Six Lessons I Learned From Reading A Script I Wrote at 19

Another writing post? I can hear the moans. Shouldn’t I have a deep post on the increasing prejudices we’re facing? What about the serious issues in my life I’m facing that I’ve now admitted to? And Neurotribes is out to rave reviews within the community. Don’t I have thoughts on that?

The short answer: all of that is coming. The prejudice is a bit too serious a topic to treat lightly. My family situation is currently on wait until we get more info. I haven’t read the book but I have it on hold at the library. Besides, a writing post makes perfect sense. HFAs are defined by our intense interests. Don’t my interests reflect my mind? My writing definitely does. So read this and get insight into me.

A few weeks ago I posted a history of my screenplays, in part as a dodge to release a draft of Unworthy without having to experience any undue attention. In doing so I found a script I had zero memory of. I knew I wrote it. I had no idea what it was about. Inevitably I had to read it. Inevitably I lived to regret that. With that, let me share some things I learned from reading Disconnect.

1. Unless you quit writing after this script, you are inevitably a better writer now
Disconnect is a rambling indie style script about a teenager who takes a trip that goes poorly. Just on a script level, it is atrocious. The script has a weird flashback heavy structure intended for a draft of Unworthy but poorly used here. Time is completely unclear outside the main timeline and even that’s unclear. None of the characters work. None of the dialogue works. This is a flat piece that would baffle the reader. I know I’m better now. Write less filler dialogue definitely.

2. You definitely wrote things that are embarrassing.
I have lived and breathed film for my entire life. Film is who I am. And somehow I wrote the wrong opinions into the mouth of a character. Admittedly, they’re openly not a huge film fan but if I were today hear a guy bash David Fincher and Quentin Tarantino, two of our greats, in the same breath as Jerry Bruckheimer I would hit them without blinking. And that’s logical: I was ill informed. I wasn’t a fan of those guys then. Writing is littered with that. Offhand references dot the writer’s work they don’t agree with years later. It’s ok though. All face it. (Side note: the next film I saw after the events of the script was Steven Soderbegh’s Solaris which I loved.)

3. You may have no idea why you wrote the piece you wrote.
Disconnect is, to be honest, at times beat for beat a trip I took. In fact many of the things I wrote about in it were things I’d forgotten. Obviously it mattered to me if I felt I needed to examine it in fiction form. Surely something that vital to me left deep scars, right? Nope. I remembered the trip as a pleasant if, yes, at times straining the old disorder, experience. I’ve got such fond memories I even went back to the site of the trip seven years later! So which memories are correct? I think the current ones. I have a better sense of proportion and I shrug off what angered me there. (I fumbled at a competition.) Now, if I wrote this piece, it’d be a comedy I suspect.

4. There are things you’ll do you’ll not dislike even in a dud.
There is a real sense of personal expression running through the piece no matter what. It was written within a month and clearly reflected deep emotions within me. I may not recall where my mind was immediately but reading this I felt it. Disconnect reminded me of what being 19 was. Frustrated, awkward, on the brink of being an adult (or so you think.) I conveyed that part well. Some of the pacing wasn’t dreck either. A few good beats certainly. Those scenes need to be cherished. They’re why you rewrite.

5. At 31, you are not who you were at 19.
Yeah this is obvious but you have to see it in the hard evidence of your personal expression to really grasp it. You are indeed not who you were. As I read this, I see sad signs of ingrained misogyny and other prejudices I’m smart enough to have outgrown. There’s a strong puritanism running through it that repels me. I’m also utterly annoyed by how overblown the stressors in it are. Sure these things annoy me but not even enough to tweet them now, much less write a script! I know that there are more important things ahead. I’m stronger now.

6. You needed to do this.
Disconnect hurt my brain to read with the myriad errors including baffling continuity and zero idea what the plot was supposed to be for 30 pages, but it was a must read. It showed me who I was and where I could go. It was an artifact from the very point my characters in Unworthy are. After reading it I get them more. I get ME more. Reading it was hard. But it had so much to tell me.

Will I feel the same on Unworthy in 12 years? I think so. Will I feel this way about everything I write? Yes. But I’m glad I still have these pieces. I’ve changed. They can’t.

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