The Writer’s Most Dangerous Desire
By Jacob Krueger
It may be hard to tell from some of the stuff you see coming out of Hollywood, but believe it or not, no one sets out to be a mediocre writer. No writer dreams of writing that crappy screenplay with the unintelligible plot. No writer fantasizes about creating paper thin characters, canned dialogue, or predictable plot points.
As writers, we share a common desire: we want to write great scripts, fascinating characters, brilliant dialogue, and breathtaking stories that catch people and won’t let them go. We want to say something that matters to us, have our voices heard, and create the kind of movies we grew up loving. All writers want to be great writers. Unfortunately, for many writers this need to create something great is actually the biggest obstacle to their writing. That’s because, as much as we’d all like to, no can can control the quality of their writing.
Occasionally, magic does happen. You wake up one day inspired. You know the story you want to tell, and somehow it just pours out of you, almost like someone else was creating the story and all you have to do is type out the words. But more often, that magic is elusive. You wake up inspired with a brilliant premise, but feel like you don’t know how to execute it. Or you discover a character that intrigues you, but haven’t the slightest clue what his or her story will be, or how you’re going to find it. When the words you’re actually writing don’t seem to match the dream of greatness you’re holding in your mind, it’s hard to see yourself as a writer. You start to feel stuck, lost, or just plain blocked. You may even start to wonder if you really have what it takes to be a writer… Nonsense.
The desire for greatness is the most dangerous desire for writers. When you hold it too closely, you not only take all the joy out of writing, but also make it increasingly unlikely that you will ever achieve the greatness you’re seeking. It’s not that writers shouldn’t strive for great writing. It’s that writing is a process, and to actually create something great, you must first give yourself the freedom to play.
Picasso said that he spent four years trying to paint like Raphael, and the rest of his life trying to paint like a child. The same is true for writers. Creating something great often means letting go of your goals for your writing (and the judgment that goes with it), and simply allowing yourself to play like a child.