The Diversionist has become that most hoary and yet consistent of blog cliches: once the writer’s beloved home base and regular publication, only to devolve into a quiet hole where the only posts are the occasional apology for the ongoing silence. In the past three months I’ve posted a grand total of twice, a shameful record.
Why? A number of reasons:
My life has become a whirlwind of activity: In August, I was one of three founders of The Compass Network, a writing community that I’m very proud of. In September, I started grad school at York University in Toronto, during the course of which I’ve developed a new slate of projects – More, The Disappointments, Chasing Shadows – some of which will make it to my portfolio someday. In October, my first professional screenwriting project – an app game called STATE OF SYN: THE WORLD OUTSIDE, written for Smokebomb Entertainment, was publicly released for iOS and Android. All in the meantime, I continue revisions on a project codenamed KIN, whose rewrites have reared their head yet again these past few weeks. Other projects in my portfolio – Timeless, Characters, After the Fight – all fight for what remains of my attention, all with new developments in recent weeks. And outside of my professional life, I’ve been living with an aunt since September, and the opportunity to spend more time with my cousins has proved both enticing and energising.
So I’ve been a bit busy. Any free time I have these days, I devote to keeping up with TV and digging into three passions I’ve been working to reconnect with: books, movies, and video games. In past weeks I’ve bought 8 new books, the bulk of them nonfiction of the historical persuasion, and I’ve loved digging into them and expanding my historical context for the human experience. My good friend Sam left me a PS3 when she moved to the States, and I’ve loved building a collection of (now cheap – thanks, release of the PS4!) games that I didn’t play on their first release. And being in an MFA Screenwriting program with an emphasis on film screenwriting has stoked in me a greater appreciation for movies, so I’ve been digging into Netflix’s collections more in recent weeks than ever before.
In short: I am busier than I’ve ever been before. I love it, but I’m also constantly gasping for air and running to stand still. And nothing feels so like standing still as blogging, the ultimate time-filler.
But it’s not just a time issue. Otherwise, those brief moments where I see the sun would be full of blogging. Which brings me to my next point:
The closer I get to becoming a ‘real’ screenwriter, whatever that is, the less confident I feel I’m worth listening to.
This probably seems like a nonsensical pattern – surely as I achieve more success, my self-esteem and confidence grow? And yes, they do – but as my self-esteem grows, my ego shrinks, and I am constantly, yet kindly, reminded that I’m no guru. There’s nothing more shaming to an arrogant upstart than working with thoughtful, professional pros, and I’ve been lucky enough to do so over the past year. And as I watch them work, I realise that attempting to teach an audience out there, in some ways, is the height of the narcissism and self-importance I’ve spent half a decade battling. It indulges some of my worst sides, even as I adore the opportunity to educate and share whatever I’ve learned. It’s a double-sided coin: altruism entangled with arrogance.
Which isn’t to say I don’t believe I have the right to share whatever wisdom I’ve developed in my time, nor does it mean I’m shutting this place down. It just means that I’ve learned to remember to take a step back when I’m writing a long post that’s probably nothing more than regurgitated reruns from my predecessors and betters like Alex Epstein or Amanda Pendolino. There are few things I can add to the ring from my spot on the sidelines that Jane Espenson hasn’t already covered in exhaustive detail.
There are some areas where I have unique insight. Things are changing rapidly in media today, and as a webseries writer starting to gain some traction, I’ve got a pretty good view from on the ground. Toronto is an exciting place to be right now if you do webseries, not because you want to be rich but because you want to innovate. There’s an amazing community here who are so unbelievably generous with their time and friendship, and there’s the feeling something big is changing underneath our feet. I’ve been writing webseries scripts for over three years now, both individually and professionally, and I know a trick or two that Im happy to share.
Canadian TV, too, is in the midst of a webseries-style revolution. After being downtrodden and critically ignored for decades, Canadian work is beginning to catch some critical attention and develop a social media savvy set of advocates. Shows like Sling and Arrows, Durham County, Orphan Black, Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays continue to prove we’ve got something to say. And as someone pretty embedded in the Canadian TV culture (if not the industry itself, to my professional chagrin), and a fan of it, I’m realising it’s partly my responsibility to battle the ‘buzz issue’ facing Canadian TV. Our shows won’t develop buzz, critical mass, until we talk about them.
The world of the amateur screenwriter, with communities like MZPtv defying convention to create innovative, script-only series as a source of entertainment and training for writers. This is my world. I’m a longtime member of MZPtv (2005-present), and their model inspired Compass, which we launched on a similar platform but aimed at aspiring screenwriters who want to make the best use of their time trying to break out, providing a community of readers, exposure, and creative sustenance.
The topics that I keep abreast of in the news, especially the role of budding content networks like Netflix and Hulu and their ilk. I love the revolution they are inspiring, and I watch with a grin and much glee. The world of the student screenwriter, from my class at York and among other ‘yet-unproven’ screenwriters, and the desperate rush to become as good, and as praised, as possible to create the foundation for a career.
And, with less an air of a teacher than a fellow writer on the ground, I can share stories and insights I stumble upon while working on my many, many projects that might hopefully offer something more than a time-waster on the morning commute. Possibly. We’ll see.
What do you think?