Wednesday, January 25, 2012
WHEN TO SAY WHEN...
First, let me make one thing clear. What I’m about to say in no way applies to me. Everything I’ve ever written (this post included) is gold. Pure gold. I’ve never wasted a single word and, because of that, am actually dictating this post to my assistant while lounging in my penthouse’s hot tub half-crocked on Veuve…
But (and this is for everyone else, mind you … not me), I’ve been wondering at what point writers know to let a project go. We all (…I mean, you all) have the drawer or the binder or … um, the seldom-emptied waste basket filled with the papers covered with the words we used to love, only no longer do. We all (…okay, only for the sake of ease here, when I say “we” from now on, it’ll seem like I mean “we,” but actually I mean “you” - “we” means “you,” go it?) have the play that we couldn’t figure out – the one that has had several readings, but just never made it over the hump and really grabbed the right people’s attention – the one that we’ve revised and re-written and reconceived and regurgitated but we never got it to “Wow.”
“Wow,” of course, is what gets people who aren’t you behind a particular piece of writing. We all know “Wow.” It’s what we feel. It’s why we bother. But, for something to have a life beyond ourselves, someone else (usually several people and usually the right several people) need to get “Wow” too. And some of us grind and grind away on the same script (because it did take a good deal of time, thought and concern … and we’re not exactly dripping with leisure time, are we? Since [what we often view as] the bulk of the work is done … this draft is done … this second, third or seventeenth revision of this draft is done … we might as well stick with it, right?). And some of us drop it and immediately pick up Shiny New Idea and get to work on that.
But what is that thought when the switch flips from “project in-process” to “yeah, not gonna be working on that again”? Is it a realization of some fundamental flaw in the piece (i.e. is it a learning moment?)? Is it a feeling of resignation that the piece has made it’s rounds without anything significant happening to it (i.e. the recognition that people don’t want to keep seeing your same piece over and over again)? Is it boredom (i.e. “I can’t think about these characters anymore!”)?
Of course, it’s these things – and many other things. There is no good conqueror who doesn’t leave a trail of dead bodies in his/her wake (… okay, no good conqueror that I know of).
I guess, for me (which means “me”), I keep projects going so long as there is interest – or some spark that still keeps the process fresh and alive for me. I have no interest in riding the same script through the development process for years and years. There is a point (again, for me) where the script feels dead – where I’ve killed it with my work on it. And, maybe it will live again one fine day. But, for that time, the best thing to do is cut the cord.
- Robert Attenweiler