Tuesday, 2 December 2008

First Draft Pending

I'm three days late on the deadline for my latest script, with about 500 words out of 10,000 on the page. And, typically, as the night wears on and I continue to avoid opening that Word document and starting, I find myself on the internet, trawling for distraction.

And so, thanks to the wonder of BBC iPlayer, I've just watched this week's episode of Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, which featured some of Britain's greatest television writers talking about the tortuous business of writing a script. What a brilliant, inspiring piece of television... a solid 50 minutes of bona fide genius, spoken with authority, passion and zero pretension.

One of the most heartening things was hearing Graham Linehan talk about the need to be ready to write -- that the process happens in its own time. The more and more I write, the more I believe that's true. Deadlines are there, and you should be absolutely sincere in trying to meet them, but deep down there's a tug of war between when the boss needs pages and when your ideas are fully-formed enough to emerge.

So, at the moment I'm grappling with the problems of stone ghosts in a Maine winter and growing old and disappointed... I know what the story is about, the characters, the tone, but yet something's missing -- the bit that I really need to start making it happen. There's an Unknown Something that I know belongs there -- has to be there -- but is somehow out of reach. The most frustrating part of any creative process is knowing that you're always at arm's length from What It Should Be -- that crucial, devastating difference between what you want to say, and what you end up being said.

But in the meantime, this story remains faraway. So here I am at 5am, tapping out words and hoping that in the back of my mind, the answers are working themselves out. I think that Tony Jordan summed it up perfectly tonight, saying that he likes to have written, but hates writing. There's something so quietly reassuring about knowing that, no matter how accomplished you become, that bit never gets any easier.

Anyway, back to it...

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