Personal confession time: I've done a lot of shitty work this year.
It's truer even than I'd like to admit. I've written generic stories that end the way you'd expect. I've written character beats that were so on-the-nose as to rob the characters of their life. I've taken the easy way out or lost my theme or done the expected twist more times this year than any other. I've defaulted to my own perspective because it's easier. Even as I take on more work than ever, I've been a bad, bad writer.
Not that you'll ever see it, of course. That stuff never makes it as far as you. It goes to co-writers, editors, agents, managers, producers. It goes anywhere but your way, because you should be protected from the garbage that spits out of my head on a daily basis. The bad gets shaped into better and then maybe finally to "good." But I'm noticing a trend in this years' work - which is that it is especially shitty. It's unadventurous. It's "grounded." It's normal. It's expected. It's that movie you saw mixed with that other movie you didn't. Even when it's bucking formula, it might be a little formulaic. And this is happening subconsciously.
I fear Hollywood has done this to me. I fear the natural, commercial boxing-in of creativity has actually taken root somewhere in my subconscious, where it desperately asks (nay, demands) for stories to be more predictable. Or more pitch-able. Or more acceptable. My mind seeks safety of what's come before because to blaze an entirely new trail would be "unfeasible" or "niche" or whatever bullshit word we're using to describe those things that dare to be novel.
But the truth is much simpler: I did it to myself.
Fun fact: I've never really had writer's block. People think I'm bragging when I say that but I'm not - I simply don't have that filter that kicks in with mega-self-doubt and stops the process (at least, not until recently). I sit down and I write. It's like a tap I can turn on and off. Music can accelerate the flow - as can working with a partner - but the creative brain is always available to me. It often feels like my natural state. That's my whole process: doing what comes naturally.
I'm wondering now if that's more a curse than a blessing. I think maybe instead I've been too forgiving of my own work, too willing to say the words "good enough." In my ease, I've forgotten to push myself forward. In opening my mind to a million ideas, perhaps I've actually closed it to the depth of a single one.
So what to do? My instinct is to slam my own head against a million walls in the hopes that something will come dislodged and - in so doing - reveal that path back to weirdness. The answer (I hope) is most likely something a little less violent.
It probably starts with falling in love with my ideas again. Not looking at them as commodities to be sold, but as playgrounds to construct. It's looking at my stories upside-down, sideways, through many dark lenses, until I find something that doesn't just "work", but is actually inspiring.
My responsibility to my own work, to myself, and to you the reader/viewer, is to break some conventions and discover what lives beyond them. To make this exciting again. To smile and cackle like a maniac when I finish a page or a scene or a cut, because I've effectively warped my own mind. I gotta take the safeties off.
I think I gotta stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like a creator again.
If any of this rings true for you, I hope you'll do the same. Let's meet the future together. It's too early for New Years Resolutions, so let's call this a regular old resolution. And let's actually keep it, huh?
Resolved: when it comes to the patterns that arise in our process, those that sap the joy from the work... we're gonna break it all and start again.