Up front, I’m sorry.
This blog was supposed to be the meandering thoughts that run through my head on the nature of the universe, a true home for my philosophizing, a place where my friends and family had a chance to gaze at my psyche from afar without being forced to engage me in the long, meticulous, and ultimately exhausting conversation that my introverted nature would drag them into.
Well, I have readers beyond my friends and family, and I have friends and family who don’t even know (or don’t seem to know) that this thing exists. Thanks, followers. I hope my post-intellectual-age philosophy is amusing, thought-provoking, distracting…whatever you’re looking for. If you’re looking for more hipster cats, well, no promises.
I did not want this to be the blog of an aspiring writer, documenting each step of the journey. Most of that stuff is best kept on the inside.
But, here I am. Writing another post on writing. I can’t help it. My brain itches and this is the only way to scratch it.
Writing is an art form.
Yes, there are plenty of books that people scoff at and would not call art, but the truth is, writing is a form of art.
In jazz, the listener is told to listen to the notes that aren’t there as much as the notes that are. This isn’t just a load of crap. Music (no matter what kind) cannot be enjoyed unless people have a sense of expectation as to what is about to come next (Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music). The idea is that jazz musicians toy with listeners’ sense of expectation. When you believe one note will be played, it isn’t. Or, better yet, there is harmony and adjustment, giving the listener a different tone, pace, richness, exposing a new aspect of the piece merely by not living up to expectation.
There is a balance in this impromptu styling and the sense of expectation. Stevie Wonder’s Superstition features a steady but unpredictable hi hat in the drum line (again, Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music). This unpredictability makes you feel like you’re listening to a new song every time. Maybe not that far, but it still feels fresh, and, no better word, groovy, with every listen.
It’s the same with writing.
When reading, you need to read the words that aren’t there as much as the words that are. Writing isn’t a simple delivery system, from the page to your brain without that space between. It requires subtlety, subtext, and implication.
Every story has been told. From a young age, we are inundated with story. We absorb the master plots. We know what to expect in everything we read. Writers must learn to write the right words and leave some words unsaid. Embrace subtlety. Let it flow. You can surprise your reader by advancing a trope, then switching it up. You can calm your reader by sinking into something familiar and slow.
When you do it right, people will want to read your book over and over, steady put unpredictable; fresh and smooth; nuanced.
Get out there and write.
I may have…accidentally…on purpose…inadvertently…quit my job.
That was the teaser.
Now for something completely different.
My final semester of college, I flipped my academic advisor (and group of friends) the bird and moved to New York City. NO REGRETS! Jiminy Cricket, I love that city. I participated in an internship program. The Great Lakes Colleges Association purchased an old hostel on 29th Street and 8th Ave. (I could practically spit on Madison Square Garden). Out of all the artistes participating in the program, the coffee-fetchers, the case carriers, the note-takers, I had something amazing.
An internship at Sony Pictures Television.
I was in a three-person department which consisted of the Development VP and Producer for Mini-Series and Made for TV Movies, her assistant, and lil ol’ me.
And this was no coffee-fetching internship. I was picking writers for projects. I was determining which rights to acquire. Script coverage, contacting agents, sitting in on budget meetings, editing scripts…my God, I’m almost shedding tears thinking about it.
Once the writers’ strike was over, the VP was on set while her assistant and I held down the fort at the New York office. I was watching dailies, seeing costuming. I only went out for coffee once, and the assistant apologized at least four times for asking me to do it.
I was in love. There’s something about that city. It doesn’t work for everyone, but when it gets inside you, you feel it. It whispers in your ear. It tugs on your heart. It lifts you up high and reminds you of every low. It makes you forget everything outside of itself.
In retrospect, I did some stupid stuff in that city.
I walked around by myself at two-o-clock in the morning just to feel the pace still burning through the streets when the world should be sleeping. Okay, I didn’t go to Central Park at night. I have seen almost every episode of Law and Order: SVU. I’m stupid, but not suicidal.
And, when walking through NYC at two-o-clock in the morning, I knew what I want to do with my life.
I want to produce content. Not just books, not just TV shows, not just movies. I want to tell stories, no matter what form that takes. I want to take these fantastic images in my head and hand them to someone else and say, “Look. Without me, this would not exist. What do you think?”
I know. All mad gab existential.
But, more than that, I want to be someone people can associate with quality storytelling. I want my name to be attached to a TV show, and a group of people take over a bar on premiere night so they can make up a series drinking game. I want to share other people’s stories that I find brilliant.
I want to determine what gets added to the cultural genetic structure.
Sounds crazy, no?
It’s not about the money. It’s not even about the reputation. It’s about the story. It’s about the culture. It’s about striving for a higher standard, raising the expectation, and achieving something amazing.
This past weekend, I took a step back and looked at Day Job. I adopted a British accent, stuck my finger in its face, and screamed, “You’re not helping me achieve my bloody goals!”
I told my boss I think I needed to explore my options. Because I have to keep moving forward. Stagnancy is going to kill me.
Wish me luck, pray for me, keep me in your thoughts, whatever.
Because I might be broke forever, but, at the end of everything, at least I can say I tried my hardest.
And, that counts for something.