The thing is, the place where you found the elephant --- that's the place where all your greatest ideas are. It's just so hard to get there.
When you open up FinalDraft and stare at the clean white page; you have a very specific job. To write stuff. So you start doing a very purposeful, conscious thing, you ask yourself; who are the character's? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? How will they do it? What is stopping them doing it? If you're lucky, you may at some point hit a button on the keyboard. But more often, you won't.
I love making my way home from the local train station-- knowing I have a fifteen minute walk with just me and the music in my ears. It allows me to dream and drift in ways I am not totally controlling. It is inevitable that during this process; it happens -- the magic genie presents, out of nowhere, a perfectly conceived idea for a film about a baseball team who tragically die in a train crash only to be reincarnated as expert sandwich makers. The idea, at this point, is at its most golden.
Getting back home and in front of the page; it's difficult to hold onto the spirit of that idea. And it's because you kind of clock-in as a writer, and the dreamer gets left behind.
The interesting thing about the moment when a good idea first gets delivered in a small envelope to the little imagination dump in your brain-- is that it is completely clear of any kind of critical voice. I think we've all had this moment-- the moment where you're laughing hysterically with a friend at 2am because you're certain that the incident where you fell over an ice cream cone and landed on a small lady called Mrs. Fudgebaker would make for a perfect movie. The idea is SO golden at this point of time.
If only we could stay there! Unfortunately, the minute you get into the idea; a little ugly man appears in your head saying "Pathetic! You're useless! Your ideas suck! You're not relevant! No-one will buy it! No-one will understand it! You're not a writer! You're not worthy! No wonder she dumped you! You are not allowed dinner tonight! Forget it! Give up!" And then you write nothing.
Your favorite movie is your favorite movie because it's your favorite movie. It is better than the movie that you just thought up - by virtue of the fact that it actually exists. Someone dared to make it. Before that, someone dared to write it. And as you count up the times you chickened out of writing a film, as you count up all the scattered 3-pages of notes that pop up in random corners of your home --- the realization dawns; the ugly voice in your head telling you that you suck is COMPLETELY RIGHT; up until the point you ignore him, or at least send him out for groceries and get on with writing. At some point, before the day you die; you may as well just at least attempt to write what is truly in your heart, or at least go in search of it. Because only then can you, or a producer, or anyone, do anything with it.
To do that, you need to access the dreaming part of yourself. The part that gets excited. The part of yourself that abandoned normal life, aged 13, and instead opted to watch films again and again and again. Where can you find this part of yourself? I don't know. I can only talk for myself. When I was younger; I loved making mix tapes for people, I loved getting lost in music, I loved watching all of Tom Hanks' films again and again and again. I loved watching really crappy movies on TV at 2am.
BUT WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME I DID THOSE THINGS AND DID THEM CONSISTENTLY? Do I do them enough -- or am I too caught up in trying to succeed? Trying to make a living? Trying to pay the bills? Trying to impress people around me? Trying to be what people expect of me? ------ What happens when I focus on them things?
When I worry about what people expect, or what script readers want, or what I need to do to succeed--- that is when Mr. Ugly pops up in my head and tells me my writing and life is a train wreck. But he never did that back when I used to excitedly discover dozens of amazing songs every night, or when I would go to the front porch and pick up a shiny new VHS copy of the Tom Hanks flop 'The Money Pit'.
There's a boxing fight taking place. In the red corner, are all my passions and joys; all the things that make this stuff amazing. In the blue corner, are all the pressures and assumptions and all the things that make this shit HARD. And the blue corner has been ruthlessly smashing the red side to pieces.
It's time to wake up. It's time to remember where I came from, remember how it felt; give myself an Al Pacino pep talk; and get on with business. I could be wrong, and I hate to assume - but my inclination, is that some of you need to do the same.
Self-criticism only tends to come around when the stakes are high. The voice in the mirror is more likely to tell you that you look pathetic before a date than before making a piece of toast. The point is - every time you go to write, you have your trusted friend to smash you to pieces. Find ways to alleviate the pressure. I don't know how. But the more you return to the original joy that inspired you back when you were 13, the more you will be able to find and nurture original and personal ideas -- and put them down on the page.
Yea can't hear much
But the melody coming from you
Baby please don't rush
Keep the tempo slow and you
Let me hear the words you say
Let's go and get tangled in chains of golden days