Timber, I’m not falling

Strange days, strange days.

Recently I got some beautiful feedback on my screenplay, CROW.  Things were said which I hadn’t realized I needed to hear.

When I began CROW, I knew it might take six or seven scripts before I wrote a worthy one. Time wasn’t stopping for me to hone my craft. I had to abandon everything–everything–and HURL myself into it. Just hurl, and hurl, and hurl.

I wrote as Death pounded on my door–and I pounded back.

I burned myself down to nothing, then burned my cinders, and burned them again, and again, and again. After all, I’m only stardust. Born to burn, and born to die. I protected nothing. Somewhere in me, in each burning, there had to be a glimmer, a distilled something that would be true. I was willing to die as many times as necessary.

“Stab me,” I wrote to those giving me feedback.

One day a script reader did, and didn’t stop. He said–and yes, I paraphrase–my only strength was that I used the right number of letters per page–but the wrong words.

He suggested I give up.

I felt like my vocal chords had been cut. Like I’d been singing foolish silence.

And now my tongue’s use is to me no more
Than an unstringed viol or a harp,
Or like a cunning instrument cased up,
Or, being open, put into his hands
That knows no touch to tune the harmony:
Within my mouth you have engaol’d my tongue,
Doubly portcullis’d with my teeth and lips;
And dull unfeeling barren ignorance
Is made my gaoler to attend on me.

~ Shakespeare (Richard ii)

It hurt like I can’t even say.

I learned something very valuable. Something I thought I had already learned.

I’m 37 years old. I don’t give a flying rat’s ass what anyone else thinks of my life and my values, because I am the one who dies my death.

So why, in writing, should I need to fit in? I’m the only arbiter of my personal truth. The only truth is the internal truth.

It took two weeks to wrest my joy from the gutters of doubt. It was like netting a drowned cadaver, only it was my soul I was rescuing. And it wasn’t dead.

I had a goal so insane and desperate, I couldn’t bother with other people’s doubt. I wasn’t exactly attempting the reasonable.

I’d miraculously been writing without doubt for months, but now the monster was here. So I sat across from its bloody teeth and hungry eyes, and I bared my soul again. I hurled my heart against the wall again, into the abyss, into the wells of the world, and then I hurled it again. Because friends, that is the particular madness that is writing.

Two weeks later, I received feedback on the same draft from another script reader, this one describing CROW as having “haunting beauty,” and sharing criticism for my consideration. I noticed how much power I was giving to feedback.

I took all my power back. Good feedback, bad feedback, whatever came my way–I was grateful for the time people took to share it. And I would listen and consider everything that came from a person who got the emotion of the story.

But the only notes I’d act upon would be the ones that resonated with me. From inside. From where the story lies.

Wise, beautiful, smart, feeling people can approach the same movie/book/play and come away with different thoughts. To take some feedback and not others isn’t an act of arrogance. It’s a responsibility to the integrity of the work you’re creating.

This time around, when I sent the script out for feedback, I steeled myself. I readied myself for the price of being myself.

All six reviews are now back. Naturally, several contradict one another on almost every point, except that they find the leads compelling. Each person has given me something to chew on, has spawned some idea or another.

And this week’s professional script reader? Definitely they saw some weaknesses and provided notes. But they also saw beauty. Felt emotion. Strength. Found CROW striking. Even mentioned an original authorial sensibility. (!!)  For the first time, instead of simply being told I had a “unique” voice, that voice was heard–and valued. Which… was a stunner.

I confess I read their notes, and cried. Last time I cried at feedback, it was because I was told I had no song. This time, the opposite.

More work’s ahead, and I’m writing on. I’m so appreciative of all the notes.

The time’s coming when I’ll be sharing this little beast with the person who inspired it. Like it or not, that bridge is mine to cross. And I can see the trolls, and I can see the princess in the tower, and it’s not a fairy tale, and if it’s a “no” I hear, so be it.

This prince will buckle her sword, weep, and tell story after story until the day she dies. The least I can do is burn all the way there.

I still have blood to bleed, and it’s all mine, and it’s all I have to give.

Shower thoughts.

Shower thoughts.


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
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2 Responses to Timber, I’m not falling

  1. “I burned myself down to nothing, then burned my cinders, and burned them again, and again, and again. After all, I’m only stardust. Born to burn, and born to die. ”

    And I know how much you have been burning for CROW. Your passion and discipline has been amazing.

    As for that twit who wrote that it had nothing good and you should quit…seriously F them. Criticism, even if/when it is harsh, is supposed to be helpful. Not insulting. If they really had that much dislike for your work, they should have simply written back that unfortunately it didn’t connect with them enough to be able to give objective feedback on it or something.

    And while I won’t name names here, you know I’ve been privelaged to be a beta reader for two writers who ended up getting deals with top publishing houses. I know talent. Keep going!

  2. sputnitsa says:

    Thanks, you!

    You know how it is with writing. You’re creating something no-one asked for, and you’re bound to share with people who love and people who hate.

    It wasn’t a pain-free lesson, but it was a powerful and important one. Better it’s in my past than still coming. Frees up my schedule for whatever future painful lessons are coming. 😉

    As for giving up, worry not. Giving up was never an option. The sea doesn’t stop creating its shoreline. It’s the sea.

    And I’m sea and shoreline too. 🙂

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