Chasing the Whale: Thoughts on Mission Unworthy

One thing I worked hard on in this time was a script I never finished. I mean never. 14 years later I’ve never so much as written a third act. And I’ve tried as you can see here and here The title was Unworthy and focused on a guy in love with his best friend. It’s a pitiful project but I clung to it. Two trips to Russellville infused that script along with other details. Ultimately, I’ve realized that when it was easier for me to get married than to finish it, best to let it die.

From my entry on my sophomore year

Writers don’t really ever quit a project. Stephen King is legendary for this, having started works, filing them away, coming back to them years later. That’s probably why King is our most prolific great writer, he’s got a file cabinet of half finished works waiting to be finished.

In the quote above, I discussed where I stood on the never finished project I referred to as Unworthy. That was six months ago. Six months ago, I decided I would never finish a draft of it. I made my peace with it. In a sense, burying it was a capstone on that entire era of screenwriting.

After all, in my entire tenure at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, I hadn’t started and finished a single draft of a single screenplay, though one I’d started earlier stumbled to the end. I played with screenwriting still but I couldn’t write a script to completion. It wasn’t just now either. I had limped for years. In college, I wrote all of two screenplays.

Thinking back to my teenage days, I was ashamed. Sure I’d never finished Unworthy, but I wrote so much. I’ve continually tried to recreate my fairy script because I still love the idea. I wrote a terrible superhero script, a decent teen drama, a weird comedy I loved, an autobiographical script, a dreadful spy comedy, a weird comedy I hated, and that first script.

What did I leave in my wake these last few years? So many scraps. I tried to restart Unworthy at least once a year and it bedeviled me. I tried to write a political comedy and the world moved too fast. Both of my attempts at supernatural action defied me. Ordinary Girl restarted, almost happened and faded as I lost momentum. Project after project entombed on scripped.com. My account there was a museum of unfinished ideas.

Then I lost all of those on the night of 3/31/15. In one instant, three years of failed starts and scraps, some 300 pages were destroyed. My writing site was gone. The worst part? I was so desperate to make another run at Unworthy that day that I’d pulled up an older program and started work. Now, I had no scraps to consult. This latest failed attempt would stand on its own. And what would the point be?

But let us pause to ponder a confluence of events. I started this writing the day I completed a move across town. It was a nightmarish move, one I’d largely conducted with the help of my father and my wife. We took an entire house’s worth of goods and moved them in one month. I was energized by the deed and pondered what I could do in a month. I also felt undeniable anger at Scripped which tossed a coupon at us for their mishandling of our work. They were incredibly awful; in their handling of the process and rage is a motivator.

So it was that I set a goal: By May 1, I was removing a draft of Unworthy from the things I had yet to achieve. I would write incessantly until it was finished. There would be no filtering, no inner voice thinking about the rules of screenwriting pounded into my head by the talentless screenwriting gurus I’d mistakenly fallen under the sway of. This would be for me. My goal was May 1.

I finished on April 15, two weeks, three days ahead of schedule.

The draft of the script, renamed In Bloom to more accurately fit the story, is what my peers call a “vomit draft.” It has spelling errors. The dialogue is awful. The plot doesn’t flow as it should. While I resolve the core plot solidly, a subplot’s ending only confirms how underwritten the subplot is. It’s melodramatic in the purest sense. It’s unfit for your eyes.

And I’m ok with that. This script, this complex expression of a warped view of friendship that stemmed from a childhood where a normal social life felt as real as a hollywood romance, is for a moment finished. The relationship I’d never been able to resolve is blissfully well resolved. It has a beginning, middle, and end. I can leave it be. I can celebrate that I finally wrote a script. I can write another one now.

Except that I can’t. I’m not done with the project known as Unworthy yet. I still have ideas. The things wrong with this draft will bug me as long as they’re next to the things I love. I know I wrote a draft I can live with as the checkmark on the list but I can’t live without seeing made better.

So I pause. I step back for a few weeks. I clear my head. I get past it. Then I’ll read the draft once. After that, once more I’ll hit fade in. I’ll try it again. Then maybe the process will repeat. And maybe, impossible as it is, someone might read it and like it. I have such hope.

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One thought on “Chasing the Whale: Thoughts on Mission Unworthy

  1. Pingback: My Writing Career: A History of My Screenplays | A Flickering Life

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