Finding Purpose

Writer's block is perhaps my biggest enemy. It sneaks up and can strike at any moment. I think a common misconception about writer's block is that it only strikes when you have no idea what to write. The truth of the matter is, at least as I see it, that I never have no idea what to write. I have so many ideas, in fact, that I find it difficult to get them all down.

No, the issue I struggle with, and what I would call writer's block, is having that one great idea, the one that keeps appearing in your head no matter how much you try to walk away from it, but one that you just can't figure out how to make work.

I'm currently struggling with an issue like this. I have an idea, I know what I want from the idea, but I just don't know what I'm trying to say with it. I often find that working out what I'm trying to say is the key to working out how the whole thing goes together. How it works. How the characters and the scenes work. How it should end.

With Follow the Crows I knew exactly what I wanted to say from day one. It had a clear thread. A clear theme, if you will. I knew what every scene, every sequence and every character was doing, how they were informing that single idea. That single thing that I wanted to say. In fact, one of the criticisms I've seen levelled at Follow the Crows since it's preview is that there are "too many characters". I disagree, fundamentally. There are just the right amount of characters, and I took great care to make sure there were, because each character informs or adds to that single point: what I wanted to say. If they'd criticised the lack of decent lighting on the other hand...

A similar thing happened when I was writing The Door. I knew for a while that I wanted to write something about Brexit (shock, horror! The Door is about Brexit!), but I wasn't sure how I wanted to approach it. Truth be told, for a few months after the Referendum I was angry, and I had to take a look back at everything to really focus on what I wanted to say. And I realised, when I did, that actually I didn't want to talk about Brexit at all. I wanted to talk about Referenda. I wanted to talk about how stupid they are.

So everything in The Door is written to expand on or inform that single idea. What do I want to say with this piece? What is the purpose of it? What am I trying to get across?

It's a question that I continue to ask myself whenever I write. The script for my next feature has gone through several iterations. And for a while I was unhappy with the ending. It never felt like it had that moment, that sense of purpose, that punchline. I wasn't happy with it and I kept changing and rewriting and going back and forward. I just couldn't decide where it was supposed to be.

Eventually I settled on an ending but I wasn't thrilled. And then, one day, suddenly - and as if for no apparent reason - ding! in comes this idea and the whole thing makes sense. It wasn't working because I wasn't saying what I wanted to. Sure, the idea was there, but the reasoning wasn't, and the minute I'd figured out what I was trying to say everything else began to fall into place. The script as it stands now really excites me, and I can't wait to get started.

But here I am once more, with an idea I can't quite shake. One that I know, with a little work, could be great. But I just don't know what I'm trying to say with it. I just don't know what the purpose of it is.

I'm sure I'll get there eventually, but as it currently stands, it's really annoying.

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© Alex Secker 2018