“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.” — Thomas Merton
At some point, I can’t recall when, I sent out a short story to a UK webzine called East of Web. I think it was either before or during the screenwriting course. The story was called Prairie Dogs. Shortly after moving into the new apartment I heard back. It had made it through and it was being edited.
When published the site allowed readers to rate and review each story. The feedback was by and large encouraging, the story receiving a 4 out of 5 star rating.
This was actually the second time I’d been publish. In college I had a poem published in a one-off magazine called, Scream. While my poem wasn’t great, I don’t think that it’s to blame for there not being any more issues.
East of Web would reach a much wider audience than Scream. In fact, one of the first emails I received in relationship to the story was from a reader in Germany.
I still get emails regarding Prairie Dogs. In May, just passed, I got one from two high school students in Ohio who were using it for an English assignment. At the end of last year a film student in California wanted to option the rights to make a short film out of it. Nothing ever came from that, but still.
It was time to get back at it. I began reading how I do it books instead of how to books, turning away from the gurus and toward interviews with successful authors, screenwriters and playwrights—for the most part, the writers seemed far less certain than the gurus.
It was during this period that I discovered about Neil Simon never knowing his endings, and that every writer has their own unique way of summoning their muse and getting the story onto paper. Neil Simon writes in longhand on a yellow legal pad.
At the risk of sounding delusional I’m going to make the author god of the story they’re telling strictly for the purpose of example. Some writers take St. Augustine’s view that the author exists outside of the story, and while the characters may still have their own freewill, and you let them speak to you, you already know how everything will happen and how it’ll all turn out. While others take the Saint Teresa of Avila approach, with the author being on the journey, too.
With the film Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders and written by Wim Wenders, Peter Handke (screenplay co-writer) and Richard Reitinger (screenplay contributor) they, if you’ll pardon the pun, winged it. The film was inspired by the great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The writing was done while they were shooting and some of the voice over, after shooting was complete. They were making a film about angels, so they let the angels guild them.
With me, it depends on the story. Sometimes the idea starts with the ending, and I have to figure out how to get there. Other times the character has strong voice so I let them led—more on that later. It’s whatever best serves the story while remaining true to the main character’s character. So the author of the story does not treat its characters like the Old Testament God, do what I say or else, but the New Testament, in order to rule you must serve, here let me wash your feet.
Different methods but both have the same goal, to discover the soul of each character and to hopefully create something wonderful with it.
I don’t believe there’s a one and only way to commune with the creative spirit. Whatever works for you, works. The only thing I can say is whatever you do try to love it, love the process, if not the material, because, that way, even if it fails you still get something out of it, and you might reach one or two readers at a time they need to be reached. I’m indebted to the writers, stories and songs that reached me when I needed a hand to hold, even if it was an invisible one. And the ones who inspired and challenged me; made me laugh, cry, think, reconsider my world view, or just scared the bejesus out of me.
That being said, I’m not going to lie, when the secondary effects kick-in it feels pretty awesome. And a paycheck is a nice thing to receive. But not to be counted on. I live under no illusions, many writers live and die below the poverty line and working at other jobs is a requirement. Most do, and it seems to be getting worse. But I’ve resided myself to the fact that I will always write. And I’m grateful for my good fortunes when they come along.
Though, I sometime ponder the Roald Dahl quote, “The life of a writer is absolute hell compared to the life of a businessman. The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody to scold him . . . A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”
With writing this blog, I don’t expect anything to come of it. And, to be honest, it’s become much larger and more time consuming than I meant it to be and is, at times, an extremely painful process. But some good has come from it, some people have been touched, or entertained, perhaps even inspired and encouraged (though I don’t know on that one and it’s a lot to shot for), by what I’ve written. That’s really all I can ask for. Hopefully, the process will make me a better writer.
Anyway, I was back writing and had some lost time to make up for. I wrote feature scripts, short scripts, short stories, and I studied.
Jordy’s dad offered me a job at his sound studio transferring his old sound reels, of the film scores he’d done, onto digital tapes. He said, at the time, that he was thinking it would be long term and develop into other things.
As per my usual, I said, “Sure.”
So, I left Cafe Volo, where I was still working as a server, and went to work for him.
On top of transferring reels to digital cassettes, I read scripts of current films he was working on and wrote out story synopses of them for him to read. I had the privilege of getting to sit in on a few mixing session for some films like The Forth Angel and Now and Forever.
The education was great, doing the script synopses helped me boil down a script to key elements. Also, if there was something I didn’t like about a script, I’d look at my own to see if I’d done anything similar. If I had I’d try and fix it. If there was something I really liked about a script, well, like everyone, I can be influenced. Lavender was still a work in progress.
I also learned, among other things, the importance of a good soundtrack with films. That point was highlighted one night when I was alone in the studio, transferring the reals of a thriller. The music got into my head and I checked the whole place, a few times, to make sure I was alone and that all the doors locked. A healthy imagination has it draw backs. It wasn’t a relaxing night at work.
I wrote an article for LIFT’s (The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto) newsletter. It was an interview with Genie award-winning sound engineer, Daniel Pellerin (The Sweet Hereafter, American Psycho) called, Sounds Good. Daniel was great, he was extremely generous with his time and knowledge. The story became a feature story in the centre of the magazine.
Things were going well professionally. Personally, I was about to receive big blow.