Gotham Writers’ Workshop

Let me clear my throat

I’m taking a fantastic writing course at Gotham Writer’s Workshop. I’ve hesitated about signing up for an extensive course because it’s really expensive and I already get a lot of feedback from my writer’s group. However, I’ve been stuck at the same level of writing for a few years (producing lots of first drafts but never being able to finish a completed second draft),  and putting some money towards my craft seems to have reinvigorated my passion for writing.

One of the pieces of advice our teacher gave us was so perfect: “So much of writing is just clearing your throat.” Sometimes you have to write and write until you realize what your writing about. And then comes the hard part…Erase it all.

For the story I’m working on now, I’ve written over 300 pages, but only 40 pages are usable. Everything else was just me thinking out loud (or on the page, actually). As hard as it may seem it’s necessary to assess what is the story, and what is the throat clearing, and then get rid of the throat clearing. No one wants to read a tissue filled with mucus.

I do not view the hours I spent writing the 260 unusable pages as time wasted.  Ray Bradbury once said that every writer has a million bad words in them. The sooner you get through them, the sooner you’ll get to the words worth sharing. I feel like I’m finally depleting my reserve of bad words!

Success Is in Your Hands

I spent all of Saturday indoors taking an intensive screenwriters course with  Gotham’s Writers’ Workshop. Besides for the great advice on style and form, the teacher, Doug Katz, had a great tip: Don’t let the measure of your success fall into other people’s hands.

He asked us how would we know if we have a successful screenplay. Everyone started to call out their answers:

People will you pay you a lot of money for it.

An A-list actor will want to be in it.

You’ll win an Oscar.

He shook his head at all of these responses. “You can’t control how much money you’re going to make, or who’s going to want to be in your movie, or if someone gives it an Oscar,” he said. “You can have the greatest script of all time, but you might not meet any of those measures of success. All you can control is if you’re a good writer and you continue to get better. So why not make that your measure of success?”

So much of what we think of success is wrapped in other people’s opinions of us. I see this every day on the subway with women carrying around $10,000 purses. They’re hoping that the label on the purse will make everyone think that they are successful, but they don’t know what I’m thinking. I could be thinking it’s a knock-off, or I might not even notice the label. I could be noticing some toilet paper stuck to her shoe instead. Try as you may, you can’t control what people think of you, so if you want to be successful do the work that makes you feel successful.

p.s. I highly recommend Gotham Writers’ Workshop.