Screenwriting : Writing is like swimming in the ocean by Tao Ryan Moua

Tao Ryan Moua

Writing is like swimming in the ocean

Writing, whether it's a novel or screenplay, is like trying to swim in the ocean. It's the hardest thing to do. I think it's harder than engineering. Not that it requires a lot of math but a lot of time, effort and patience to actually sit down and write. First you have to learn how to swim. If you cannot swim and get in the water, you'll most likely drown. Second, you have to learn how to stay afloat in the water for a long period of time. Third, you have to learn how to hold your breath. Fourth, you have to learn how to dive. Then, finally you're ready to dive deep into the abyss of the ocean where you'll find all kinds of interesting creatures that make good for stories.

Bill Costantini

My favorite ocean spots are the Pacific along the Oahu coast of Hawaii. Those giant sea turtles are everywhere, and swim underneath people. Most people don't even know they are there when they are swimming. It's quite amazing to watch from a balcony high above. My second favorite is the Andoman Sea along the southwest coast of Phuket, Thailand. There is a serenity there that is unmatched among the oceans of the world - except when the devastating Tsunami came in back in 2004. Oceans are amazing places to write. If you can concentrate and write while alongside a beautiful coast, you're some writer. That's the hardest thing to do for me.

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

Is swimming the hardest thing to do? My vote goes to brain surgery. I would rather write script about brain surgeons than perform brain surgery.

Tao Ryan Moua

I'm using a metaphor here. Not "swimming" but "swimming in the ocean" - writing is like trying to swim in the ocean. Brain surgery you get paid. It's not guarantee you'll make a living writing.

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

Ryan: Anytime you endeavor to create art, there is never a guarantee the monetary compensation will necessarily follow. To me, there are many things more difficult than screenwriting. Swimming in the ocean may be a metaphor for you but it's not necessarily the same for everyone else. I love writing and sometimes certain topics inspire me more than others. So for me it's not the hardest thing at all but something I enjoy. However, writing is also a matter of discipline. Do you have the discipline to sit down and write whether you feel like it or not? I can say without hesitation that I possess that discipline. Often times, I begin a script and get into the joyous groove, where I want to work on it nonstop. If you have a good idea where you're going with your story and the discipline to sit down and create it, it shouldn't be that difficult. Scriptwriters have different reasons for writing. For me, my first goal it to create art. If I sell that art, it's icing on the cake. Therefore, scriptwriting is like baking cakes. First comes the cake and if you're lucky, the icing. Finally, I read posts in this forum where writers can quote chapter and verse on structure and mechanics, yet that can't tell a story to save the cat. You can teach yourself anything but that doesn't necessarily mean you have a natural talent for it. But like with anything, the more you do it, the better chance you have of becoming proficient.

Brian Shell

You also have to consent to lose sight of shore for a long stretch of time too.

Bill Costantini

And you should never catch a large halibut a mile or two offshore in your 13-foot kayak, and think you're always gonna make it back to shore with your 80-pound halibut still weighing 80 pounds. Wishful thinking, yes. Shark's thinking...mmmmm....free dinner! Things could be tougher, TR....things could be tougher.

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

Bill, beautifully said. I think you hit the hammer head shark on the nose.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Ugh, metaphors! Writing screenplays is difficult. How 'bout that? Sorry, Tao, I do appreciate your thoughts on the matter and thanks for sharing them, but writing is far too subjective for this witty Stage 32 bunch to agree to any poetic musings. Lol! ;)

Tao Ryan Moua

Good for you, Phillip. But writing is not a talent - not something you're born with. It's not innate. Like dancing, singing, skiing or fighting(boxing, mma, etc), writing is a skill you develop over a period of study and practice. Saying that it's a "talent," which is something a person is born with is too old fashion like believing that the world is flat. Good one Bill. Very funny, it makes my day. Using metaphors to draw analogies - that's what writing is about, isn't it?

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

Tao: yes, you can certainly learn anything, boxing, guitar and writing. But not everyone is a natural born storyteller. I read scripts all the time that are technically well-written but unfortunately there's no compelling story to accompany the technical aspects of the writing. Just like I hear musicians that may be technically proficient but they have no soul. What I'm talking about is less tangible than technical proficiency and may not be easily understood; but I believe it exists. There are storytellers with no soul. And that's something that's difficult to learn.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Wow, I completely disagree. Writing IS a talent and talent IS something you are born with. Either you have natural proclivities towards creative endeavors or you don't, be it storytelling or crafting words or creative problem solving or possessing a vivid imagination or an unique vision or an ability to create with images. Creative ability is innate. Some people are gifted in math. Some singers are born with perfect pitch. Some actors transcend a role not just "act." YES, of course, skills can be learned, improved upon, honed, developed, encouraged, et cetera through a lot of study and practice. I'm an artist as well. In the art world, those with true talent or "vision" can be discerned if you know how to look at art. Sure, you can have technical skill, but does your work have soul? Does it resonate? Does it elicit an emotional response? Does it move people? Does it excite? You often hear it's 10% talent and 90% practice... well, there's some truth to that. Perseverance is key no matter what. However, that 10% makes a helluva difference. Sorry, but stating "that's rather old fashioned" seems rather close-minded. No metaphor needed.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, that's the incredible thing about true talent: you can't quite put your finger on it but you know it when you see it, hear it, or experience it. ;) R. Nones, your great story about the truck driver being a gifted writer reminds me of that wonderful line from Ratatouille: "Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

Bill Costantini

Here is a link that establishes how things like our brain, serotonin, and our DNA help to determine someone's pre-disposition to being creative (yes, our "nature" does), and how nurturing those pre-dispositions helps to determine whether or not someone who is naturally creative will ever create something (yes, our "nurturing" does) . I especially like the Hemingway quote at the end. https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/09/20/is-creative-ability-de... As an aside....your profile and what you've overcome is very heart-warming and inspirational, Tao. Congratulations on your accomplishments in life thus far.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Great share, Bill. It's always interesting to read the science of creativity; creativity considered as also "influenced by generating endless associations." Isn't that the very nature of being an artist? — creative vision, to see what others cannot? The one person who is constantly misused in the argument about "practice verses nature" is Picasso. People love to say he first learned the "classical rules" and studied them extensively before developing his own artistic style. Nope. He was a child prodigy. He surpassed his father's skill, his first teacher who was a very successful artist, by the age of 13. His father recognized young Pablo's talent and sent him off to the top fine art school to learn "proper" art. But Picasso was bored and skipped class to go explore. His creative genius was beyond technical skill and beyond what they could teach him. He started art movements. He was revolutionary. He's considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century. That doesn't happen "suddenly" after lots and lots of practice and classes. :)

Beth Fox Heisinger

I'll share this older blog post from storyteller/story consultant/teacher/award winning writer/producer/director Brian McDonald, titled "The Artist's Vision." I posted this in the Screenwriting section a while back, but thought it to be also fitting for this discussion as it relates to similar points found in the scientific post Bill shared—creativity being "influenced by generating endless associations." In the blog, Mr. McDonald states: "One of the things that makes a person an artist is their ability to look at the world and see what is missing." This post is simply encouraging food for thought. Enjoy: http://invisibleinkblog.blogspot.com/search?q=the+artist%27s+vision

Beth Fox Heisinger

R. Nones, true, but read the Brian McDonald blog; it is about "seeing" what others cannot. I think you'll really enjoy it. Creative people are visionary and often have to stand their ground against naysayers. He gives great examples. :)

Brian Shell

Beth, I politely disagree. I was an engineer before turning to music and writing. In my belief, it was my Belief that made me become published after 14 years of non-published work... which led to estrangement from friends and family for believing in a pipe-dream. Belief and perseverance! Math was my forte. Now, writing and percussion are. Though I'm still a math whiz. Would you like me to whiz some derivatives and integrals for you? Being that all men are dogs, I lift my leg in whizzing salute. :-) Haha!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Sure, Brian, but I think we actually don't disagree. Plus, we are talking only in generalizations. I too said it takes perseverance no matter what. But, I bet you do have natural creative talent or ability, I mean, who said there isn't creativity in math? I didn't. I used math as a point about natural talent. Talent we are born with, whatever it may be. :)

Bill Costantini

Brian, I think Beth was just giving examples of what people can be gifted in, and was not trying to imply that you can only be gifted in one area. Note to self...don't eat the yellow snow around Brian's house. Edited to add...math and art share many common characteristics, and I would imagine the genetics of an artist also include those high quality analytical genes as well. Music and writing have strong mathematical foundations. Structure is math. And successful painters, photographers and cinematographers have to understand proportion values, and mathematical equations like the Rule of Thirds, Rule of Symetry, and Rule of Rebatement. Even in Picasso's Cubism, objects are broken up and recreated in an abstract form. Talk about the emergence of art and science! As a musician, you must love Picasso's Three Musicians and Girl with a Mandolin. All visual mediums and art forms have a strong connection to mathematics, analysis, and problem-solving.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Some of the most creative minds are also highly logical and extremely intelligent. :)

Brian Shell

Bill, your yellow snow quip made me laugh til tears rolled down my face. :-) Beth, I agree but found it interesting my creative talents hibernated until age 27. Still, it took tons of practice to hone that latent talent that napped inside my soul til later in life.

Brian Shell

R.Jones, months before my creative cosmic cookie arrived, it felt like an elegant series of serendipities arriving like tumblers falling into place for a soulful lock to open. When that first idea did arrive, I was at a crossroads where turning back would be inner stagnation. Being single and without kids the choice seemed obvious, but that didn't make the leap of faith to embrace my talents any easier. It was the scariest moment of my life, 20 years later, I'm still at it... scared and wounded due to it, but glad to be alive... and with 35 published books to show so far. Without the wounds? I wouldn't have any stories to publish. So many people kept trying to pull me back. Achieving escape velocity for your talent to emerge late in life? One step shy of insanity. However, so few ever go crazy... what truly horrible lives they must lead.

Raymond J. Negron

First, get into the kiddie pool, tread, kick your feet a bit. Write. Write. Write. Experiment.Experiment.Experiment. You just have to do it! Do The Work! Build a daily system to Doing The Work. If you write based on how you fell, you’ll never write. There is always an excuse/story/bs/ we all have a sexcuse. Day in and Day out! Every day! Look at the greats! Sorry, just finished 10hrs of writing and will tirade you guys with no editing and a little fire in your arse.

Tao Ryan Moua

It's not by nature but nurture. Most people that are successful early in life were nurtured from a young age. Dancers, acrobats, martial artists, painters, singers, actors, athletes etc. Some start late in their teens and twenties still find them but just later in life. Successful artists work hard and make sacrifices, not born with.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Tao, I'll throw out a couple more examples like: 1) Mozart, who wrote his first opera at age 8. His father had to transcribe it for him because as a child Mozart lacked the technical know-how. That's nature. 2) Messi, who's considered not just to be the best soccer player of our time, but the best in history. He was born in Argentina and suffered from a severe growth hormone deficiency as a little boy. He needed injections that his extremely poor family couldn't afford. Messi showed such incredible natural talent despite his limitations at such a young age that he caught the eye of the Barcelona team and they asked him to join them. They paid for the injections. That's nature. Tao, you really can't ignore DNA, genetics, or innate talent. Sure, HOW or WHEN or IF someone discovers that they do have some kind of natural inclination or interest may depend on that person's situation. Thus, some people finally acknowledge or discover their proclivities towards something and develop it much later in life through lots and lots of hard work. And NO ONE is arguing against the fact that nurture plays a huge role in development. Of course it does! Another example: The artist Paul Gauguin was a stockbroker, a lawyer and a business man before he left it all (his wife and family too) to become an artist later in life. His work was only recognized after his death. Talk about suffering, another example: Vincent van Gogh worked incredibly hard, suffered immensely and never sold a painting in his lifetime. His work is now one of the most celebrated and recognized art of all time—not to mention worth millions. I'm not sure how you define "success" but your statement about artists is truly offensive to me. Because of that, I'll leave this conversation. However, I'll leave it with this wonderful and wise quote for all of us to consider, it's from Walt Whitman, an American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanitarian: "Be curious, not judgmental." Tao, I do wish you the best with all your endeavors. Thank you for starting an interesting discussion. :)

Bill Costantini

Tao, you can argue with us....but you can't argue with science. Well, technically you can, I guess, like Dr. Frankenstein did, but look what ended up happening to him. Someone needs to lure Tao to my DNA testing laboratory. And Phillip just brought homemade cakes too. And Tao's favorite food and movies. And a bag of money for Tao to produce his next movie. And those new Nikes that you can't get in the stores until June. Wow, Tao....I wish I was you.....this is so great.....

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

I was born handsome and talented. I got the picture to prove it (see attachment). I've got the world on a string, sittin' on a rainbow, got the string around my finger, What a world, what a life, I'm in love with sound of my own voice and sight of my own words.

Fiona Faith Ross

Charming. I'm in love.

Brian Shell

Bravissimo Beth! Well said. In 1997, when I lived in downtown Seattle, my 29th birthday's horoscope loosely said, Your greatness is assured. The question will be whether you achieve it before or after you pass away. My immediate thought then, while working on my first epic supernatural screenplay was Great. Just swell. (Sigh...)

Fiona Faith Ross

Brian, I could do with a horoscope like that. :)

Anna Maria Elisa Manalo

Tao - I love your analogy. Unfortunately, I can't swim and am afraid of the water. Ha ha. I definitely write better than I can swim. Writing in front of an ocean gives great DEPTH to my characters and enriches the atmosphere for me.

Tao Ryan Moua

Anna, I was starting to doubt if I made any sense because people didn't get it. We went off tangent. But here's what Professor Richard Walter has to say about whether writers are born or made: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waKRqw88EaE

Bill Costantini

Tao - have your epiphany....transform....re-emerge....and come out stronger. You should have watched Professor Walter's video titled "Are Writers Born or Made?" Here it is. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waKRqw88EaE And take a look at the links of the studies that I provided in a previous post. They're the authoritative sources on the subject that you're having a hard time accepting. Good luck with everything.

Anna Maria Elisa Manalo

Yup. Tao, writers are born with a penchant for great stories...a huge wave rich with original characters in this sea of fish.

Tao Ryan Moua

Yes, Bill. That's the same link I posted above. I've read your links. Thanks for posting them.

Bill Costantini

My apologies, Tao. When I clicked on your link earlier, it brought me to a different video. So you've changed your mind a bit, then?

Tao Ryan Moua

Yeah, Bill. But I still think nurture over nature. However, I'm not trying win an argument here.

Bill Costantini

Tao - I knew you'd swing around. And while you may not be trying to win an argument, I'm trying to win a bet. I'll take that as a "yes." Phillip...where's my Texas Longhorn? And remember - a cow, and that's no bull!

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