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29 September 2011 @ 11:15 pm
the road goes ever on and on  
I had my first scriptwriting class tonight.

It's located on the top floor of a four-storey building that's called the Dollhouse, because ... it looks like a dollhouse. Much like a real dollhouse, the attic in which the class took place was originally built for show. 'Of course it has to have an attic! Houses have to have attics! It's a rule! ... what do you mean, put the dolls there?' I don't think it was ever intended for use, because the windows are more ivy than glass and bits of the floor appear to have once been bits of the ceiling.

My classmates all have one defining feature. They’re male. I am the only girl. I was at first apprehensive (I'm definitely inventing a boyfriend) and then amazed. During the class we read an extract from Don DeLillo's Underworld to demonstrate the use of clarity and precision in writing. It was a scene between a teacher and his pupil, the former instructing the latter to name every part of his shoe and, when he didn't know the name for things like aglets, telling him that if you don't know the name of a thing you can't see it. It was the unconscious theme of this class. The instructor has met a good few movers and shakers in the world of film-making. They, too, are all male. No one noticed this. They can't see it. Interrogating the world from a female perspective would be as alien a concept to them as interrogating it from an ant's. I've never experienced such blithe and unpurposeful exclusion of my sex's existence before. Sadly, I fear this represents the machinations of the film world as a whole.

Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it. My classmates are a delight. Two of them are late-thirties slackers, dressed in skater gear. If they were fanfic writers they'd be on the Pit demanding 100 reviews before writing the next chapter. One is clearly a frustrated artiste, who hadn't previously considered that writing camera directions is not a scriptwriter's job (which I feel is probably one of the – many - reasons why he's frustrated). One is doing a Master's in American literature and television, yet didn't know that Mark Twain thought an ideal library was one without any Austen in it. One runs a production company and greatly enjoys the sound of his own voice. One told me that when he does 'these night courses' he always gets hungry about nine o'clock, which made me think of my eating schedule during my last working day. (Eight am Wednesday, breakfast. One pm Wednesday, lunch. Eleven pm Wednesday, dinner. Twelve am Thursday, breakfast. This guy would be dead by now.) The tutor, for all his genuine experience of the film industry, still thought that a one-line 'this is interesting' email from a bigshot American TV channel producer about some project the tutor never got off the ground was a career-defining moment. And one of the learning points was, I shit you not, 'show not tell.'

It was amazing. (Not to put the last paragraph to the lie.) There is nothing more real than medicine. When the tutor talked about a director of photography deciding to shoot a scene in red to demonstrate the emotions of such and such, I rolled my eyes at the bullshit, but at least it's enjoyable bullshit. 'I'm exhausted doctor, I vomit everything I eat ... except when I eat chocolate and crisps' is not enjoyable bullshit. 'I'm not putting my 80 year old demented mother in a nursing home till she's walking better (she hasn't walked in months)' is not enjoyable bullshit. I felt a burst of dammed creativity burst and wash over my fellow bullshitters in a warm sunny glow, simply because they were not asking me about ECG changes/booking scans/discharge dates. I could have sat there for three more hours. I wished my life was sitting in a class all day listening to people talk about creating.

On the flipside, it's made me realise that perhaps I am little suited to creating myself. For one thing, if I can dam what creativity I have, if I can and do constantly subjugate it in favour of the banality and vicissitudes of a job I loathe, there can't be much of it there to dam in the first place. I'm not driven to create and I certainly don't love what I do create, which apparently is essential.

The tutor asked us all why we wrote. There were many variations on 'to express myself'. I said, "Because I read Narnia as a child and the idea of escaping into another world is beguiling." The lesson was that your first reason for writing should be for the reader. (Skater dude did not approve.) I always wrote for the reader. Granted, this was mainly in hopes that the reader would tell me I'm FUCKING AWESOME, and certainly a lot of my fics were crippled by my haste in getting them out there because of the strange and incalculable thrill of knowing someone's reading this. I suppose the real point is that I haven't written since February and I still don't know what I want to write about. On the other hand, I do have coming up on ten years experience of writing - fic, yes, but it's writing, and immersing yourself in a culture of sharing and getting feedback and casually, by osmosis, learning what not to do.

And so I come to the end. I should probably go watch a Coen brothers' thing. They look to feature heavily. Yay.
Current Mood: chipperchipper
Current Music: perfect 10 // the beautiful south
Cyndicynaga on September 29th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
Really fascinating~! Thanks for sharing that experience!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: disco ballscoradh on September 30th, 2011 06:17 pm (UTC)
No problemo.
cleodoxa: swan mazecleodoxa on September 30th, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
Wow, it seems weird that it would be so male-dominated. Especially as stuff to do with literature and language etc is usually so female-dominated. I guess with screenwriting there's more of a link to "I want to be famous" and posturing, and maybe men have more self-belief or something.

I think you second-guess yourself too much with the whole ~creative~ thing. The desire to communicate seems like it's part of your writing for the reader attitude, and that always seems more tied into lofty ideas about the purpose of creating and art etc than those people who claim that to them their story may as well be stuck in a drawer as read, they've got what they wanted. And while it's a shame you don't like your writing when it's finished, I hear a lot of authors talking about how they can't stand to look at anything they've published. The idea of writing seems to be something you keep coming back to, and your job certainly seems to make you very unhappy, so I'm not sure you're damming it that well. To be honest it seems like it would be a really good thing for you if you managed to leave medicine, so I hope you do.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: halowrites: pink heart biscuitsscoradh on September 30th, 2011 06:27 pm (UTC)
I'm planning to take a university-run creative writing course after Christmas. I expect that to be more representative, if not female-dominated. I really do think that 'Imma write a FILM, BITCHES' is more ~~manly than writing a novel. People might, gasp, ask you if it's the next Twilight. I mean, all the films we discussed in the class were examples of raging testosterone. Taxi Driver, Coen brothers' stuff, Being John Malkovich (man, I thought that was shit, whut). Not that they're not good, but you couldn't get more male-centric than if 3D balls were slapping your face.

To be honest it seems like it would be a really good thing for you if you managed to leave medicine, so I hope you do.

Oh, me too. I'm planning to grit my teeth and stick it out till the end of my scheme in two years. The plan initially was to save like a mofo, but now the government seems intent on halting overtime payment, which is where I hit paydirt. (I mean, I double my salary in overtime, but only if they pay overtime.) We'll see. Can't get far in these much-vaunted 'recessionary times' without money.
Merit: Merlin Arthurmeritjubet on September 30th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
I remember reading how for US TV/movies in the most recent, the number of women scriptwriters actually went down and it is no where near parity at the moment. It always is disappointing when they ignore that, but they the privilege to do so, you it is sadly understandable why they would. But I'm glad you had fun, it sounds like such a relief and joy compared to your job. I think many writers actually do dislike what they wrote in the past. We can be our own worth critics sometimes.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: jillicons: japanese beautyscoradh on September 30th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC)
It's not so much, sometimes, that I hate what I wrote. It's that I shared it! That people read it - especially the barely-edited ones, where there might have been a good story 1000 words in but people had and did patiently trawl through to get there.
Sereniaserenia on September 30th, 2011 04:32 am (UTC)
Writing! *sigh* It's been so long! And looking back, it's amazing how proud I was over such crap as I wrote.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Disney: Cinderellascoradh on September 30th, 2011 06:22 pm (UTC)
I was delighted with myself and the early stuff I wrote! And totally deluded, too, of course.
a kid on the lookout for transcendenceextemporally on September 30th, 2011 06:38 am (UTC)
♥ I hope it's a good experience overall! And I agree with one of the commenters - try not to second-guess yourself, esp. this early in the game.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Fashion: corset xrayscoradh on September 30th, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
lol, I doubt I'll even WRITE anything because of it. It's amazing how little of it I need to get a bit of perspective, though, away from perpetual misery and illness and balloting for industrial action yadda yadda. :D (A lot of the time I feel like one of those dudes who came back from WWII and suddenly, hippies. It's like, don't tell ME you're tired. You don't know the meaning of the word. etc.)
me: not a good daysurexit on September 30th, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
It is astonishing for me when I hit that wall of male blindness, when they just don't notice that half of the world's population don't figure in whatever they're doing.

There was a sentence in the history of Nigeria I'm reading, "everyone except the women and children" and maybe on 364 days of the year I'd just skim over that, but that particular day I was completely gobsmacked by the idea that there is a definition of 'everyone' from which women can be casually excised. Just. What?
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: jillicons: lobster bb!scoradh on September 30th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
I suppose I have spent most of my adult life in an environment where women are powerful and successful and are all still, in general, married with kids by a certain age. They fulfill both modern and traditional roles with aplomb. It's like taking a step and realising the stairs is gone to walk into a room where it's all so ... penis-centric.

OMG. I ... just. No words.
mesurexit on October 1st, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
lokifanlokifan on September 30th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC)
SO not surprised it's so male-dominated; this was very much the experience of my BFF at uni, doing scriptwriting classes.

I don't think loving what you create is necessary - or at least it's only necessary in a specific way.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on September 30th, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
Interesting! Do you know any particular reason why this is so? Is it something to do with the boys want to be superheroes, girls princesses thing that means girls write books (fairytales are usually books) and boys write films (action films are about superheroes)?

He said it was, the tutor. But what does he know? :P I mean, I love my stuff at times; just after I've written it, and months or years later when I read a snippet at random. Otherwise, no.
lokifanlokifan on September 30th, 2011 07:02 pm (UTC)
I don't. There's the weight of tradition, of course - women were a force as novellists from early on, whereas telly has always been male-dominated. But I don't know, beyond that. Girls read more, so it makes sense more of them would write novels, but I haven't seen research suggesting boys watch more telly/films. I am completely bemused by it.
JRevalangui on October 1st, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
On the flipside, it's made me realise that perhaps I am little suited to creating myself. For one thing, if I can dam what creativity I have, if I can and do constantly subjugate it in favour of the banality and vicissitudes of a job I loathe, there can't be much of it there to dam in the first place. I'm not driven to create and I certainly don't love what I do create, which apparently is essential.

So all those people suppresing their homosexuality are just not gay enough? XD. I think this a fallacious argument. Creativity needs to be fed and nurtured just like anything else. When you start writing you surely feel like writing more, when you start exercising you get into that after a while, too. To quote Picaso: Inspiration ought to catch you working. I'm not very good at writing consistently, tbh, I think I draw more often than I write but I don't think that's reason enough to give it up completely. Unless you really are only doing it for the readers, but your first answer made more sense to me, escaping into another world is exactly what I want from books, the ones I read and the ones I write.

You could find yourself a all female writing group?

It was interesting to read (also, journal writing is also writing!)