I took a creative writing seminar in college. Only one, actually. I don't know why I didn't take more creative writing courses, but I didn't. I stuck to my liberal arts requirements and anything in my communication major. I really should've branched out more. Regardless, in this seminar, we all wrote different stories and read each others' and gave each other notes we were probably still too young and inexperienced to give, but it was a good experience. I wasn't used to other people reading my stuff, so that was new and no one in the class had ever even seen a screenplay, so the cheap, pointless script I turned in was a new experience for them too.
I don't remember much about the class, probably because it wasn't too hard or too easy, but there are a few things that stand out in my mind. The first is that script. I remember thinking, as I wrote it, that it was bad. Really bad. I don't think that all the time with my scripts. Most of the time, I'm pretty okay with what I'm about to write. I just knew this one was lousy though.
I'm afraid to open the PDF of it I have sitting in my documents folder. No one wants to know for certain they're a hack. I'd rather have the vague idea that I could be than the sharp realization that I am. We'll leave that closed for now.
The other thing I remember is this simple formula:
__________ is a _________ year old ___________ who wants or fears _____________.
If you're trying to create a character, especially the lead character who drives the whole story, fill in the blanks and you'll be a lot of the way there then season to taste. For example, almost every story I've ever written could be boiled down to ________ is a 25 year old guy not settled on a career who wants to get the girl. Hmm. I wonder what that's about.
The problem with my life, the reason I feel such discontent so often, is that I forget to fill in my own blanks. I know the name and age and I have an idea about the career/characteristic blank, but what do I ever want or fear? I've insulated myself in this house I rent alone and it keeps me safe and it keeps the world out if I want it to. I don't take the time to want or fear anything because I don't have to. I've got enough DVDs to last me the whole winter if it came to that.
It's in these times that I don't want anything, that I'm not actively overcoming obstacles to get something that I want, that I come face to face with just how unhappy I can be. It's pretty unhappy. A purposeless life feels exactly like what it is.
Let's start living a purpose. Let's be the protagonists in our own stories. Let's find things to want and go after them. It can't be any worse than what we're doing now.
And even a bad purpose is better than no purpose at all. We might need a few bad ones before we can get to the ones that actually make good stories. If you want, more than anything, to hold hands with a lot of pretty women, try it. Talk to girls you otherwise wouldn't. Ask them hard questions like "Would you like to go out on a date?" or "Can I hold your hand?" Perhaps you'll find a better, nobler purpose in your pursuits. The point is to pursue. Everyone knows it's a part of our psychology to be chasing something.
Let's become people who know what we want. Let's become people who know where we're headed, if only to keep us from the insanity that directionlessness forces upon us. You don't ever get anywhere if you're headed nowhere. Let's chase and train and love and bleed and feel and cry and overcome and be overwhelmed and conquer and crumble and fall apart and glue ourselves back together and be broken and whole all at once because we want something and anything worth getting is going to be hard.