Sunday, March 29, 2015

Each New Story as Roadrunner to Your Wile. E. Coyote

  Concentration plays a vital role in the working plan of the writer and the actor.  The writer must bring to life whatever landscapes necessary to set the story and, or course, the individuals who nudge the story along. The same may be said of the actor, who must take in setting, agenda, and a sense of awareness to the other characters.

Speaking for your writing self, you rush to get some exploratory detail down on the note pad or the computer screen, anything to attack that vast Sahara of blankness that confronts you when the working day begins.  The blank page is daunting, not because you have nothing to say or nowhere to go but for the polar opposite.  

There is too much to say, too much to consider.  Sometimes you find yourself frozen before the note pad or screen, while a torrent of impressions and diverse activities rush by, reminding you of those moments of nap or a more prolonged sleep, where your images shift from the conscious mode into the dream state.

You are delighted to shift into the overdrive of sleep, where the action and stage directions pick up immediately, driving toward the stories your sleeping brain wishes to perform in order to make sense of the awake time sensations that bombard you.

You are equally pleased when, almost with the force of a voice-over narration, the narrative voice gives you a sentence, a situation, a circumstance already in play or a large rock about to totter down the side of a cliff or an entire side of a hillside becoming successful in detaching itself from its host, then tumbling.  Such moments, if they make the cuts, seldom comprise the beginning of the work, rather they speak to you of the energy of the story you are struggling to understand.

The actor has the road map of script and the advantage of consultation with a director.  The writer has the editor.  Did you really mean to say this?  Are you sure this is how the character would respond to this stimulus?  The actor has the toolkit of all the previous parts essayed, ferreted out, sorted, made into a concentrated whole.  

The actor has the power tool of the toolkit, focus.  The actor has learned to focus to the point of convincing the acting self of the truth of the representation of the character presently being portrayed.  A simple response of "No, thank you.  Not for me," becomes a container for such potential emotions as doubt, confidence, sarcasm, fear.

The writer has the toolkit of any number of stories, with ensembles of any number of characters, all different, all thinking they have the need and obligation to do whatever it is they do, right now. And you have the added tool in your toolkit of being an editor for others.  You can and do perform a creditable job with the revision of your own work, often using the improvisation riffs employed by actors.  There is for you a rush of excitement and a side effect of confidence when your revision produces some insight you'd missed before.  For moments on end, you feel yourself having filled the room with your narrative presence.

This excitement is fated, and you know it, understand the phenomenon for some time now.  Much as you get from your own revision, you already know you are not as close to the truth as you would like to be or that you are in fact able to achieve.  Good job, the editor says, but don't you want to give some attention to THIS missing detail?

The point:  you can with some regularity give constructive notes to the work of other writers, and you can with equal regularity add significant revision to your own work or find unnecessary details in your own work.  But you cannot see it all.  There are indeed some writers who can and do see it all.  These are the most likely to want and listen to notes from others.

This does not mean you believe the writer's growth over time will lead to this totality of vision.  There is always someone who can see farther, deeper, and with greater strategic eyes than you.  And of course this does not preclude you from seeing farther, deeper, and with greater strategic eyes than others.  There is you, pushing, revising, rewriting, to get the next story at the peak of its vision, the soaring hawk or eagle,consulting the lunch menu, spotting the prairie dog or gopher, at a great distance, poking its head above the earth to scan for its own lunch.

You keep in mind the certainty that each new project means you have to learn how to tell story all over again the moment the last one is finished and sent off.  At the same time, you have to keep in mind that you are besieged with brief observations, quick bites,fleeting insights, all of which you must reach for as though all of them have the potential to carry you to the peak of your ability, from which point you must jump and risk, as your friend, Wile E. Coyote risks, the abject failure of your efforts.

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