"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes; Art is knowing which ones to keep."
We’ve all heard or referenced the Heraclitus quote, “The only constant in life is change.” I have long held the belief that creativity, like so much in life, changes as well. Writing, I’ve concluded is an evolutionary process. It was a fascinating observation once I realized this was true. I would love to say this was a “road to Damascus” revelation of my own making, but I cannot. One of my early screenplays was read by a studio Executive who scribbled a note across it that simply said, “There’s too much of you in this story – not interested!”
I was forced to take a long hard look at my story. It took a few years, and many false starts to realize, I was reliving my own life struggles through my creative process, and they were too "on the nose.” I have been writing for many years and find it difficult to look back on material I wrote back in those early days, without thinking it no longer resonates with me. Either for the time and place, experience, or content that I wrote.
I believe writing, particularly fiction writing, is one of the most vulnerable forms of artistic expression. In my process of writing, I have created entire worlds, expressing through visual means the inner lives of my characters. A big part of this creative process requires me to delve into my own experiences to provide the substance of my characters. As a result, there is a raw exposure in displaying my life for public consumption. I believe this is why rejection is honestly the hardest part of writing. It’s as if the criticism stands not only as a statement of my story, but an inditement of my very being. The argument can be made that in the early days, I just lacked maturity. This is partially true, but I hold still that my writing had to evolve to improve.
This wasn't to bury all my past writings, but I won't lie; I considered it; no, in fact, it was to dig into out how much of "me" was in my art. My writing had reflected my own dating life, mental health struggles, and the Evolution of careers or friendships. This was not easy to do but essential in the progression of learning. I found most of my early stories sounded flat and pedestrian. It was hard to admit, but they just weren’t great. They didn’t resonate with me and struck me as limited in scope and wisdom. I was working through my struggles through my art as if my writing were my therapist. I'm not saying this is wrong, but it provided a limited canvas in which to create.
Over the years, I’ve met many other writers and been with them along their respective writing journeys to see their transformative process on full display. It was refreshing to know; I wasn't alone. In my networking, I noticed that many writers begin by writing what is familiar — digging into the rich context of their own inner lives to tell their stories. I've seen a few writers who remain in this place and "self-identify" with their own story, writing time and time again along with these same themes. There is nothing wrong with that, especially if you've found your unique voice in those words. For me, however, after some time, it felt self-indulgent, perhaps even narcissistic.
It's one of the reasons that I hold that some level of therapy, whether in a group or individual, is an essential aspect of writing. For my part, individual therapy has aided tremendously in my creative process. A voracious appetite for reading books about digging into archetypes and personality groupings: I have taken the Myer’s Briggs personality test and read up on the results to better understand the way my mind is wired.
You’ve heard of the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?” Well, using the idea of habits, I decided to come up with seven “editing” habits I would take when writing any story to remove the “me” from the tale. And no, I am not proposing I am a Stephen R. Covey or even a “Highly Effective Person” by any means, but I had just read the book and determined that habits and the number 7 resonated with me.
Over time my writing has matured. I’ve learned to imagine myself in the shoes of my respective characters. I seek out the nuggets of gold in their struggles. I find their emotional arc and bury it behind complex, sensitive content. I have learned to apply my own experiences subversively or, better yet, visualize being the character and moving past the "what would I do in their shoes" application into empathy for their plight or circumstances.
Like anything, there are always exceptions to the rule, and of course, this doesn't apply to every person. But I do believe based on years of my writing and closely observing other writers around me that this is an evolutionary process is real.
Since, as Heraclitus says, “change is constant," my creative journey is far from over. I'm fascinated to see where the next stage takes me. I hope this has helped if you find yourself wondering or wandering in the world of screenwriting. Until then, enjoy the journey and keep on writing.
Screenplay and television writer. Enjoy drama, action, and dark comedies. Looking for collaboration and networking opportunity with fellow writers.
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