Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


The flipside of confidence is that every draft has at its heart a question mark. Even with the ego it takes, what you want is the response "I'm with you." And if not that, "I'm with you except where the king spills his chili. If it were Saltines, then -" and it's like a lightbulb. Of course! Saltines!

What's hard is the burning red-faced shame at having thought and then written "chili" at first. The urge to always remember it as "Saltines" from the first draft. Years later, remembering how well the King spilling his Saltines scene reads, why can't you write that way anymore? "Well, of course, the Saltines came from deep in my psyche, a childhood moment of desperation and melancholy brought to the surface by--" when No it didn't.

So here's the vulnerable moment: I'm writing "chili" right now and I'm doing it underlined because I have to believe. When in fact there's a question mark because I'm not sure yet.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


A teacher once told me, of developing storylines, "You dance with the girl you brought to the party." If you start with a romantic comedy, and you've established that you're working that particular room, if you suddenly go Cassavetes in the last 20 minutes, it might feel right to you. But maybe only to you.

But I am now thinking of books and movies where a sudden breaking of the rules is liberating. Perhaps what they all have in common is boldness and declaration, so you know you're coloring outside the lines. No matter how ridiculous the landscape, if you trust the guide, the journey will be worthwhile. If you are led through the jungle and feel led then a romantic comedy with an unresolved ending might be okay.



This is what it's like: painting a house, inside and out, with the brush fastened to the tip of my nose.

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Today was about fractals (again). If you cross cut between two scenes it's human nature to anticipate a final collision. Even if there isn't one. The brain will sometimes cause a spark to leap from God to Moses's finger.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


In one image, Mr. Steve Ditko expresses it all. Thank you, Steve.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Two years ago, I lived in a small farm town near Santa Barbara. People there were highly attuned to the patterns of weather, which were always dramatic. One day in spring I was walking downtown and I looked in the sky and saw the clouds blowing from east to west. It was easy to tell east and west, as the valley ran that way. I wasn't the only person noticing. People were stopped on the sidewalk and staring. The reason is that the clouds only blow west to east. The ocean is west, the wind always blows from there. Always. I mean: every day for the last four thousand years. You could have heard a pin drop.

Beginning that moment I got a knot in my stomach that has never gone away. We had no rain, then 11 inches one night. There was a four-day-long frost that killed everything. A 400-year-old oak tree toppled over. Most of the other oaks grew a mysterious fungus that killed them. At the market, all the farmers said they no longer knew what to plant -- nothing made sense. I could feel the weather fighting with itself, blasts of hot air coming in where there should have only been cold.

I still feel this every single day. I write here about fractals and keyboards and accumulation and I am also battling with a fairly dark question. I can only not ask the question for a few hours at a time; I can't actually lay it to rest.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Floating paper boats into the ether (is that how that works?)

Taking 100 pages and deciding to insert a double line break roughly every ten pages, just for the rhythm of it. It leads to a sense of fractal geometry. I'm not smart enough to understand the ins and outs of quasi-self-similarity, but I recognize the concept of stochastic processes at work.

A month ago I was thinking about how I was intimidated by the idea that the release of information was determined by a set pattern and if you deviated from it, you'd fall off the mountainside and plunge into darkness. But: no. It's infinite. And, depending on how you think about this word, "random." The eyes are brown, the hair is blonde, because I said so. Boy meets, boy loses, boy gets because I said so. And isn't me saying so essentially random? Governing principal is psychology, storytelling, accepted practice, but aren't those just recognized divots in the snow? We are familiar with the patterns, which is why they're the footprints you can follow. But looked at geometrically, boy meets, boy loses, boy gets is just as likely as anything else.

It turns out what I thought was strength in a unified landscape was actually strenghtened by taking the puzzle pieces apart and looking at each on on its own. Micro-climates. Turning the last line of a paragraph into a cliff-hanger. Unexpected, and ending up fractal: taking a scene into smaller and smaller pieces, where every exchange of dialogue ends up having both its own weight and the cumulative weight of the scene. This is a good surprise. The bow of many small rope bridges rather than the parabola-in-growth-spurts of the jungle chasm-spanner.

I don't know if that has practical value.



I have been thinking all day long "a year ago." A year ago I sat in an after hours bar on Ludlow and Canal, drinking vodka martinis and writing "Alacriter Profer Liberaliter" in my journal. I am always going to be grateful for the fact of Halloween.

And now: perfect night for new beginnings. And terror.