“Not knowing what happens next is half the fun.”
Judith told me this while we were eating monterey jack quesadillas in her kitchen for lunch one day.
We were taking a break from writing her For the People episode and she was bestowing kernels of wisdom about life, love and writing – as she often did to me over food.
I thought she was crazy.
See, i was her writing assistant, and up until that point, I had been trained by the best from Syd Field to Jeffrey Katzenberg toBill Cosby in the craft of screenwriting.
To make it plain?
I had structure down.
Outlines were my forte.
Beat sheets, character bios, television show bibles, synopsises and treatments were my minions.
Shiiiit. I was good. Damn good. Why the hell else would have the great Judith Paige mitchell hired me?
Reading my face, Judith pimp-slapped me as she chewed.
“Yeah, you’re good, Monice, but you could be great if only you’d stop thinking so damn much.”
I think that’s when i took a bite of my quesadilla. because if I had looked at judith any more, I would have surely gotten fired that day.
Think too much?
As a writer ain’t that what i’m supposed to do?
From my experience, development executives, for the most part, didn’t know what the hell they were doing.
And I had swapped enough horror stories with friends, colleagues and instructors then to know that it was our job as wordsmiths to do as much hand-holding as we possibly could and supply their nervous, penny-pinching, type ‘A’ personalities with exhaustive outlines, beat sheets and treatments, so they would know exactly what they were getting before they got it.
That’s the Hollywood way.
“Nope, that’s the bullshit way. ” (O.K., Judith didn’t say this, but this is my story and I will embellish it howsomeever I want…:)
To make a long story short, Judith – who was so old school that she knew how to spell outline, but had never personally drafted one – told me to stop writing from my head and start writing from my heart.
Sounds like a corny line from a Lifetime film, I know. But that’s what that little woman said to me.
And that’s why three years later when Address: House of Corrections enraptured me, my thoughts and my life, I sat down at my “desk,” and began to write sans outline.
Consciously trusting my instincts.
Subconsciously relying on my training.
And scared absolutely, positively shitless.