Recently I was listening to a fellow writer talk about writing that is a bit foreign to me: academic papers. Foreign? No. It's actually more of a horrendous memory. What a nightmare college writing was for me. Outlining for essays was stressful and dry. I always felt like I didn't know what I was doing; as if there was a method but no one taught it to me and it made me CRAZY.
What I think never occurred to me then and is a no-brainer now is a truth test this writer reminded me of: Would anyone care about the paper you're writing? Would anyone care about the thesis, the idea?
DING DING DING DING
Had I for a minute thought about that back in 1918 when I was in college, I bet the whole experience would have relaxed me more. It would have appealed to the writer I really am. Not necessarily a people pleaser but certainly someone who wants to think what I've put on paper has captured the attention of my reader.
The "who cares" of it goes for ALL writing: Scripts, novels, poems, songs, personal essays, articles, you name it. You have to believe someone other than you would be interested. Yet if you're only asking yourself and you're the one who came up with the idea, you're not necessarily the best arbiter of the truth. Therefore...
Bounce. Blake Snyder, The Save The Cat writer who's guruism is respected by serious TV and film writers worldwide used to suggest basically pitching your idea to people on line at Starbucks. Your screenplay idea -- the secret idea that you protected within an inch of your life lest someone else got to the wizard behind the curtain before you - was about to be blurted out to a guy staring at his phone with the attention span of a hungover gnat. If you can't while in line get someone interested in your idea, if their eyes glaze over while you tell them the hook that made you take a cold shower when you thought of it, you gotta ask yourself, am I trying too hard? Is this a good egg? Maybe no one will care. And if that's the conclusion, don't panic. Realize that's valuable information.
Full disclosure, I don't think I ever pitched a screenplay or pilot idea to anyone in line anywhere. But I did go to my tough friends - the honest people who had no interest in anything but my success with all my best concepts. I'd bounce my idea(s) and receive their input and then decide how to move forward. If someone said something that really upset me, honestly, that usually meant either the idea sucked or they were onto something. Either which way it always got me thinking...
So Lincoln, bounce. Tell people your stuff. Get feedback.
DON'T BE PRECIOUS.
Writer, Writing Coach, Writer Supporter.