Collaboration II

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On my last blogpost I wrote about my collaboration with scriptwriter Gerry de Hoogh. I had asked her to send me her own thoughts about collaboration in general and ours in particular. For her, co-writing can work – and be inspiring, and result in better stories – if two conditions are met: that the writers respect and trust each other and that they place the story above their ego.

Writing means putting yourself in a vulnerable position. You risk doubt, despair, rejection, not because your geniality may be misunderstood for rubbish, but because your rubbish may pass exactly for what it is, in other people’s eyes and in your own’s. Writing in going one step forward and two steps back, as Gerry puts it, and you must be willing to share all those setbacks with your partner. You must be willing to get naked in front of your partner, and cherish his or her own nakedness too.

Story must come first, and egos are best left at home. My idea, your idea – what matters is what is best for the story. It can be hard to let go of an idea you have fallen in love with. Gerry recalls insisting that the cause of death of a certain character be a strike of lightening. I disagreed, but allowed her to have her way – it was a detail, it felt like a waste of time to fight over it. But now she wants the cause of death to be an ordinary disease, having realized that this serves our theme better (at last! J). I am, too, guilty of slowing us down by bringing up the same idea over and over – this magnificent scene of our main character erring in town along with the cow he had just rescued from the slaughterhouse. I remember how Gerry started our skype conversation right after I included this scene in the treatment once again – (stern voice) “I think we have a problem”. Looking back, I also identify moments in which one of us did point in the right direction but allowed the idea to be discarded just so that we could both get there, or somewhere else, when the time was ripe. Again, as I stated below: in co-writing you may lose some sparks but you gain solidity.

In the particular case of our tandem, Gerry defines herself as more “mainstream” and me as more “arthouse”. I guess I agree: I did contribute the most original ideas, and also the most dead-ends and nonsense. Gerry kept us and the story down to earth. Our complementary skills and drives are an asset in our working relationship.

Collaboration

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I have written a 12-page treatment for a mystery thriller, together with my co-writer Gerry de Hoogh. The project is now on hold – the producer is sending it out to potential directors. I am happy to be standing at this crossroad right now, waiting to see how it unfolds, feeling confident about the future and grateful for the chance I have had. This was my first serious experience of collaboration. I have been wanting to dissect it for a while, in order to gain some insight about myself as a writer.

When we started working on “The Farm “, now renamed “The Souls”, less than a year ago, I had no expectations whatsoever. I longed for a “click” between us, but I was happy enough to be working with a partner instead of exclusively alone. I had experienced the “click” a long time ago, with a television editor in Portugal, when I was a beginning journalist. In the editing room, hours would go by like we were surfing them, effortlessly; I was never disappointed, always fulfilled. We were editing minor little clips, and still these grand metaphors fully apply (nostalgia may be playing a role here, though). Anyway: I didn’t experience this often afterwards, and cannot really pinpoint what was it that made it be that way. I understood that in making things work and doing your work, you cannot count on this kind of relationship; you must develop the skills that allow you to communicate and negotiate in an effective way, instead of blaming dissatisfaction on the “lack of chemistry”, like if human enterprise was based on pheromones.

My experience of collaboration with Gerry certainly was no love affair. It was more like mature relationships are supposed to be: based on pragmatism, realistic expectations, listening to one another, reacting thoughtfully, making compromises, giving encouragement and recognition, discussing and agreeing on methodology. (I only wish I could do just as well in my marriage J) Sounds all very wise and reasonable, but can you actually be creative – have that burst, find that breach – in this kind of setting? Indeed, apart from a few moments while when talking to one another something unexpected would pop up, most of the creative matter, the raw material, came to us when we were alone. I, for one, have to say that I have rarely felt so “inspired”, so blessed with ideas, than when working on my on on this project. The gist of our work together was about weighing and fitting together those findings.

As it turned out, I contributed more ideas about plot developments than Gerry. Gerry would be there questioning those ideas, assessing them according to theme, genre and audience. Sometimes this would infuriate me: in my point of view, we had to allow ourselves a maximum of freedom in those early stages of story design, to ensure surprise and originality. If you want your soufflé to rise, do not open the oven door to see if it is rising! I had the impression we were often interrupting the rise of our story by measuring it to see if it fitted this or that canon of scriptwriting. But I came to realize that my stance for freedom was sometimes a way to hide behind the story, not wanting to take the risk of, in the process of classification that Gerry so insisted on, realizing that I actually didn’t know what the story was all about. I do have a tendency to get lost in complexity and, in shame, not wanting to be rescued.

Gerry lives in Rotterdam and I live in Amsterdam. The cities are only one hour away by train, but to save time and money we did a lot of meetings via skype. In the office where I work there is a large closet that has been turned into a sort of phone booth. If you make a call, you’re supposed to step in there in order not to disturb the others. I spent many hours in that closet, and have now a special fondness for its dim light and cardboard smell. So many heated – always cordial – discussions happened in there. With constant negotiation, some freshness was lost, some spark, but a lot of clarity and solidity gained.

Besides her prudence, her pragmatism, her thoroughness, her relentlessness, there are two things about Gerry I particularly appreciate: her entrepreneurial spirit and her loyalty. This is not just about writing a story together – it’s an enterprise, it’s a socio-economic endeavor. Like most of us, she’s not comfortable calling producers that she never met – but she does it. She developed this smart strategy of calling them between 9 and 9:30 in the morning, when they’re not into the day yet, attending to their ongoing projects and answering other phone calls. They have time to talk, they are fresh, and so is she. She had our project read by 4 producers in less than 4 weeks. The phone call thing is just an example of this spirit, this not allowing yourself not to do what has to be done.

I call “loyalty” to the comforting, nurturing feeling I get from the fact that she keeps constant contact, is interested in all the spheres of my life and goes out of her way to help me or encourage me or whatever I need. This attention and care (like in mature couples, again) really give substance to our working relationship. I hope I am honoring what I am receiving, and that our project’s developments allow us to pursue our collaboration – even if divorce ensues, one never knows, I will always say it was more than worth it.

Gerry promised to send me her thoughts on our collaboration, so – more on this subject soon.

The fumbling screenwriter

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Here’s a blogpost to overturn my last (sad) blogpost. I have listened to a lecture by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovitch, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation…) and found it extremely uplifting. I strongly recommend it. Here’s how he starts up:

I’ve never delivered a speech before, which is why I decided to do this tonight. I wanted to do something that I don’t know how to do, and offer you the experience of watching someone fumble, because I think maybe that’s what art should offer. An opportunity to recognize our common humanity and vulnerability.

Not long ago, I sang at an amateur night. Every other Friday at the Cantina Vocaal, in Amsterdam, you can show up with your music sheet and give it to the house pianist, who will decipher and play it on the go, while you sing in front of an audience composed mainly of amateurs like you. Some singers are quite good, most are pretty bad. You can live your dream of singing in front of an audience without being made fun of like they do in the playoffs of those singing shows on TV. And while sitting in the audience waiting for your turn, you get to see all those amateurs nervously go stand by the piano and sing.

Here’s how this connect to Charlie Kaufman’s lecture. Those performances were truly moving. Being out of tune as you sing My Funny Valentine and swing your arm in the air like a jazz diva might – that is beautiful. Sitting in the audience, those of us who can go beyond laughing or looking away from the cringing situation, are rewarded with a glimpse of “our common humanity and vulnerability”, like Kaufman puts it. Professionals offer their hard-earned skills; amateurs offer themselves. As I go back to that night and remember those fragile performances, my own nervousness and my daring, I feel great warmth; I am warm with the memory of something precious, experienced within myself in communion with others.

The opposite of this is something like, say, the Superbowl half-time show. This year there was Katy Perry on a mechanical lion, followed by armies of dancers and hectares of screens. You may admire the monument of logistics and craftsmanship that such a show is. But you may also feel buried in clock-work efficient, state of the art, million-dollar worth, clutter.

Kaufman talks about this in his lecture – the danger of craft. I do not mean to say that only innocent, amateurish, out-of-the-market things can move me or fulfill the “mission” of art – allowing us to meet one another in our nakedness, Kaufman might say. But yes, craft in itself fails to impress me and, more importantly – because I am not here to say how you should be impressed – I have found in this idea of the irrelevance of craft a path to pursue my own work. I will accept to fumble; I will put myself in the position to fumble. I will not sell my skills – I will offer myself.

Crisis of faith

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Watching a film is sometimes a frustrating, disappointing experience. I guess there are frustrating, disappointing films. When I watch something like “Mimic” – Mira Sorvino vs. mutant cockroaches – I am not disappointed. Good B-movies are still a pleasure to watch, a silly pleasure – no, don’t go in there, why are you going in there alone?! Eradicating mutant cockroaches is a great endeavour, and Mira Sorvino is pretty and sometimes wears a negligee. It’s Friday night and we are switching off for a while; fondling the child in us that likes monster stories. But there are other films – masterly done films, cream of the craft – that feel totally pointless, in a different way that Mimic is pointless. I feel used, tottered around, and finally left alone with my emptiness. I felt like this after “Grand Budapest Hotel”. And more so after “Tamara Drew” last night.

These experiences deepen my ongoing crisis of faith. Faith in screen stories, I mean. I sometimes picture the torrents of episodes in the endless supply of series and movies and screen fiction being offered today. I picture the millions of people sitting in front of a screen right now. Why do we create and consume all of this? I recall my own experience of emptiness after watching perfectly respectable films. I rarely feel that way with a book. Sometimes I am dissatisfied, and put it down after some pages. But a film uses its formidable user-friendliness and my inertia to plunge into my heart and sadden it with its pyrotechnical void.

The world seems to be thirsty and thirstier for screen stories. I do not want to moralize; let the world be. I just wonder what that means about human nature. Some posts below I was proclaiming the centrality of stories in human existence; of course I cannot invalidate this, but all stories are not the same. Some are revelation, transformation; some are just noise. And their nature isn’t within; it depends on the reader/spectator, of course. And some of us just enjoy the noise; probably, all of us enjoy the noise. We are looking for meaning and, given its scarcity, are happy to find noise instead of nothing. Maybe we are happy that the noise muffles the roaring nothing. We are more pointless than the most pointless of films. Which takes me to some lines by Blaise Pascal, whose Pensées are bright with lucidity about mankind:

Man is obviously made to think. It is his whole dignity and his whole merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought. Now, the order of thought is to begin with self, and with its Author and its end.

Now, of what does the world think? Never of this, but of dancing, playing the lute, singing, making verses, running at the ring, etc., fighting, making oneself king, without thinking what it is to be a king and what to be a man. (…)

Thus passes away all man’s life. Men seek rest in a struggle against difficulties; and when they have conquered these, rest becomes insufferable. For we think either of the misfortunes we have or of those which threaten us. And even if we should see ourselves sufficiently sheltered on all sides, weariness of its own accord would not fail to arise from the depths of the heart wherein it has its natural roots, and to fill the mind with its poison.

Thus so wretched is man that he would weary even without any cause for weariness from the peculiar state of his disposition; and so frivolous is he, that, though full of a thousand reasons for weariness, the least thing, such as playing billiards or hitting a ball, is sufficient to amuse him.

For the wealthy, secure societies that we are, weariness is a danger, and Netflix the solution. Ok, I admit it sounds like I am moralizing. Pascal would probably say that we should be praying instead of seeking diversion. I have nothing to advocate for. I just recognize myself in Pascal’s description: a sheltered Westerner feeling restless, looking for purpose and often settling for oblivion.

The fact that a lot of screen fiction feels vain or pointless to me doesn’t mean I have to give it up entirely. There are many films that really go there, deep into our splendid human mess. Haneke, Seidl (both Austrians like a certain someone I share my life with). But – I am a scriptwriter. Am I capable of something like that? Is that really what I want to do? Creating a good story – not necessarily one that scraps humanity’s bottom – sounds good enough; but then what do you get? Just another movie. Do I care for another movie? Sure, why not? And here we are, as cold as yesterday’s mashed potatoes (we should be like a couple of hot tomatoes, Ella Fitzgerald sings).

Of course, writing a story is a big personal adventure. I am glad and grateful I had the chance to write a few. Writing is hard, it requires perseverance and resilience. Writing is meaningful in itself. But sometimes the futility of it all just strikes me: here I am, struggling to compose a story, living a personal adventure, and then this film never gets made, or it does but it’s just another film. I am engaging with nobody but myself. I am alone, and nobody cares. (*sniff*)

I guess the conclusion is (and I have known this for a while): writing films is not enough and is not necessarily forever; watching films must become a frugal and intentional practice. I must find a way to engage with people and nature in a more fundamental way.

Development hell

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From Wikipedia: “In media industry jargon, development hell (or development limbo) is a state during which a film or other project remains in development without progressing to production. A film, video game, television program, screenplay, computer program, concept, or idea stranded in development hell takes an especially long time to start production, or never does. Projects in development hell are not officially cancelled, but work on them slows or stops.”

One of my projects is in development hell, and so am I. Unfortunately, I cannot blame the death of my main star, or the landing on the moon (both happened to Orson Welles, whose projects often went to, and stayed in, development hell) for my fate. My story is failing to convince, well, my producer first of all, and, more importantly, me. I have been toiling at it for so long that I cannot look at it anymore. The flame is gone. I just see letters on a piece of paper. When I think of showing it to other producers, I feel like a vile vendor of subprime mortgages.

So: I decided to give it a rest. Maybe in some time – weeks, months – I will gather the energy to go back to it, and if I can find that flame again, I will start knocking on doors. But I may let the project die. I guess I have learned that, no matter how reasonable and professional you may be – embracing rewrites, incorporating feedback, working the matter of your story – a story needs that bit of energy, that one percent of inspiration, the flame. And the more time passes between your first spark and the final outcome, the bigger the danger of losing it. Insisting on a story when that element of faith isn’t there anymore… is useless. I think. Just move on to something else.

Which is what I am doing.

The importance of having an office

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Until recently, I worked at home. Sometimes I would go to the café and sit there for a couple of hours; it was always a welcome change of scenery, and I would soak in all the babble, the high-pitch sound of the grinding machine, and feel refreshed. Then I would start getting chilly, stare repeatedly at the door left open, and rumble pointlessly about energy waste and lack of consideration towards guests. Back home it was always nice and warm, and I could write in my slippers, and put a load in the washing machine… Of course all that silence, or worse, the sound of husband closing blinds in the other room, wouldn’t fail to wear me down.

Now I work in a studio with a bunch of other freelancers. Looking for a co-work space was the advice of a friend o f mine, to whom I had mentioned my feelings of isolation, my longing for a job that would imply an office, colleagues, superiors, meetings, production goals. At first, I thought it was a luxury I could not afford; with my meager screenwriting credits, I also felt I didn’t deserve it. But I am getting better and better at fighting these impulses of worthlessness; having had the chance of coming across a nice, inexpensive working place, I decided to go ahead.

I have been working here for a month now, and it feels GREAT. After taking my child to school, I come here. Not slipping back into my slippers has more than a symbolic power on the course of my day. The choice of shoes, and wardrobe, actually matters now, because I am going to be seen by my cool, peppy co-workers (who, being Dutch, are also formidably handsome and tall). I enjoy using the communal toilets; not having to contemplate my toothpaste and the crumpled shower carpet, is awesome.

People come and go at different times of the day. They are filmmakers, journalists, designers, actors. Sometimes they talk, or make a phone call, but most of the time all you hear is the sound of computer keys being pressed. Sometimes someone makes coffee and offers to prepare one for you too; and at lunch time, everyone sits at the communal table and takes a real break. While smearing something on your slice of bread (the Dutch way), you hear about the festival last weekend, the new dating app, someone’s current project. I treasure these moments, although I can follow only about 30% of the conversation. I don’t enjoy the intimacy, I don’t chat away, but I have a fresh delivery of input, and as I try to keep up using my scanty knowledge of Dutch, I experience frustration but, mainly, challenge.

There’s also a sense of belonging; I am hardly acquainted with the people, but the act of repeatedly sitting there, and sharing the same space and routines with those others, is enough. There’s a sense of possibility: maybe collaborations can arise. And there’s a grain of competition that can only be good for me: all those posters and awards and entrepreneurial attitude shove me forward.

Writing in a shared office may not work for everyone, but it certainly seems to be working for me. Being a scriptwriter is of course about the writing itself, but it is also about being a professional, engaged in a community, taking input and giving output, projecting oneself in time and space through work. My office (called De Manege, hence the horses) somehow makes this more tangible.

Clap your hands, it’s love

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It is my fault, of course. I took a quick look at the available films playing in a nearby cinema and simply chose one with a conveniently scheduled screening. The title rang a bell – wasn’t that the film that had been partially shot in Amsterdam, where I now live? Plus it had great ratings on imdb. I hopped happily along to watch “The Fault in Our Stars”, by director Josh Boone.

I shouldn’t have gone to the movies to see a Hollywood-concocted romantic comedy for teenagers. Truth be said, like the Guardian reviewer Peter Bradshaw puts it, “you have to concede the laser-guided accuracy and psychotic vehemence with which it goes for the tear duct. It’s like being mugged by a professional whose skills in mixed martial arts you can’t help but notice and appreciate, even as you are savagely beaten, then dragged upright, bruised and bleeding, and forced to watch as your assailant gives fully 45% of your money to charity”. So I am not going to start a rant about the phoniness of the film. Because I should have known better, and also because I became immensely indulgent towards bad stories since I started writing my own and discovered how hard it is to achieve worth.

What I want to talk about is Hollywood’s idea of a romantic relationship. The way “The Fault in Our Stars” portraits love feels so fake, so outright absurd, that I felt embarrassed throughout the film, averting my eyes as if to spare the characters of my witnessing the appalling things the storytellers had had them do and say. Take this scene: the two youths, (both struck by cancer at a very young age), visit the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. Touched by the tragic story of the Jewish girl, they kiss there for the first time. Random tourists notice their tender embrace and appreciatively start clapping hands.

The first kiss. Has to be meaningful. Very meaningful. Against a background of pure meaningfulness, like the one conveyed by Anne Frank. Has to be special. Has to be sanctioned by eye-witnesses, its powerful, inspiring quality confirmed through applause. This scene may be extreme, but it is hardly one of a kind in Hollywood cinema. We have all watched enough public love declarations and marriage proposals. We have all encountered that idea of a “pure love”, the one that just happens, often against exterior obstacles (cancer in this case) but perfect and all-powerful otherwise.

This article briefly describes some research about Hollywood models of romantic relationships and their impact on real couples. The idea of love as epiphany, as a magical, effortless connection between two souls that many Hollywood films (and telenovelas, and other kinds of sugar-coated dishonesties) convey may be creating unrealistic expectations as people engage in a relationship. I am now thinking of a great scene in “Don Jon” (by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), in which the character played by Scarlett Johansson is in ecstasy before a number of romantic comedies that convey and idea of love that is as fake as the one in the porn films the protagonist is addicted to). She was looking for a Hollywood-kind of feeling, he was looking for a porn-kind of feeling, both drowning in their own pool of media culture. I do not want to point my finger at the media, destroyers of diversity with their mainstream laser guns. Fairy-tales and cum-shots, please proceed. It’s not (only) your fault, I guess.

In the end, what strikes me, and what I take for myself as a lesson from this viewing experience, is the way the storytellers just bent the world in order to convey their idea of love. This I cannot endorse; this is real danger to be averted. In what world do passers-by clap when they see a random couple kiss? In what world do waiters in a restaurant exchange kind, approving smiles over random clients? It is forbidden to change the rules of the story world (in this case, a fairly realistic one) to serve the purpose of you vision. This is the real cause of phoniness. I would be willing to believe in clapping witnesses of pure love – if that would be happening on planet Lollypop.

Trial and error

Judith Beheading Holofernes

A few weeks ago, I read a beautiful novel by Marguerite Yourcenar called “Un homme obscur”. A short passage in it made me think of my own experience as a scriptwriter. The book details the life and death of Nathanaël, a simple man of humble education, whose clarity of mind is profoundly moving. At a certain point in the story, which takes place in the 18th century, Nathanaël is working as a servant in the house of a rich man. He witnesses the meetings of the rich man and his friends, who regularly talk about art. Here’s a tentative translation of the paragraph in question:

“The man, who claimed to be an art expert, was in awe before the diagonal drawing of Judith and the subtle proportions between characters and columns in Tite. But it seemed to Nathanaël that these refined commendations did not take into account the humble task of the artisan, busy with his scrubs and brushes, pigments and oils. In their toiling, those men must have taken unexpected paths; they must have made mistakes and turned them into boons. That always happens. Those rich amateurs tended to simplify or complicate everything.”

I have heard enough authors (including mega-titans like Philip Roth) talk about the difficulties and frustrations of writing to know that, even if I sometimes feel excruciatingly unfit for the job, writing is just plain hard – however talented you may be. When seeing a finished film, it is tempting to speak about proportions and diagonals, to discern and discuss the intentions of the author. It is, in fact, the best thing that can happen to your work – other people seeing clear lines and shapes, and perhaps admiring you for so brilliantly having created them. But the actual making of the thing is mainly trial and error.

From Wikipedia: Trial and error is a fundamental method of solving problems. It is characterised by repeated, varied attempts which are continued until success, or until the agent stops trying. It is an unsystematic method which does not employ insight, theory or organised methodology.

You may object that there are, of course, truckloads of available theory and methodology that can be used to produce a screenplay. And that a writer must have some grip on what he actually wants to say. I cannot but comply. That founding quest(ion) that takes you to writing, all the existing science of screenwriting, are fundamental. Another fundamental thing is having exterior eyes, kind readers that provide feedback on the stuff you’ve been cooking. But all of this, I would argue, just narrows the field of your own trial and error. You don’t know what you are doing until you do it. The amount of failure required to produce success is overwhelming.

Failed. Try again.

Failed. Try again.

Failed. Try again.

Failed. Try again.

Did it. Do it better.

Is better. Do it even better.

Oh. I thought it was good but it isn’t.

Failed. Try again.

Failed. Try again.

So:

Read the books. Search inside yourself. Have companions. And most importantly: be persistent. You will fail. You will almost always fail.

Cliché

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I recently received a set of comments about my ongoing script by a scriptwriter friend who took the time to read and think about the project (and to whom I will be forever grateful). I got a lot of insights and suggestions, and an alarm bell about an inconsistent character, but I will not be talking about those. This post is about clichés. My friend detected three of them in my script. Here are the situations he flagged:

1) A character dials a number on the phone. Hello? – we hear from the other side. No answer. Then: Mathilde, is that you?

2) A character secretly takes and collects pictures of three characters she is fascinated about.

3) A group of characters makes a mess, disturbing the neighbors at night. The neighbors knock on their door. One of them is wearing a robe.

He is right. Let’s take number one. We have seen it before. It is a way to introduce a fuzzy past, a problem that has been kept under the rug and that shall be addressed later. In The idiots (Lars von Trier) the woman who joins the group of anarchists/fools does exactly that. It is an easy set-up. It signals to the audience that there is something sketchy about X that will be revealed at some point.

Number two. Taking and collecting pictures. Easy way of showing that someone is interested in something.

Number three. Man with robe. Nobody wears robes these days.

We must carefully watch out for this kind of trap. When we are writing a story, immersed in that struggle of visualizing a situation, building it up, conveying meaning, a cliché may inadvertently be allowed in. We may not notice it as writers, but the audience will not fail to roll their eyes, like I did the other day when I saw some character played by Clint Eastwood talk to his dead wife while drinking a beer next to her tomb (bad, bad movie they served on that flight).

According to Robert McKee in his classic Story, “the source of all clichés can be traced to one thing and one thing only: the writer doesn’t know the world of his story”. It is a question of depth; when we cannot dig deep enough in our resources, we come up with shallow images that fell from screens and pages and litter our ground. We are not creating, which is the same as telling the truth; we are being lazy, going for the quick-fix, which is cheating.

McKee recommends research – through memory, imagination and fact – to avoid resorting to the media conventions that we consume by the thousands. It’s crucial. And once the writing is done, do ask a friend to spot these bugs. Don’t let an old slice of pizza find its way into your fresh, crispy meal.

Play, though

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If a first draft was made of play-doh, this is what it would look like.

This photo is actually of one of my son’s play-doh creations. It is a railway network. He is very fond of trains and all train-related matters. We sit down at the table and he asks me to mold long strings of dough. Being the engineer, he assembles them. The thing is, he cares mainly for junctions. So the result is this soup of tender rails that go nowhere. Switches, turnouts and points but no clear way, no destination.

We adults know that this doesn’t even vaguely resemble a railroad. But when we set out to write a story, we often produce the same child-like mess. If we are humble enough, we will see it as a mess and not as a fabulous piece of art that dim-witted readers don’t understand. And if we are persistent enough, we can set it right. It really is like play-doh, this thing in our heads that wants to become a story. We must patiently mold it, again and again. Play, like children play, when play is work, discovery, understanding.

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