So, I’m going through Hell, and I’m only 4 pages into my screenplay. I should, by logic of date, time, and final page requirements, be up to (ooo, say) page 23. But as you’ll see from reading through my previous pages – I’m still plotting. So what happened? You know what happened. You all be here at some point…

Act 2.

Or rather, the lack of it.

If you can be bothered reviewing my ‘story’ here, you’ll see the problem. This is Act 2:

“Apart from the fact that he’s been impersonating Rip Van Winkle for most of his life, Tom is in pretty good shape. He has a bit of work to do, getting his muscles to carry him after all that time, but once he does – he’s a 20 year old boy with the worldliness of a 10 year old man. It’s time for him to start putting his life together. Rap, Computers, Mobile Phones, Mortgages, Testosterone, Ecstasy, Botox – Tommy has a lot of catching up to do.”

So this is Act 3:

“The object of his desire, Miranda, is now divorced with two kids. She’s also ready for a retard with a comfortable inheritance. What she’s not ready for is Lizzie, big hair, and 101 varieties of British vaudeville.”

Which means, in terms of plot – I don’t (yet) have an act two – or, indeed, an act three, which means (gentle reader) I don’t (yet) have a story to tell. Once upon a time I would have worried about this, (OK, I am daunted and worried) but at least I know now that I am in the ‘argy bargy’ part of the process. This does not mean that I am a totally shit writer. It means I have a creative problem to solve.

Today (Easter Saturday) the Guardian Newspaper ran this story. It is an extract from Jonah Lehrer’s book “Imagine: How Creativity Works.” I haven’t read the book. I will. But for now, I’m taking Bob Dylan’s creative dilemma as a personal sign that what I am engaging is, is a righteous part of the writing process.

This is the bit that caught my eye: “Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer. When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase of the creative process. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problems were impossible to solve. Instead, we skip straight to the breakthroughs. The danger of telling this narrative is that the feeling of frustration – the act of being stumped – is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer – before we probably even know the question – we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach. It’s often only at this point, after we’ve stopped searching for the answer, that the answer arrives. All of a sudden, the answer to the problem that seemed so daunting becomes incredibly obvious.

The story goes on to describe the ‘Creative Vomit’ that singer Bob Dylan experienced after a moment of insight about song writing. The author describes at length the left and right brain activity which proceeds this ‘Eureka’ moment which ultimately became, “Like A Rolling Stone”. Dylan said his insight was to ‘celebrate vagueness’ or rather, what he said was… ” I mean, here was something that I myself could dig”

I just found a note I wrote to another writer, I’m taking this as a personal message to my future self: “I think you are at the same point in the script that you reach in home renovations when you turn up on site and say, “That’s not where the toilet goes…” and the builder turns the blueprints around. The choice is the same… rip out and start again, or rearrange the house. Who knows? Maybe a pooh with a view is a charming way to start the day.

So, I’m currently ripping out my story, and starting again. I’ll post it when it’s done. For now – it’s a cup of tea and headphones while I write a screed about a young man in a coma.


The Only Way Out is Through

Just for clarification – my creative problem is this:

I believe in the three act structure for story telling. We as writers can mess with it as much as we like, but ultimately, the bulk of human beings seem hardwired to enjoy stories which have a Beginning, a Middle, and an End.

Each of these ‘acts’ have events which trigger a turning point in the story – complications, resolutions, upping the ante, twists & turns – use whatever language penetrates your consciousness but the fact is: We shoot our arrow (set our hero off on a journey), about a third the way in, there is an event which rocks his or her world and our character enters into a series of complications or escalations until they achieve a goal, (or make another discovery,) which forces them back on track to victory or heroic defeat.

Using the guides I posted earlier, I’m going off line now, to replot my story.


* Today’s quote belongs to World War 2 Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through Hell – keep going.”