As the moment of your sadness flickers…

downloadMy wordpress account recently informed me that I am in my fourth year of blogging. It was a very cheery form of notification. The kind that comes with a virtual trophy! Like the participation awards that are the subject of much adolescent psychology debate.

In fact, I have actually been at the blogging for more than five years but my initial attempt at saying something serious about the craft of screenwriting was hijacked and manipulated…and became something I chose to leave. Therefore, I was awarded a four year [rather than five year] participation trophy!!!

In that five years I have written over 300 articles and reviews [only 130 survived my two retirements].

Having read all other non-Joel Barish-type scriptwriting bloggers [read that as… non-obscure] I remain convinced that I am IN FACT the best screenwriting blogger on the internet. I offer a standing challenge to put my top 10 articles up against the top 10 articles of any blogger out there, and ask for an audience vote. Who is better? I would win. It would not be close.

Guaranteed, no one will ever answer this challenge.

I’m sure you can tell, but my four year anniversary has punctured my spirit. I am leaking enthusiasm like a colander. The fact that I’ve seen this so many times before in myself is no consolation. It will go away. I will be recharged… I, literally, do not care.

My leaking spirit wishes to delete this four year reminder of wasted resource. The energy and time I have put into this can’t be assigned comprehensible quantification. It would not do to say that I’ve spent 10,000 hours reading, thinking about, and analyzing, screenplays. Screenplay hours, when one has other things to do, are NOT the same as regular hours. These are hours one steals from sleep, or, in a clear and succinct word… happiness [in the Aristotelian sense].

There is no doubt that I will leave the blog up until whenever it is I am not around to monitor its negligible upkeep. I am not asking for, or needing, encouragement—in either direction. This is not even a backwards plea for resonance. [Although, I grant that it would look an awful lot like that coming from anyone other than a writer with a profoundly developed sense of intellectual honesty. In so far as I am able to know myself, I certify this isn’t a backwards plea for resonance.] I write this post because I wanted to give voice to the single most impressive thing unread writers do… Persevere.

I began writing, as an occupation, when I was 13. Like Coleridge says about Hamlet, I had an overabundance of the contemplative faculty and my thoughts had to go somewhere. I put them on paper. I began with poems. First screenplay at 16. First book when I was 18. Fourth book by the time I was 20. All hideous of course, from the perspective of merit, but I had begun my apprenticeship, and everything starts with a beginning…

Looking back on a score and a half of effort toward an end, I see now that, what any academic would call my voice, was always with me. I write, have always written, and am incapable of writing anything other than—philosophical poems. When I collect my writing into a single binder, that’s the title I will give to it:

Philosophical Poems

A nod to the title of my secondary idol’s most famous book. His was an investigation because he was several standard deviations my equal. Mine is one long poem. Like the Coen’s, I have never had more than one theme:

You are not alone.

The you in that sentence belongs to me and anyone else who reads it.

All other reasons people give for writing are false. No one writes for fame and fortune. Those are ancillary benefits. And the benefits part of that last sentence requires work to be proved.

I believe all writing exists as a mental salve for loneliness.  Not the kind of loneliness that gets spoken of on TV talk shows as though it were a disease in need of a cure, but the kind that inspires humans to become better than they have been in the past. When I read something that is actually great, I become more certain of the existence of the author of that piece of writing, than the people who sit in my office with me when I have my management meetings. As Descartes says, those bodies under those umbrellas could be automatons for all I know.

When I first read The Brothers Karamazov, I knew, in the same way I know 2+2=4, that Fyodor existed. He, also several standard deviations my equal, was, nonetheless, my friend. He could not be an automaton. And to this day, he is still my friend.

Fyodor, and another 20 or so living and dead men and women just like him, make me want to change the world. Although I have not proved it yet, my essay on Breaking Bad will eventually show that nothing Creative lasts unless it makes the world better. We call these people by the name artists, writers, physicists, and social geniuses, but those are just words. They are really the soil in which the next generation plants their ideas. As I already said in that essay:

Nothing grows in dead soil.

So, you see, I cannot stop writing anymore than I can stop being myself. Loneliness is not a disease, it is nourishment. If we humans were certain of our existence, no one would create anything. This is the reason why I say fame and fortune are ancillary, and maybe not oven benefits. In a philosophically perfect world, resonance occurs without benefit. [And in that sentence I owe my “cock to Asclepius”, otherwise known as my primary idol , Kant, and his imperative.]

Can you imagine the Art that you would create, if you knew beforehand that you would never be paid for it? What David’s and Pieta’s would Michelangelo have created if he had not been indentured to his catholic patrons? What denominations are the patrons You are indentured to?

Whenever the moment of your sadness flickers, dear writer… I am with you.

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3 responses to “As the moment of your sadness flickers…

  1. Joel, it’s probably no big surprise that I agree with your assessment of your own work here.

    Your ideas are an essential part of my process. If I were to teach a class on screenwriting, I’d start with you (and insist on some guest lecturing!)

    Process is more important than Result. I believe that. I really do. I don’t know if that’s of value to you, and the world isn’t set up that way, but I think it’s correct.

    The path is long, twisting and obscured. We never know where it will lead.

  2. Thank you to both of you for persevering in reading this blog through all the years. My attempts to keep you two impressed are SOLELY responsible for all the content that is worthwhile. That is a true statement.

    I often have to deal with this urge to throw away my writing. I think it is because I want to prove it isn’t important to me… which is a false statement.

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