Creatively, I’ve been a little bankrupt these last couple of weeks.
Part of it stemmed from my insistence on attending both major conventions, and the natural recovery period that everyone has to undergo following these things. There’s sorting through the business cards and scribbled e-mail addresses you’ve collected, grumbling about that extra thirty bucks you hadn’t intended to spend, and constructing all the post convention write-ups, often immediately after you’ve figured out the hard way that you weren’t getting enough sleep. But as much as I’d like to blame the convention circuit, and the part time job, and a million other little things, this is about one major factor…
…the project that’s getting away.
When Rob Liefeld contacted me about scripting Youngblood: Genesis in July, I was heading into my seventh month of development for Project X, something chronicled at length, my work on it at least, way back in January. Since that time I’ve been pitching this project to the interested party in relative secrecy; preparing scripts, plot summaries, having regular phone conferences and the like; waiting patiently to hear the magic word, “Go,” and obtain full backing to complete what needs to be done. Seven months is a long time to be nursing/pitching/tweaking any project, and I’d be lying to you if I stood here and postured that I never considered giving up. As you may know, I have the tendency to be a bit of a terrible optimist, and I refused to quit. Refused to lose.
But I was thinking about it in July, and that’s when Liefeld provided another outlet to channel my energies into, the aforementioned Youngblood: Genesis, which led to the upcoming Brigade mini-series. I think the most surprising aspect of our working relationship is the fact that he’s perfectly content to send me off with a simple germ of an idea like, “I’m thinking three issues for this,” and is strangely receptive to whatever comes back from that, as long as there’s a decent explanation to support it. It’s not carte blanche by any means, but it’s apparent that he trusts me, which if you want to start speculating, is the most logical reason he lives up to his “controversial” image. However, it was the Arcade experience that suggested, ever so slightly, that I wasn’t a complete idiot for pursuing this whole writing thing, and gave me the gas required for another few weeks of passionate “development.”
Now, and this is absolutely no disrespect to any editor currently active or inactive, but I find it difficult to believe that most people fully appreciate the mental gymnastics that a writer can go through when constructing something labeled a pitch. And that’s to be expected, as oftentimes the editor receiving said pitch is hopelessly overworked, with a dozen different things on their desk to read in a certain time period, and doesn’t have the time or reference to philosophically ponder everything that went into your e-mail attachment. Getting anywhere in this game seems to rely on the ability to be concise, without sacrificing clarity, boiling down an idea to its purest essence. Which is also likely the shortest. Perhaps this is the virginal comic writer talking, but few ideas can be adequately described with only one page of free space. Competently described, yes. And I think that’s a very important distinction, competent versus adequate.
Writing isn’t confined to this page, to these one thousand words, it’s everything else that led to it. It’s waking up with this idea in your head, or this conversation, or just something that deserves jotting down. It’s idle thoughts in the shower or the car where the distractions fall to a minimum. The moment right after you finish punching in at work, and you hear this character talking, and you realize that your life must lead to a point where your existence isn’t dependent on repeatedly throwing your social security number into a keypad. Or maybe later, when you’d give anything for a pen and a pad, because you just had this thought. Writing seeps into everything you do, every meal, every conversation, and the only way you can escape it, is to go to sleep. And sometimes…it follows you there too. And yes, I’m romanticizing this whole thing because, quite simply, it deserves it. Without sacrificing my credibility, the entire process is beautiful in my opinion, and being able to do it with any regularity, is the most rewarding thing I’ve experienced.
It’s not a game, and it’s not a choice. It’s an obsessive compulsion to communicate to others, using things that don’t really exist.
The point, of course, is that trying to take all this, not just what happens in any given story, but what could happen down the road if given time, and putting this on a couple of sheets of paper, having it all make sense and remain interesting, is daunting to say the least. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself over these last several months,
it’s that I’m still not that competent a pitcher. Apparently, they’re not that bad because, knock on wood, my e-mails are still being returned, but either I’ll learn what I’m doing, or be forced to invent a method that will telepathically download every single nuance of my stories directly into an editor’s head.
Ignoring my never-ending struggle with building the better pitch, there have been several positives to working with an editor kind enough to give me regular feedback. When you write, it’s quite easy to develop a tunneled view of the stories you’re telling, and convince yourself there’s only one method of getting it done. A good editor torpedoes that idea quickly, forcing you to think harder, and discover that there’s almost an infinite number of ways to tell a story, while still arriving at the same point.
The frustration is a product of that feeling, every time you get excited about that
Perfect Killer, that fully loaded pitch that addresses all commentary, and is built to put a company in your corner. And it comes back, with more notes, something else needing a decent tweak, and then you sigh in confident rejection and begin again. And this time, THIS TIME, you know there’s no way in Hell this one is coming back with anything less than the word, “Go,” written on it. And it doesn’t, and the process continues into infinity…
People in my corner have been keeping me sharp the whole time, telling me to keep working, keep pitching, because for every minute you waste feeling sorry for yourself, someone stronger and faster than you is taking your spot. Something else I’ve heard more than once, is that I shouldn’t become so emotionally invested in the things I’m working on, especially when it stands the chance that it won’t fly, but in all honestly, I can’t write like that. If there’s no emotion, if there’s no passion, then why in the hell would I want to bottle it and sell it to people?
A great majority of the things I write evolve from an emotion, whether it’s annoyance, excitement, or disappointment, and that’s what makes the entire process so enjoyable to me. What this means is that anything I propose that fails to take flight, will leave me feeling like a complete and utter failure, if only briefly. Go big or don’t go at all, I suppose.
Hopefully, this is all moot, because as of last week, Project X may be provided a shot in the arm, though not in the form I’d originally imagined, but a strong inoculation nonetheless. Not surprisingly, this has made everything else I’m working on infinitely easier to accomplish, as the baby I’ve nursed since January may be this close to being born.
Either that or you’ll have to listen to this again in another couple weeks.
Here’s hoping, always my first mistake…