Friday, February 8, 2008

(Joyous) Reinforcement Blues

I've always known that within our partnership, Jul and I have very specific strengths and weaknesses as writers. She's the organizer, the planner, the structure person. I'm the one who excels at creating little moments, breathing life into things and going off on crazy tangents that often are a waste of time, but sometimes become the best moments in our scripts.

This is not to say that our abilities don't overlap or that at times our strengths don't fail us and the other one has to pick up the slack. Of course that stuff happens. But it does mean that we've kind of created roles for ourselves without really meaning to. And, at least for me, that role has become so comfortable that it's difficult to step outside of it.

I didn't realize how difficult until we started our current Extension course on outlining a spec for a one hour drama. The first few weeks have been fun, but they've also been a constant reinforcement for me about how much I value my writing partner.

Starting with the show itself, then the general idea of the story we want to write, and now a beat outline, we've slowly gotten more and more specific as we move toward the actual outline...and so far each step along the way has been a struggle.

After coming up with a few ideas, I decided to spec Chuck, a show that I like quite a bit. I thought that I had come up with a great idea, but after talking it over with Jul realized there were significant flaws. We worked through those flaws together and seemed to fix them. Then I went off and worked on it some more myself and came up with some brilliant solutions and changes that I thought added a lot...until Jul and I talked about it again and more flaws became evident. Some of my changes made the idea better, but several of them created new problems that I hadn't even been thinking about. So (lather, rinse and repeat) this has now been going on for about a month. I come up with something amazing, get excited, show it to Jul (or sometimes just read it over again myself) and wonder how I could have gone so wrong. A month of vacillating between being excited about my idea and horrified about how much it sucks and how much I depend on Jul to keep me on track.

Last night, however, working in the class, I came to a realization: from a certain standpoint, Jul and I are probably ahead of the game, especially for TV. Yes we depend on each other a lot, and yes that creates a different kind of struggle when we're forced to write separately, but for the last two years we've been doing what TV writers do on a weekly basis--working with each other to beat out stories. Not only has this process made our stories better (often monumentally so), it's trained us to accept and even love working in that kind of environment.

Criticism and changes are never easy to take, but I think (and have seen) that they are usually even harder for new writers. You spend hours, days, weeks alone pouring your heart into something and then someone tears it down in a heartbeat. Not easy to accept.

Jul and I still get into fights, as two people who are passionate about something should do. But we do accept the other's opinions and changes. Every day. Sometimes begrudgingly, but always with the realization that our two voices joined have added more than one of us alone could have.

And as for me working alone? Well, there's a reason I have a partner, but that doesn't mean I'll stop trying. On the contrary, the only way to truly get better is to keep doing something over and over and over, so I'm gonna make like Sisyphus and keep my shoulder to the boulder and yes I just wrote that and yes I'm going to end on that awful, awful line. It's what I do.

1 comment:

Juliana said...

This Jul chick sounds bloody brilliant.