Writing a screenplay or novel is a lot like being in a long-term relationship as you largely go through the same steps.
At first, you’re unfailingly passionate about your partner, flush with love for an incredible idea. You dive into her with a zeal you have never felt before and are certain you will never experience again. You embrace every inch of her, her very essence and when finally forced to surface, you just want to show everyone how happy you are.
As time goes on, however, the initial zeal diminishes, if not in scale, at least in monomaniacal focus. You become more comfortable with her. You spend more time contemplating her rather than just diving in. You are caring, loving, nurturing. And even if not everything proceeds as smoothly as it once did, those are just the little maturities that slip into life.
Eventually, you grow into each other. There is love, there is care, but it’s mellower, more set in its ways. She isn’t as all-consuming as she once was, but you’re both okay with that. You might spend time with other couples, sharing common bonds and then making fun of them on your way home. Life is good, it’s right, it’s comfortable.
Now, if you’re fortunate, this goes on for the rest of your time together. You mature with each other. You fulfill her needs until that fateful day when she passes on to the other side. You’re wistful, but satisfied that you had a good life together.
Not every couple is so fortunate, however.
Sometimes little inconsistencies or minor difficulties can inflate in importance. What was once just a tiny tic, becomes this really aggravating feature that just drives you up the wall. Oh, you try to work through it. You try to convince yourself it’s nothing, that you’re just being paranoid, but after a certain point, she just seems to do it all the time and damn it, on purpose.
You soon find yourself coming up with excuses to go out for a little bit to clear your head, but the moment you leave the house, you find your mind wandering off to sexier screenplay ideas. You’re fantasizing and you can’t help it. And damned if, the minute you walk back into the house, there she is, staring right at you like she can read your mind.
“What do you expect?” you scream. “You knew I was an artist when we started.” And she just lay there, letting you stew in your self-incriminating guilt. It’s the silence, the inertness that just gets under your skin.
If you’re lucky enough to calm down, you may decide that you just need a little time apart. Both of you. A little time to remember why you came together in the first place. A month, six months, a year later, maybe those petty little problems won’t be so big. Hell, you might even have found a way around them. But right now, you just need some space.
Time goes by and maybe you do get back together to solve your differences. But maybe you don’t. It’s tough, but you realize it’s over. It’s time to move on.
It’s okay. You’ll live. You can’t beat yourself up over it. You tried and it just didn’t work out.
You may not think it right now, but there’ll be others. You’ll try again and maybe that one will work out differently.
You didn’t fail. You’re not a bad person. It just wasn’t meant to be.
You have to know when it’s over…but nothing says you have to know any sooner than is absolutely necessary.
PS If screenplays and novels are long-term relationships, I guess that makes sketch comedy a quickie in the alley. No wonder they’re so much fun, but rarely fulfilling.
It’s a good analogy, friend, but it seems only to apply to projects (novels, screenplays, etc.) that just don’t work out. There is, however, another kind of ending for the relationship between author and work, and especially most true with poetry. It’s when the author has done everything she possible can to make a perfect work and realizes that any further effort will probably begin to damage the piece. That’s the time to wish the work well and quietly walk away from it. Maybe you can come back in a few months or years and give it a further look, but chances are pretty good that you’re done with it. There’s just no more of you to drawn on. That acknowledgement takes real artistic humility, but being humble in face of your craft is an essential ingredient to producing something that can have a life apart from you. That’s my judgment,for what it’s worth, Randall. I’d be happy to her a counterargument.
In some respects, that’s where I was trying to go with the paragraph starting “Now, if you’re fortunate…”, when life just meets its inevitable ending point.
Yours is definitely more nuanced though, and addresses that other moment that some couples get to when you’ve done all you can for yourselves and each other and simply need to move on with your lives (just finished one of those marriages).
Thanks for the contribution.