I recall once being told that our desires hint towards our abilities and even, possibly, undiscovered talents. For a long time now I’ve wanted to write stories and even make them into film and other visual media. I’ve been thinking about this ever since my earliest days at uni. I had the chance to write short screenplay when I was studying English Literature and the adaptation of novels into film. I adapted a scene from the Iliad, the meeting between Achilles and Priam, and Priam’s night journey to get there. I don’t think it was that good at all, but I loved the experience of immersing myself in the story, visualising it, hearing it, and putting it on paper.
That was nearly 15 years ago and after that I delved deeper and deeper into the workings of epic narrative and character development. For much of this time this consumed my creative energy. But for the last couple of years and especially since finishing the thesis I’ve felt the internal prodding to write repeatedly. I used to be able to say I had no stories. Of course I did, I just didn’t see them as such. In a way I think I saw myself in my own story and I was sort of waiting to see how it unfolded before I could tell my own. If there is one thing a little time has given me that is perspective, and I think this has is important in storytelling. Being a perfectionist, the hardest thing about starting this is knowing that I’m going to be pretty awful at first – well not me, but my stories. Especially dialogue. On this question I’m going to take a lead from my cycling experience.
A couple of year ago, before I started riding more seriously, I used to look at the hills around us and hear about the big well-known climbs. The very thought of them was very intimidating, so much so that I really avoided them altogether for ages. This has been my approach to dialogue. It’s a necessary part of story and screenwriting, and I want to do it, but… With time and a huge amount of effort, I’ve become a good climber and a strong rider generally. That is I’m now able to do long and short climbs with good speed and I’ve developed the conditioning to ride over 1000km a month in very hilly country. Serious riders make ride out to where we live specifically for the hills that start at our door, almost literally. This was an unimaginable scenario a couple of years ago.
So what I want now is to look back a couple of years from now and be able to see that I’ve become a good storyteller, not overnight, but with practice, learning and being inspired by others. Maybe I’ll find a mentor. In the meantime, I learn a lot just by watching and reading. Currently I’m really enjoying and appreciating the great writing and character development in the HBO series, Boardwalk Empire. I also remind the perfectionist within how bad so many scripts are, even for some of my favourite films. The point being that craft is great but not essential to create a story or film that captures the imagination of the audience.
My experience tells me another thing, to trust that the resources I need will be there to support this journey. Whenever I’ve embarked on journeys like this before, both of the travelling and learning kind, this has been the case. Guides, mentors and teachers have crossed my path. I’ve found the necessary resources and support that have enabled me to pursue my path.
So we’ll see. I’ve started to make a few small steps forward, writing down the fragments that come to mind. I know I just have to do what I can at first. The more I do, the more ideas and images develop in my imagination. Imagination is like a muscle really, use it often and it strengthens.
Have you had a similar experience, or is there something you’d like to start but have been putting off? You’re most welcome to share your own below.