Years ago, I heard a writer say that when you finish the first draft of a script, you should invite your family and friends over, light a fire in the fireplace, uncork a bottle of wine, and celebrate. Celebrate because completing the first draft is an accomplishment. Then, she said, take your script and toss it into the fire, burn it, and start all over again, because what you’ve written is garbage (I remember she used a more colorful word).
When I first heard this advice, I thought to myself there is no way I’m burning my first draft. I worked too hard on it. Now that I’ve written several scripts, I’m convinced she was right.
We deceive ourselves when we think that hard work equals brilliance. Just because you work hard on something doesn’t mean it’s any good. This reality is tough to swallow. Countless businesses fail each year, not because of the lack of effort. Books are written, plays are performed, and movies are made by the hands of hardworking artisans only to open to poor reviews and small audiences.
We were taught when we were young that hard work pays off. Therein lies the problem. There is an expectation that my work should be rewarded. Because I've poured so much into the effort, I feel the audience should applaud and cheer “well done.” A painful disappointment comes when the audience does not cheer, or you discover there is no audience at all.
Hard work is a given. It’s the price you pay to play the game. It does not guarantee an outcome.
I’ve finished the first draft of A Eulogy for the Believer. Well mostly, there are still a couple of scenes that I have to flesh out, but for the most part, it’s all there. Now the real writing begins. It is the careful crafting of the story - the deliberation over each word and image - that will ultimately determine the story’s fate.
Today I will pour a glass of wine and celebrate. Tomorrow I will burn my first draft. But not literally, the draft is on my computer, and I’d rather not toss my computer into the flames ;)
A WRITER KEEPING THE FAITH IN LOS ANGELES