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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sometimes You Fall Down

Sometimes you can run a race, clear every hurdle only to land smack-dab on your nose an inch from the finish-line.

That's not exactly what happened to me.

See, today was the deadline for CFC applications.

And though for the last couple years it's been an excited, mad-dash for me to get out the door and up to the CFC to deliver my package... this year is different.

Though it's ready to go, I won't be submitting my application this year.

Simply put: It's just not good enough.

You see, one of the things I've learned over the last couple years is how to be honestly critical of my own work. How to gauge how others will react to what's on the page.

I'd like to think that it came about as some offshoot of my inner need to make people turn pages and want to see more; to want to know more.

I'd like to think that it's some internal tool I've developed to guide me as I hash things out on the page.

If that's true, then I want a refund.

See, this last weekend, as I read over everything, looked over the package that I'd created... I dunno. I felt... nothing. I wasn't just 'not excited' about it... I felt nothing. Every logical check-mark in my head told me it was good. And yet, there, looking it over as a whole, as one unit... dead air. I read through it and I found myself skipping over parts.

Not because I knew them by heart as a writer but because they bored me as a reader.

To say that I felt a sudden rush of panic... yeah, that was an understatement.

Especially considering that this is my third turn at bat.

On my first application I got a wicked reception, I had people at the CFC truly interested in me as an emerging writer. I didn't get in, but I was on their radar.

My second time, the line was set in stone and -- according to the bit in info I've been able to glean -- apparently I fell far short. A friend of mine even intimated that I had phoned it in, that I didn't try hard enough, thinking I'd be a lark to get in after my success the previous year.

On some level it made sense; THAT's why I didn't get in.

And for a long time I've believed that that's what happened.

But I don't think so now.

See, the second time around, my pilot - 'Healer' - was flawed but I still believed in it. Not a whole lot of people did, but I was still willing to stand behind it 100%. It was my baby and, lumpy flesh and all, I loved it. Even now, even when I see all the flaws, I still have a soft spot for it.

This year I really wanted to shine... so I put in the work; I thought hard about it and pushed myself. I thought I'd made serious headway, I thought I was pushing the envelope and showing my growth as a writer... but I dunno.

When it all came together I took a look at what was there and the only words that were dancing in my head were: "What's there, on the page... it's just not good enough."

And no matter how I frantically tried to rationalize it, to pick it apart and look at it from another angle... it wasn't getting any better.

I sat down, tried to re-write it, tried to fix it. But nothing stuck. I found myself making it worse, letting my emotion get me lost inside my own work to the point where I couldn't even tell which beams where structural anymore. I deleted things and 'fixed' things only to forget why I'd tried to fix it.

Not my smoothest moment as an emerging TV scribe...

It's a funny thing when you're trapped, digging at the bottom of a hole; how you forget to ask for help; To call in the Calvary to help save you from yourself.

For all the 'thinking' that was done... yeah, forgot to think about that one.

A couple friends've since tried to 'talk me down' -- saying it can't be that bad, that I'm just being dramatic -- and I love'em for it, but the thing is, it's not just my butt on the line here.

I had a couple very, very cool people on board who were willing to stick their necks out to write letters of reference on my behalf.


It's one thing to have high expectations for myself... but to let down people who unequivocally believed in me...?


But if I can't stand behind my own work 100%, how dare I ask them to?

Writing those letters, thanking them for their support but telling them I decided not to apply this year... well, yeah... that sucked. Moreso: Trying to make it sound all positive when every knot in my gut is squeezing on that throbbing 'you-fucking-loser' button.

Every little scratchy voice in the back of my head saying 'well, congrats, you blew it'.

Not fun.

I'm done my tears over it though -- I've had my fair run through the emotional gamut these last few days... and I just can't beat myself up about it any more.

As far as things go, there's a lot for me to learn... most of which I'm still dissecting as I write new pages for my own internal 'how-not-to-lose-my-shit' series bible.

Score 1 for writer neurosis.

For now.

S'okay tho', I'll get it back.



Stephanie said...

Hey Brandon,

We all have days like these. I'm sorry that day came for you today of all days. But just look at what you wrote in your own post, you have so many people who have faith in your talent, and who were willing to go to bat for you. From that, you cannot fall. Chin up, and you'll find that fire burning again tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after.

Cheers, my friend

Rich Baldwin said...

Whatever it was that you were getting out of writing the first couple drafts, it sounds like you must have learned it - and then found that even as reader you weren't getting enough out of that particular story anymore. That's frustrating - gods but I know how frustrating that can be! - but I've found it to be a sign of a thoroughly exhausted writing exercise.

So: kudos on learning what that exercise taught you. And you have my sympathies that the script didn't end up being any more than a writing exercise in the end. At least you're a few more thousand words nearer to having mastered this game, yes?

We're rooting for you, man. Keep up the work and all will fall into place eventually.