DIARY OF A LOST SCRIBE
Staring Into The Abyss
by Carlo Dall’Olmo – President and Board Member of PSA
Staring into the abyss at the blank page on my screen, I bang my head against the table. I can’t help but think I’ve been here before, but it seems so different this time. I’ve had times where I struggled to find things to write, where I’ve been stuck on a scene or a character or I’ve not wanted to write – God knows I’ve had many of those struggles, but I’ve always pushed through it. I’ve always found a way to get back on track. Not this time though, I’ve never had trouble finding something to write about, something that grabs me and forces me to put pen to paper. I’ve never had trouble with that…at least until now that is.
I’ve heard of writers’ block but honestly, between you and me, I’ve never really believed it. I always saw writers’ block as a writer’s excuse not to write. Writers get lazy, after a while, the laziness becomes a part of the process. Then one day, rather than sit down and write, the writer comes up with an excuse that he/she can’t think of anything to say – thus writer’s block. I’ve been lazy, I’ve struggled at times with things to write but never did I have a complete lack of interest in anything to say. That’s what bothers me. I’m finding myself struggling to find a theme.
All great stories have universal themes. All great stories explore a deeper human experience. That’s what I want. When I start a story, I examine various themes and explore which ones talk to me. One usually jumps out and I go with it. Discovering the theme has usually been my strong suit. I’ve spoken to other writers about how they begin their story, and many say they get an idea and a loose outline and then start. One friend of mine told me it takes a few drafts before he understands what he’s trying to say. That seems foreign to me. Could I be too rigid with my writing? Could I be my own worst writers’ block? Hard to say but worth the exploration.
Being in uncharted territory requires a different approach – what if just write a story without worrying about theme first? What’s the worst that can happen? A finished script that requires a rewrite? Maybe 10? Hmmm it seems awfully familiar to every other script I’ve had to write. Maybe my excuse of ‘can’t find the theme’ is really the excuse not to write – maybe I am stuck in my own laziness. The only way out is to write.
The new year is upon us and sometimes it worth ditching the old for something new, right? I’ve been a firm believer in knowing my theme fully before starting the writing process. This has helped me on many stories but has been a hinderance as well. Maybe this year I start with just a story and let the theme come as the story unfolds. As the old saying goes – the water doesn’t flow if you don’t turn on the faucet.
Having come upon this abyss many times in my 40+ years of writing, I can tell you with the utmost confidence that this abyss is filled with endless wonder. It is actually where all your intelligence and amazing moments have been stored and kept safe for you, so that you can use them at this moment in life.
So my one word of advice for you, Carlo, and all PSA members, that when you find yourself staring into this glorious abyss…