VALUE YOUR VOICE
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But for me, it took me decades to accept that I even had a voice.
I spent the majority of my life suffering from low self-esteem. I could not see myself in a higher light, even though I sensed quite strongly that I had gifts, especially with music and words. But my mind would only allow me to be a "supporting player," not the star of my own life. I had to fight these feelings daily (and sometimes still do). But somewhere “deep down inside,” the voice that said I had value finally got a foothold and surfaced.
This voice has pushed me forward, even when I wanted to climb back in bed and pull the covers over my head. It has shouted at me to get back to work when I’d much rather bake chocolate-chip cookies (or more likely, eat them). If a spark of an idea has hit me, the voice won't let me rest until I write it down or record it. The "spark of an idea" could turn into something magnificent and should never, ever be ignored.
We often forget that our voices have value. Not only do our voices give life to the worlds of stories spinning around in our minds, they can also give us the ability to make a living. Imagine that! Making a living off of words that you write! Maybe that hasn't happened for you yet. It will, if you really want it to—but only if you value your voice.
One thing I've learned the hard way: you must be open and willing to listen to the voice. The voice (or voices, more likely) must be nurtured and acknowledged so that it can do the same for you. If you let it lie fallow in the back of your mind, how is it going to spring forth when you really need it, primed and ready?
I recently completed a screenplay for a producer I have worked with for several years. The first draft didn't work for him, even though he approved the detailed outline. Fortunately, he asked me to do it again. For the second go-round, he gave me the freedom to write what I wanted to by telling me to ignore all the rules that I have felt constrained by for many years.
By him doing that, I wrote, in my humble opinion, the most commercial screenplay I've ever written. I stopped worrying about whether it was okay to use "We see" or "We hear." I stopped worrying about putting funny asides or clever observations in my action lines. I let MY VOICE come out, a voice I’ve been suppressing for years. In fact, writing this “second first draft” was the most liberating experience of my writing life. Because I came to the writing game late, I felt I absolutely had to "stick with the rules" so I could at least get on the game board. Well, I’m on the game board now with 8 produced features, and here’s what I’ve discovered: "There are no rules." Do you understand what I mean? Of course, there are formatting things you must keep in mind. But if you follow them too closely (as I have for years), I think you might risk not letting the "true you" sing out.
That's what I think was happening to me in the past. I was too concerned about being sure that my scripts were pristine and perfect, instead of making sure that they were alive and messy and filled with the whirlpool of emotions that human beings bring to every experience.
But this time, I jumped off the cliff. There was no net to catch me. I went PLUNGING into the icy rapids below, and I didn't give a flying fuck. I RODE THE WAVES and I was washed up on shore ALIVE and VIBRANT and in touch with my senses. I will NEVER AGAIN write a screenplay like I used to.
The jury is still out on whether the producer likes this new and improved version of the script. But in many ways, I don't care whether he likes it. I like it. And if I don't like it (or love it) first, how can I expect anyone else to? Value your voice or voices. Do not dismiss them, squash them, quiet them. Let them shout out, scream out, cry out – whatever they need to. Yes, let them SOAR. By doing so, you might write something that will RESONATE. I think THAT is the key to whether a screenplay (your fabulous screenplay) will find its way to the top of the pile.