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Knowledge Darts Vol. 6: Inside The Mind Of A Writer

One of the most infuriating things about being a writer/creative is when you can’t just shut your brain off and enjoy something without deconstructing it, analyzing it, then trying to find a deeper meaning in it. Whether we’re talking literature, television or film, I watch something and I’m constantly trying to figure out what makes it work or how it could be improved. Last week, I went to the theater to watch Logan since people were raving about it. Full disclosure? I’m a huge X-Men fan going back to 1979. One of the most pivotal moments of my young life was reading the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills back in 1982 so this has become the Gold standard for storytelling in comic books since. That being said, I’ve hated every single X-Men film that’s appeared in theaters since 2000. I go to see Logan carrying all of that mental and emotional fanboy bias, plus high-ass standards for any film due to a life of being a critic. Sounds like fun, right? Not so much.

I sit there and while I am genuinely enjoying the film, I am simultaneously breaking down key scenes in my head like John Madden during a football telecast. I’m keeping track of character interactions and whether or not certain reactions fit the canon while watching to see how this onscreen interpretation of popular Marvel character Laura/X-23 is going over. I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of the audience is just watching this film without having all of these gears turning inside their heads, but I can’t help it. I’m like this with everything. It’s both exhausting and exhilarating. When the film is finally over I share some spoiler-free thoughts on Twitter and try to scan my recent texts to see if anyone else saw the movie. However, there are only certain people I’m willing to discuss it with. One prerequisite is they need to be hypercritical X-Men/comic book/film fans as well. Preferably, fellow writers or creatives. For reasons…

Now I actually have someone I can discuss what I just saw with—sans the issue of certain concepts or points of reference flying over their heads during the conversation. As we both hash out what worked and what didn’t, the conversation next brings us to what we wished would’ve happened or what could’ve been done better. Mind you, we both thoroughly liked the film. Still we have critiques. Critiques that were even longer than the ones we’d have for films that we absolutely abhorred. This is due to us both being so emotionally invested in the source material for a huge chunk of our lives, plus being writers ourselves. When Prince watched music shows, he’d spend a great deal of time rearranging the music he heard in his own head. Much of the fandom for modern films are the same exact way. In my case? It’s especially tough.

Whether I’m reading an article online, watching a film or documentary on Netflix, or an episode of a show I can’t just let it be. Even if it was perfect, my passion would be to break down why it worked. When I used to help people write dialogue for screenplays, one of the examples I used to show how to immediately engage an audience was the opening 6 minutes of The Social Network. Conversely, when I wanted to use an example of a film that did a poor job of utilizing women or writing strong roles for them past being just objects or minor characters? I used The Social Network as a perfect example. Even though I love that film I have analyzed it to the point where I am keenly aware of its biggest flaws. Most people would rather leave well enough alone, but I’m a writer and I study this craft inside and out in order to make myself more effective at it. Since I’m essentially work for hire, my livelihood depends on it. Not only that, but being a fan makes it easier for me to pick out the elements to keep if I ever get the opportunity to adapt one of these properties myself.

Quite a few of the rap writers and music journalists I came up reading have now transitioned into roles as creatives in multiple fields. Their new jobs range from being executive producers, consultants, directors, writers and showrunners for television, cable series’ and documentaries. Every time I see either someone I used to read or someone I know land a creative position after being a former music journalist it gives me hope that all the time I’ve spent watching series and complaining about the episode or season where it jumped the shark—or the part in a film when I could no longer suspend disbelief—might finally be put to good use one day. All of the articles I’ve written about the various subjects I’m an expert in could result in a position where I can utilize all of this seemingly useless knowledge. The hours I spend in my own head constantly mulling over how to make written pieces better, or what comic book properties, biopics or subjects/events would make for interesting documentaries and films would no longer be for naught.

I’m often writing during the wee hours of the morning. If I’m not constantly re-writing something I’ve already written while agonizing over whether or not it sucks, I’m researching another piece that, even if I pitched it to numerous sites or outlets, they wouldn’t see the value in it—and thus wouldn’t pay me to write it anyways. No matter, as I can easily bang out upwards of 3000 words just to post something to Medium only to see academics cite it for years or other writers reframe it and pitch it to other outlets that will pay them to run it.

I re-wrote this article a couple more times than I originally anticipated. I wanted to get
across just how much shit goes on upstairs and the motivations behind why I do what I do. As a result, you’re currently reading the fifth version of this piece. In the first draft I wasted a full paragraph explaining the role that fandom plays in art/media and the audience’s relationship with the creators/writers of the aforementioned art or media. I also got rid of the part where I went into detail about what I thought was wrong with Logan because it detracted from the main point of this piece I was writing about the how I can’t ever shut my brain off. Look for the Logan piece to end up on Medium before the month is up. If I don’t get this out, it might possibly drive me crazy. That statement pretty much sums up my existence.

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