DIARY OF A LOST SCRIBE
When the excitement fades
by Carlo Dall’Olmo – President and Board Member of PSA
I’ve been here too many times before, a great idea pops into my head, my excitement flows and before long I am putting pen to paper on writing the next great Oscar contender. As I start to outline my masterpiece, and really dive into the heart of the story I find my excitement level goes from a 10 down to about a 1 and so does my writing.
It would be remiss of me not to admit it happens on almost every story I write or attempt to write these days. Often, I find myself jumping from one idea to the next with the same passion as the previous idea. Ultimately finding the same results after a couple of weeks of mulling things over in my head once the initial excitement fades. Admitting this, though, doesn’t answer the age-old question, ‘How do I keep the fire burning and move forward with a story once the excitement fades?’ How do I keep the excitement alive through 100 pages of writing?
It’s The Outline Stupid…Or Is It?
The last story I completed back in January had a similar issue. It took me months before I finally settled on an outline that piqued my interest and even then, it felt like pulling teeth to get me through the first draft. I remember telling myself with each page – just trust the outline. I spent 3 painstaking months working on the right outline wondering with each finger flick, am I doing the right thing. In years past, I didn’t work with an outline. I just wrote. Sometimes it worked and sometimes I found myself stuck midway through, nothing to guide me but my will to write.
What I lacked in discipline I made up for in spades with enthusiasm. That enthusiasm drove me home almost each time – regardless of how bad the story was. I didn’t have the issues that I have now of jumping from idea to idea. I’ve taken a few writing classes through the years and read countless books on screenwriting hoping to find the magic formula. The classes and the books get me more confused as everyone has their own formula – who’s right? Who’s wrong? Hard to say. Problem for me though is that I am someone who needs structure and the outline method, though irritating as it might be, seems to offer the best.
Writing Is A Journey – Not A Destination
I’m by nature an impatient person. I tend to like to see results quickly and sometimes find myself frustrated by my lack of progress. My wife has often told me that I picked the wrong interest to devote my free time to if it’s quick results I am looking for. Though I tend to agree with her I keep writing anyway. It’s not something I can just NOT do – it’s a passion that I am compelled to do not that I want to do. Telling stories is a part of me as much as my arm.
On my last story as I was doing the outline, I felt myself getting frustrated for the umpteenth time. I wasn’t making any headway on the story and found myself really wanting to just throw in the towel. I finally decided to step away from the computer page and found myself surfing the internet. At the time I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I was just wasting time. Then I came across an article in writemag.com titled “The art of not writing” by Anica Mrose Rissi. The article went over ways to learn how to break away from writing, something I have a hard time with myself. As I was reading this, it dawned on me. Writing is really not a final destination but a journey. It’s a journey really of self-exploration which isn’t done instantly but rather over time. At that moment, a light in my head flickered on – ever so dimly. The article made me realize that as a writer I can’t force the story I want to tell. Sometimes it helps to get some distance from the story – step away if you will and let the subconscious work its magic. Writing sometimes involves not writing and that’s okay. It was at this point I realized what needed to happen and as I gave myself permission to explore the story, things came together.
As I continue the journey with my latest story, I will need to draw upon all the lessons I’ve learned to really help push me through the inevitable ups and downs of the process. If you have any suggestions on how to keep the excitement flowing on a story when you feel you’ve lost it – processes that work for you or even processes that didn’t work, I’d love to hear it. Drop me a line in the comments box. Let’s be a community and share our stories.
About Carlo Dall’Olmo
Carlo Dall’Olmo is a screenwriter and the founder/organizer for Phoenix Screenwriters Association (PSA). When not writing or running PSA you can find him on the sidelines cheering on his 14 year soccer obsessed son.