Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Getting Inspired

Years ago, I had lost my job and was determined to turn my hand to screenplays. At that point, I had only the slimmest inkling of where to begin. I am not sure if I had ever subscribed to WD or any of the other trades or slicks at that point, but I was always good at writing dialogue and I had read and written too many stage plays and skits to even remember!

So I sat on my skinny, cracked behind and watched every decent movie I came across on TV. When I couldn't find one worth watching, I popped-in a VCR tape (again, this was years ago - if they even had DVDs on the mass market in America then, they weren't anywhere near mainstream). This went on for 2-3 days before one of my roommates started griping.

Now, truth be told, she was a pretty awful person and a downright terrible roommate, but what she said really cut to the bone. The exchange went something like this:

"You gonna find a job anytime soon?"

"I told you, I'm writing a screenplay."

"Well, what have you got? Let me see it."

"I haven't decided on what I'm going to do yet. Whatever it is needs to have legs - needs to be something..."

"You need to get on your legs and find a job."

"I have several ideas, I just don't know if any of them will make a whole screenplay."

"All you've done is sit around here for days, watching TV!"

"I'm trying to get inspired."

"Oh, is that what you're doing?"

I told you I could write dialogue. And I told you she was a bitch.

But what hurt me so much about this is that she was a dance major - also a creative person (though I honestly never saw her creativity) - and she should have understood that I really was trying to get inspired, surrounding myself with better works by better creators - trying to pick them apart and see why what worked worked, and how it had been accomplished!

Over the years, I have often thought back on that discussion. It really made an impression on me because I had to stop and consider that maybe - just maybe - I really was just fritting-away the time in a funk.

First of all, as an aside, you need a brief respite to recover after losing a job. But the truth is, no matter how many times I have replayed that episode in my mind, I really was doing exactly what it takes to get me inspired: I was surrounding myself with better works by creators I enjoy so I could find inspiration in their success and learn from their failures.

To this day, whenever I decide to start a project (or get back to an old one), the very first step is to drag-out everything inspirational I can find and delve directly into it all. For days - sometimes weeks! This is especially true when it comes to the gaming stuff I am constantly retooling for the site.

I have at least 10 different fantasy role-playing gaming systems, and while I generally only use two or three, whenever I decide to do something in the genre, I pull them all out - along with my gaming magazines, my history books, my genre VCR tapes and DVDs. I create a classical music playlist and drag-out my fantasy comic books. I hang old posters on the wall... I do any and everything I can think of to completely immerse myself in the genre! And you know what?

It works.

So don't let others' negativity slow you down. Some of the best ideas, and most successful projects, I've ever gotten involved in took the longest to "gestate." And most of those I've abandoned were undertaken without any real inspiration behind them.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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