then I’ll be groggy all day, which means I won’t get as much done. It’s a vicious circle, all artfully conducted by The Beast who has done this for centuries, closing the box on infinite dreams and then locking it shut.

Unless…

I finish the script. That is the only way to emerge victorious. Get it done. Get to “The End” or “Fade to Black” or whatever it takes to bring closure. Because once it’s done, it exists. And existence is proof. Proof that doing something I love is real.

“But what if no one reads it or sees it? Or worse, what if no one likes it?”

That’s not my problem, I think as I type “Fade Out.”

The Beast recoils and backs out of the room, tail between his legs.

Yeah. Damn right.