Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Assalam alaikum and yo, Internet!
I’ve been going at the third draft of my feature film with a fevered brow for a few weeks now Mashallah. It’s great fun but really spiritually exhausting work.
I didn’t make it into the top 10% at the BlueCat screenplay competition. It hurts but I was expecting it – at this stage, my mystery dramedy isn’t a real screenplay. Insha Allah, if I have a little fun and do a lot of hard work, this baby will really begin to cook.
But till then, *sad face*.
I’ve been wondering when I lost the joy in the process.
Part of me thinks it’s because I’m departing from the main purpose of writing this film, i.e. illuminating the psyche of a young adult female Muslim expat Sri Lankan (how’s that for hyper-fragmentation?), as she deals with transition and loss.
Part of me thinks I’m too focused on the outcome anyway.
Those two things are diametrically opposed to each other. You can see why I’m torn.
What gave me pain almost to the point of quitting on this project is the thought that I had failed at what I had “tried” to do. I had tried to make a point and I had failed. I had the same feeling I have when I “lose” an argument. I got really mad at myself. My ego just couldn’t take the worthless feeling.
But then I realized that a) this was my first ever feature and I really should take it easy on myself and b) where’s the love?
This one time, I took a camera and made a silly little film in support of the Robin Hood Tax. It was the daftest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But it was fun. It gave me immense joy Subhanallah. No question. I wasn’t “trying” to do anything. I wasn’t even “trying” to win the competition. I wasn’t trying to be the best dashed pocket digital camera filmmaker in the universe.
I had an idea and I wanted to see if it would work. It did Alhamdulillah.
I want that feeling back with my feature film screenplay. The same dancey happiness I had when I finished my first draft after 3 months of stopping and starting in fear.
So how can I get that back?
I tried to think back over the times when I’ve felt present and centered and engulfed in the joy and life of the present moment.
I used to get lost in learning Arabic and French.
My niece blows my mind regularly.
Debating with my colleagues was always fun.
I never wanted to leave Improv class with Saad Haroon and I can’t remember ever “trying” to be funny.
I can say that I have danced all the way to the end of an hour-long Zumba video without even thinking about it.
Baking makes my heart sing too. Especially when it all comes together and I get to eat my results.
I used to paint and do pastel colours in high school as part of high school projects. I loved them. I loved getting my hands dirty, the smell of the pastels on my fingers, the shades I could make by mixing things up and making something colorful and beautiful.
How can I embrace that in writing Insha Allah? How can I make it play?
It seems that people figure in my favorite moments. Face-to-face human interaction is always creatively inspiring.
Giving to the other person, whether it’s a joke or a chocolate chip cookie, always seems to help too.
And movement and delighting my five senses may well be a way to make my work joyous.
People always say that directors are the visual ones while screenwriters live in their heads. I disagree. I think I’m a very visual person. I might need to sketch things out if I want to visualize them. Not just the plot, but my character’s life stories. Reading the dialogue out loud with a friend could be entertaining and expose the weaknesses in my screenplay. Definitely joining a writer’s group or a class could definitely take my writing to the next level.
One thing’s for sure – rules kill my creativity. I’m through telling myself I need this amount of time and this amount of quietude to make things work for me. If it’s not going to happen in my life, it’s not. I’m through trying to chase a Holy Grail of quiet time to work. I shall work in spite of and because of my parents’ frequent interruptions. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be writing this screenplay so it’s probably fitting that I can hear their voices constantly.
What do you guys do to stay creative?
The Happy (and hardworking creative) Muslimah.