REVISITING-"IT'S THE SINGULAR
IMAGE THAT HAUNTS US, BECOMES ART."
by Craig Kellem
Judy and I are in the process of working on a project for a client which is
essentially a page one writing effort, predicated on the client's fine story.
It's been a while since we've done something like this, since most of the
ghostwriting/rewriting jobs that we take on involve scripts already written,
This effort has reminded us to follow our own advice and pay attention to the
basics that we espouse to others on a daily basis.
How we have approached this is as follows:
Once we agreed to take on the project (Judy writes -- I advise) we gave each
other the prerequisite task of "playing in the sandbox" --i.e. thinking
ideas for scenes or parts of scenes in order to get things rolling. By doing
this we not only stimulated creative productivity and gained an inventory of
assets (however disorganized at first), but eased ourselves
into the project via the confidence that is achieved when there's something "on
the wall" to admire and provide inspiration.
Almost all of the scene ideas and creative threads have come from that bedrock
resource: our lives and times. Indeed this never ending asset emanates from
things that we have both felt, noticed and experienced, all defined under Julia
Cameron's wonderful umbrella, "It's the singular image that haunts us that
becomes art." We pooled many insights, moments of truth, fascinations and
experiences which had previously lacked a "file."
Let me point out that this isn't done merely on a "write what you know" basis
but it's dogmatic. We make constant first stops at this source on an expectant
Is this a unique approach? Well, in a way it is considering that so many well
intended and even accomplished writers fall into a bad habit: When confronted
by a demanding creative agenda, they often go OUTSIDE of themselves for ideas
and thus, inevitably either end up contriving and/or depending too much upon
few big scenes "supported" by a whole lot of
filler kind of material in between.
In a way, utilizing this is a kind of "method acting" approach for
that you're constantly reaching and accessing deeper places. And if you write
from experience, you're more than halfway there.
The opposite of this can involve twirling hairballs on your office rug while
trying to invent art--too often desperately wasting time reaching outside for
ideas and often settling for less than stellar results because of impatience,
exhaustion and frustration. And it's so unnecessary, as I once explained to a
bright and affable lawyer/ new writer who slipped me his script at a writer's
seminar. Instead of mining a lifetime of viable intellectual property which he
undoubtedly possessed, he incessantly contrived generic, recycled, unoriginal
reasoning? To please the buyer. This was what THEY want, he erroneously
figured from some articles he'd read.
So how does one access oneself? Well, as I mentioned, the Julia Cameron
butterfly net is a great device, namely to start digging into your head, heart
and memory and to spike your storyline with the extra buzz that comes with
important memories, perceptions and adaptations of same.
* Say I need a scene set in a doctor's office. Maybe I can fit in the time that
I was at the dentists and told him he could do the root canal, but not drill
through the little bridge I have on my molar - to which of course he cheerfully
acquiesced. Did I know what he was up to in the heat of that miserable
appointment? No way. I was high on anesthetic. It wasn't until I
returned later to the proud unveiling of his work when I discovered that he not
only drilled into the bridge, but that it looked like the Lincoln Tunnel! I
remember my rage and giggle at the recall of how I yelled at him (so loudly that
it must have at least partially cleared out his already nervous waiting room!).
A scene like this will absolutely work as the
needed "doctor scene" of the script because it will be written with
all the true
emotion, sense of detail and experience memory has brought right back to life!
*What if I need a scene involving someone in a dangerous physical dilemma, where
a character has to save the day? I'd steer it towards a scene I've had in mind
for a few decades, since, as a child, I watched some nutty kid as he climbed
underside of a breathtakingly high bridge and I wondered, at the time, how
anybody could possibly do that. How it affected me then! What heat I would
access in tapping into that still hotly buzzing place in my heart.
*Writing something scary and want to get in the mood to be afraid? Heard a true
story recently about a couple of teens out looking for someone to kill. Went
knocking on doors to find their prey. Showed up one spooky night at a guy's
house and knocked, hoping to gain entry by asking phony directions. Now get
this--the man inside (with a young son) had a bad feeling about this situation,
mostly based on the way THE KNOCK SOUNDED! He was an ex New Yorker and just had
a certain kind of street smart hypervigilancy and he simply didn't like the
demanding urgency of the knock. So he grabbed his gun, refused to open the door,
and made sure these 'kids" could see the pistol tucked neatly in his pants
gave them their "directions." They finally left. The "boys" got "lucky" later
on that night and found two poor souls to kill. The next day, the guy who
refused to answer the door was looking over his property and discovered that
these two miscreants had actually dug two graves before knocking on their
door...one for him...and one for his son. (The teens later admitted doing this
when they were eventually caught). Talk about chilling! How this would play as
predicate for a scene, part of a scene or even the inspiration for one!
*Suppose I need to access a theme, say one about the enormous effects of
ostensibly small acts. Perhaps my inspiration could come from a recent TV
commentator who pondered that the Clinton/Lewinsky Oval office extravaganza may
have not only caused Al Gore to lose the election but allowed for the
war. What a platform to thrust from creatively!
The list goes on, endlessly!
Looking for juicy hits on corporate bureaucracy; a bad time with a traffic cop;
a child at risk; geographic cures; disastrous funerals--you name it. Look inside
yourself. There's gold to be accessed! Get into the habit of soul-searching.
And expect success.
The next time someone tells you to write from your heart, (as Judy and I
reminded ourselves), remember that there are big implications to this because
it's not only an ideal, but a fact that we all walk around with a wealth of
material just dying to be considered, reshaped and wonderfully utilized. And,
writing from "what you know" will take on a greater dimension. When
the depth and breadth of your creative repository, especially after getting used
to accessing this magic on a regular basis, exciting things can and will happen
on the pages.
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