I learned something again yesterday, something I have learned before, lots of times. I pushed and pushed against the story, thinking there was no story, thinking I had no way of telling it, writing ugh, and shit, and yuck, day after day, ready to give up, and then yesterday, with a sudden click, the door swung wide open, and I had the structure I was looking for. What did I learn? This is how it goes, you think you don’t have it, and then you do. The trick is staying with the story when you don’t have it, tolerating the frustration and uncertainty. It was funny to look back over my notes, as I pulled the important parts out to make my draft—how many completely wrong starts I had, how much testing, mistakes. The parts I needed were clear, bright on the page like a secret message, revealed by the magic light.
Being a screenwriter is like having a love affair with a narcissist, or an alcoholic, or a gambler, somebody who makes powerful, intoxicating promises and then forgets, doesn’t show up at the appointed time, has an affair, lies. All these moments of disappointment line up like dominoes, their arrival as predictable as the moment the first one falls: they say the movie is definitely getting made; they find a great director but it turns out he doesn’t like your script; they get a star, who had one Oscar nominated performance and will come in with a broken ego and trash the character you wrote; they have to drop the five most important scenes in the movie because they are over budget and running ten minutes long. In the story meetings we talk about the characters as if they exist, forgetting (even me) that I invented them, that before I started writing there was no Fishman and no Maddie and no Jenks. I keep coming back because of that intoxicating, joyful promise: finding characters. Finding story. Finding life.