Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Over Analysis

You’ve done the research. Attended the seminars. Read the books, browsed the blogs and skipped through the scripts. You know the theory. You know the practice. But still the doubts: is it good enough? Is it derivative? Does my structure work as well as it should? Have I applied the advice as dictated by gurus and books across the world?


There’s a danger of knowing too much which feeds the insecurity of knowing too little. It’s the stop/start process of creativity because the self-aware knowledge of what the script needs to be, as opposed to what it’s supposed to be - or what you hope it is - stymies your confidence and conviction about whether to get it out there or not. It’s over analysing the style and content of your work based on what the perceived rules and regulations are of screenplay writing. As a research and learning tool, there is no better resource than the gurus, books, seminars and dedicated blogs (see links) but there comes a time to stop all that, put it down, turn it off and just get on with your own particular brand of storytelling.

A top executive of an American TV network once said that television was advertising interrupted by programmes. In the same manner, procrastination is an enjoyable past-time interrupted by writing. Most of us would prefer it the other way around of course but it seems that whatever drives our desire to create is equalled by a subconscious wish to avoid failure. No-one likes to fail, no-one likes to make a fool of themselves and it is this base inclination that causes us to distract ourselves when we deliberately sit down to express something significant about ourselves and the world. And to make ourselves feel vindicated about our choice of procrastination, we sometimes choose to over-analyse our work and convince ourselves that more time, not less, is needed to pursue the answers and knowledge that hold the key to success.

You already know the answers and the knowledge is at your fingertips. The trick is to believe in it, to trust in it and give into your work completely. It’s when knowledge, experience and instinct combine to create your own original voice. “Gee, there’s no inciting incident until page 18 but you know what, there’s no other place where it can go and it creates a dynamic pace and turnaround before I get to the end of act one on page 42”. Who’s to say that this isn’t so? Sure, script readers and execs may disagree but the quality of the writing and what it has to say will ring true if you know, in your heart of hearts, that it can’t possibly be any better. That it’s the best it can be. And it’s the best that you can be. You know it. So stop reading the blog and do some writing.


Scott the Reader said...

I could care less where the inciting incident is. I just want to read a good story with interesting characters.

Danny Stack said...

My thoughts exactly.

Chris Parr (ukscriptwriter) said...

I think you've hit it right on the head there.

I've hung around places like misc.writing.screenplays for ages, as well as forums, and now blogs (even writing one myself). I'm pretty sure I know all the things to do and not to do as far as structure and format go (spec script wise). I cringe when I see everything I have been taught not to do right there in black and white when I read a script I have downloaded from Zoetrope.

But hang on a minute! I'm reading complete scripts with rubbish in them. I have quite a few perfectly written but stalled incomplete scripts. I guess the message there is "Forget what it looks like, just write it and worry about the other stuff later".

Perhaps I have over-educated myself and the desire to get it perfect is what stalls my efforts.

A lesson for everyone there I think :)

Anonymous said...

beautiful, my sentiments exactly (although I recently came to the same conclusion.) I overanalyze, correct and re-do my own writing but what for? I already know it is better than 75% of what is floating around (if I was an egomaniac that figure would be pushing closer to 90%), and I now know the script doesn't have to be perfect. Well, it does but the definition of perfect isn't what I originally envisioned. I read a lot of scripts and most of them are flawed to me... but they were made into films, so I am judging them incorrectly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.