The Bag Means Your Mind

A delightful mix of insightful comments and ignorant assumptions about screenwriting... and such.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Confidence is a Fickle Bitch

While writing my latest masterpiece I would read the first five pages and think, "You can't read these first five without wanting to see more." And I would read more and marvel at how the scenes flow, and how there aren't any dead spots. I would smile at the humor rife throughout. This is my ticket. This is the script that will bring balance to the Force. It's a breath of fresh air. This is a script that will rise above the others. I was smelling myself.

And then a funny thing happened. I clicked "File" on the toolbar, then clicked "Save as...", entered "Tom's Masterpiece_Final"*, and clicked "OK". With that final click my confidence fell faster than a particle in the Large Hadron Collider. Suddenly, my masterpiece was a mediocre mess of haphazard words and misshapen phrases. It wasn't funny. My characters were transparent. I was waiting for a parade of people to point at me through a window and laugh at my incredible waste of 2 years.

The reason for this lapse of confidence? Before I feature-locked the script I was working with potential. Anything was possible. With the script finalized, I was struck with the finality of it all. There was no more potential. All my script would ever be was now sealed in for freshness. Even though I could start over from scratch and overhaul the whole thing at any time the reality is that I've made it as well as I could make it right now and if it wasn't good enough, it wasn't good enough. I'm closing this chapter for now and unless someone pays me to rewrite it, this will be it's preserved form. I will continue to polish and refine for the next month, but they won't be enough to cover any significant problems. It is what it is.

That was a month ago.

I've recently started my final polish. It's good. It's really good. It reads fast. The humor is ever-present. It's a unique take on a crowded genre. A take that I think will appeal to a lot of people. I'm genuinely proud of it. More than any script I've written to date, I believe in it. I've set lofty goals, and since I'm a rank amateur, most of those goals revolve around the upcoming contest season. That's a dangerous yardstick because the contests are so subjective. More than one script has been a Nicholl finalist and not even gotten a sniff at Austin. Not to mention that the contests are not an end. The best they will get you is a door held open just long enough for you to peer in and maybe get a name before it closes in your face.

So what's different? I think it's just ebb and flow. Sometimes you have to ride out the lows until you start to climb back up. I'm high on my script now, but what happens when I send it out to Nicholl and Austin? What happens when Nicholl thanks me for my $40 donation and wishes me luck with my non-hunting dog next year. What happens when Austin tells me to cram it and then demands a thousand dollars to go there in October so I can pretend to be something I'm not? I've got to maintain confidence in my work and push through. Someone once said to me, "If you don't believe in your work, who will?" True dat. My biggest fear is to be one of those people on American idol who objectively suck and suck hard, but have been blowing sunshine far up their own asses for so long that reality is forever rose-tinted.

I suppose I just have to trust that my critical thinking is still intact. That I can still smell a sun-baked turd especially if it's my own.

The tides of confidence will rise and fall. The true measure is having the base confidence to weather the drought.

*No, I'm not cocky enough to name my script "Tom's Masterpiece"


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