Monday, May 19, 2008

Screenwriting 101: The A-Ha Moment!

This is a little more oblique than a lot of the stuff I’ve discussed before.

Inspiration is something that’s really important to any writer, because without it you’d have no idea what to write or where you’re going, and craftsmanship. Thomas Edison famously noted invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. What I’ve focused on here thusfar has been the “perspiration,” rolling up your sleeves and actually focusing your drive on the ambitions you’ve set before you, and the techniques to (the tools in the writer’s craftbench.) But, despite it’s small quantity in the process, inspiration is important.

I can’t say with any certainty where this inspiration comes from. It could just be the right two neurons connecting at the right time. It could be heaven sent, or the workings of the subconscious or the collective unconscious. It could be magic gnomes that live inside your head. In any event, it’s there and it happens, and the phenomenology thereof is really immaterial.

The more you write and the more you work, the easier it becomes, I feel, to get inspired. You will find that in certain situations you are more prone to be inspired than others. These are the “A-Ha!” moments, where everything falls into place and you know exactly what you have to do (or close enough to fake it.)

For example, most of my A-Ha moments happen late at night, around midnight or later, when I’m trying to sleep in bed. Suddenly, I’ll either know exactly what I want to write about, or I’ll have the perfect scene for my own script. I typically have to race to my computer to pound out a rough outline or a few pages or the scene in question, sometimes I’ll find myself rewriting a whole script this way (I did this just recently with one of my specs.)

For every person this is different. Ernest Hemingway usually started writing very early in the morning, although typically this is because he was so drunk by midday he couldn’t write any more. For me, I’m more of a night owl (and I also typically avoid the harder spirits, and drugs in general for that matter,) and I do my best writing sometime between eleven at night and the early morning hours. I’ve actually always been this way, before I could go to bed I’d have a million crazy ideas for stories or just things to imagine. It might be something intrinsic to myself and my own creative process, so yours might be entirely different. You might find the inspiration you seek in the bath, or upside down, or in the car, or at the office, or whatever. But, wherever you find your inspiration, you’ll find it becomes easier to get to it if you find yourself in a similar situation (maybe you’re brain knows this is a good situation to be creative and thus is more creative.)

What is key to being inspired is learning to tell a good idea from a bad idea. More on that next week. Good writing!

1 comment:

Jonny said...

Hey Derek!

I came across your blog while reading Scott's. Your entries are really interesting and I feel like I'm actually learning something about screenwriting in the process.

Keep up the good work!