Writing with the Speed of a Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Happily, it’s been a strong writing week, even though I feel that I’m writing with the speed of a woolly bear caterpillar. I’m up to 22 pages on my script–which may not seem like a lot but is, especially when the week has overflowed with the non-writing parts of my ministry. Screenplays require very spare writing. My process goes something like this. First, I mull over the story and the scene while I’m away from my desk–usually when I take a walk, or am waiting for something. At my next writing session, I write intensely and as fast as I can. Then, before I finish that writing session, I go back and edit what I’ve written down to the fewest, hardest-working words possible. (Robert McKee compares screenwriting to writing sonnets and it’s a great comparison, although I’ve written very few poems lately.) In actuality, I probably wrote close to 35 pages, and then revised down to 22.

This morning, I further developed my outline and scene list, which will make next week’s writing a lot easier. While I am not sure I can reach my original goal to finish the rough draft of my script by the end of October, I hope to have a solid number of pages done–I’ve already scheduled in some good chunks of writing time next week.

This particular screenplay is special for me because it feels like the movie I’ve been getting ready to write since I started learning how to screenwrite. I’m not sure why that is–I have taken care great care in choosing the stories of each of my screenplays, and all of them have themes and meaning that I connect with on a deep level as a communicator for Christ. But this one feels extra-special. I suspect that it is because I have finally started to find my voice in screenwriting.

The theme of this coming Monday’s Cinema Divina evening is: “What does it take to find your voice?” We are focusing on this theme using:

* the film, The King’s Speech

* Exodus 3 & 4, which is God’s “dialogue” with Moses when Moses protested that he didn’t know how to speak to Pharoah, and

* one of my favorite quotations from Blessed John Henry Newman:

“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling. “Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away…”

The quote from Newman continues on, beautifully. (If you haven’t read it, you will want to get a copy of Newman’s works, perhaps the lovely Classic Wisdom Collection: Life’s Purpose, a small PBM edition which introduces Newman in a way completely accessible to today’s reader.

Our “voice” is inextricably linked with our personal vocation, our unique, God-given mission in the world. For writers, it is particularly compelling, if not urgent, to find our voice as writers. When I first started writing nonfiction, I wrote with a very generic, grammatically proper voice that wasn’t truly my own. Through the years, it’s developed to the point that people will describe my nonfiction style to me, or in some cases tell me that they knew I wrote something because it “sounded” like me.

Now, I’m excited to discover that my screenwriting voice seems to have developed as well. How has your voice as a writer or artist developed? Is it still developing, and if so, how?

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