Meeting Other Writers

When you spend lengthy periods of time in a cave, wrestling mightily – nay, epically (?) – with your caffeine addiction current project, the idea of temporarily abandoning your lair to meet another screenwriter can seem a daunting prospect. Who wants to spend a potentially awkward half-hour with someone you may only have swapped emails or forum-posts with?

Yes, that’s a risk. But a big reward for meeting other writers is the reminder that You’re Not Alone. You both know the agony of creativity. You’ve been through the horror of development. And if you’ve been rewritten and can – after some mourning or therapy – talk about it, you’ll find a camaraderie not often seen outside the armed forces.

One other thing you share – though you may not acknowledge it at first – is how your prior experience of meeting writers at parties and funerals and such has fashioned your approach to such encounters. My own meet-and-greets have fallen into two very general categories:

  • those who do; and,
  • those who don’t.

Those Who Don’t

A contact with this type of writer requires a lot of patience and concentration. And tact.

ENTHUSIASTIC WRITER

– and then Ben – the hero, I mean protagonist – he opens the door to the other dimension, with his Broomstick of Power in one hand –

ME

So he decides to do something about his life?

ENTHUSIASTIC WRITER

What? Yes. Anyway, Ben, he’s got his broomstick and he’s going to look for Charlene –

ME

Charlene?

ENTHUSIASTIC WRITER

The woman he met at the party! The one who kissed him, like, totally unexpectedly –

ME

Charlene who represents a goal – that there is more to Ben’s life than beer and parties?

ENTHUSIASTIC WRITER

(‘whatevs’)

Yeah. He’s got a hard-on for her and so he steps through the other-dimension door-portal...

(etc)

SOME TIME LATER...

ME

That’s... quite a story. What draft are you at?

ENTHUSIASTIC WRITER

Oh, I haven’t written it!

(taps their temple)

It’s all in here.

I applaud the enthusiasm – I really do.

Those Who Do

These encounters are just as demanding but much more stimulating.

ME

So. Whatcha working on?

WRITER

A little bit of this, bit of that – know what I mean?

ME

(not really)

‘Course, ‘f course.

WRITER

What are you working on?

ME

Ohhh... nothing much.

And so this crab-like dance continues as antennae probe gently, not forgetting anything, each word and/or pause wrung of every possible, potential subtext.

Once the conversation moves onto more neutral ground of influences, styles and the nuts ‘n’ bolts, it becomes heaps of fun (“Who would win in a knock-down, drag-out fight between Buffy and that Heroes cheerleader chi- no, wait: the stripper mom?”).

Meeting a fellow writer is an opportunity to share about the craft, the industry, and general gossip. We can’t just write in our caves, sending out for BK, Mac’s Gold, and chocolate, churning out The Word until it’s soiled by producers, directors, actors and editors alike. We’re all in this together.

So go out there. Hug a writer.

(We’re in me oul’ home-toon a’ Wellington visiting my side of the family. In between sightseeing and catching up with friends and family, Benedict Reid and Leonie Reynolds very kindly treated The Goddess and I to coffee on Cuba Street. It’s a favour we look forward to repaying, and continue our conversation about writing in New Zealand.)

(And which category did the coffee with Ben and Leonie fall into? The Do Be’s, of course.)

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