I recently listened to a podcast that featured the screenwriter Randall Wallace, who was talking about writing one of his most famous screenplays, Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson.
He was speaking about having issues knowing whether his first draft of the award-winning movie was good enough to take to a second draft, or whether it was destined for the scrapheap. He reached out to one of his critique partners, Jack Bernstein. Having been the man responsible for Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Bernstein is no slouch. Wallace explained that he loves Bernstein as his writing consigliere because their genres and styles are so different, but are both big fans of each other’s work.
After listening to this chat, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky they were to have each other. Two blockbuster writing writers to bounce ideas off one another. I gotta get me one of those. But then they were already reasonably established in the industry. I had a think about other well-known writers who had collaborated with a group of creatives before they were famous, and thought of J.R.R Tolkien. At Oxford University, his clique, named “The Inklings” consisted of C.S Lewis and Charles Williams, to name a few.
It’s hard to write something terrible – or at least have the guidance for it to be dramatically improved – when you have a posse of writers like that to lean on. But I guess the key word in that little example is “Oxford” – there’s no slouches at that gaff.
Writers are flaky, and I include myself in that observation, which makes it hard to build a successful collaboration. It’s also hard to find writers who press you for work, which is why I enjoyed university so much. It had deadlines, and if you didn’t meet the deadlines, you failed. Furthermore, it’s hard to find a collaborator who resonates with your work, or at least has an honest desire to read any and everything you churn out, no matter how crap. And another point, we all have day jobs, other non-writerly lives (yuk). We ain’t got time to collaborate.
This makes writing a generally solitary job, which for some can make it more unproductive.
Do I have a point to this, or is it a rambling of huffs and puffs that are blowing my writing desires to the ground? I have no idea. But what I do know is that we are pushed by others in so many other aspects of our lives, by our spouses, our bosses, our children, heck, even by our dogs asking us to take us out on that walk usually promised them.
But writers aren’t pushed. Many of us aren’t even welcome to the party and can spend up to a lifetime trying to gain entry.
So yeah, there is a point. It’s a well done. Well done to the writers who turn up, put their bums on the seat, and type something, when there is always something else that needs doing and no one telling you to do it.