Tag Archives: Writing

Oops, I Got a Screenwriting Degree!

This morning, I woke up to a horrifying realization.

Oh my god! I forgot to blog for two years straight!

Wait, wait. Let me try that again:

FADE IN:

INT. APARTMENT THAT’S NOT RUSS’S BECAUSE HE’S HOMELESS – DAY

RUSS NICKEL (20s) tosses and turns on a fold-out IKEA futon. Wearing only boxers, his shaved head does little to hide his bald spot, and he grinds away at his adult retainer like a madman.

Suddenly, he sits up and his eyes fly open. He SCREAMS. Then looks to the ceiling.

RUSS

What have I done?!

FADE OUT

Okay, I admit it. That’s not much of a scene (but those cops will be happy; they’re always telling me not to make a scene). And it’s not even that accurate. I mean, c’mon. I obviously don’t wear boxers when I sleep. I just wanted to protect myself in case Sam thought about drawing me naked. Again.

But the rest is true. I’ve made a huge mistake. I got a masters in screenwriting.

When I got my English degree and found myself unemployed, what did I do? Did I grit my teeth, buckle down my bootstraps, hike up my pants, put my nose to the grindstone and otherwise idiomatically prepare myself to start from the bottom and work my way up? Of course not! I took another loop on the roundabout and went to graduate school like any self-aggrandizing young adult with a crippling fear of actual work and the real world.

Graduate school offers post-adolescents like me the opportunity to postpone troubling questions like “how do I pay for food?” “what are taxes?” and “oh my god what if lemurs become sentient through a medical mishap, master the art of horseback riding, and go on a rampage to overthrow their human masters?!”

I figured that I’d poured about twenty years into my schooling so… two more years should be just the amount of time I needed to get it all figured out. At the time, my final, ultimate, daunting graduation seemed endlessly far away. But real life comes for all of us sooner than you think, and mine came in the form of a furry panther creature handing me a diploma.

"This document is a symbol not of your achievements, but of the fact that you can no longer keep hiding in the womb of education.  Err, I mean, Meow."

At first I was frightened that I might be having acid flashbacks to that time I had that weird dream that I’d accidentally tried acid, but then I remembered it was our school mascot. I didn’t see it around too often since I was a graduate student, meaning my only interaction with main campus was awkwardly hitting on sorority girls. Anyways, with a growl of ‘good luck’, ol’ panther sent me on my way, and I found myself unequivocally unemployed, and even less quivocally homeless.

But what’s a little case of homelessness when you’re writing the next great American screenplay? That just enhances its authenticity! All I have to do is find a 24 hour café and wash my armpits in their bathroom.

In my experience that’s the only part of the human body that builds up any level of grossness, but I could be wrong about that. Keep in mind that I have English and Screenwriting degrees, so science mostly evades me.

Now, when I say homeless, I don’t mean, oh, I just haven’t figured out where I’m moving. I mean my lease ran out in July, I have basically no money because grad school is ridiculously expensive, and all my stuff is in storage. For the last quarter of a year I’ve been living out of a suitcase, sleeping on the proverbial street-side that is a string of friends’ couches, err, IKEA futons.

"Would you please wash your armipits?" -Raccoon

I’d thought Screenwriting was a good idea. English was too vague, but Screenwriting, that was a vocation. It’s more focused. There’s a real practical application, an industry built around it. Someone in said industry would surely employ me, right? And once again, my friends and family foolishly supported me in my endeavor. Live your dream! Make movies! Move to Hollywood, woo Yvonne Strahovski, and have beautiful, beautiful Strahovskian children. It all sounded so simple.

Ah, every man's dream... to own a pitchfork.

But it’s not all guns n’ roses. In school, writing had been relatively easy. After all, there were domineering authority figures with impressive scarves and even more impressive imdb pages giving me deadlines, hope, and a fair bit of good ol’, swear-word-filled tough love. Writing isn’t so easy out here in RL. Suddenly I realize that, rather than coming naturally, it’s a muscle to be stretched, berated, pulled, and then overcome. Without the structure of education, without a home base, I’m trapped in an echo chamber of reality, sputtering down the river of my rapidly depleting budget toward the waterfall of regular job-iness, trying desperately to build a raft out of my own creativity, and even if I do construct said raft, the odds that it’ll float are like one in a thousand. It’s not a perfect metaphor.

You’d think people who get accepted to an institute of higher education would be educated enough to know that an MFA in Screenwriting doesn’t put you on the fast track to success. I’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of me, and I don’t know if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

So what went wrong? Looking back on it, I think I must have seen one too many movies. Movies where the message is that anybody can make it if they believe hard enough. Said believing will trigger a montage that gets you to the exciting part of your life in the time it takes to play Eye of the Tiger. I thought, if I just go to school, if I work my ass off, if I pour my soul into script after script after script, I could become the person who… writes one of those ridiculously misleading movies that tricks a whole generation of young adults into throwing their lives away in order to make movies. It’s an endless feedback loop of that most despicable of all feelings: hope.

All he hoped for... was to escape the loop.

But there are still ways for me to feel good about myself. I just have to think of screenplays as my home, my ethereal, 1s and 0s, totally un-move-into-able home. And you know what, I’m okay with that. So if you ever see me begging for spare change on the side of the road, don’t pity me. By all means, still give me a dollar, but as you do, think of how incredibly fulfilled I am. Because I’m living the dream.

And for a few hours each night, life is perfect.

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How to Write a Blog Post in 39 Simple Steps!

So, last week we got Freshly Pressed for the second time. Woooo! And we even somehow got more page views than during our first lightning strike of good fortune! Perhaps because we now have so-called ‘content.’  Anyway, after much frivolity and celebration, Sam and I set out to determine exactly how this came to pass. Unfortunately, our frivolity was a bit too frivolous, and the next morning, all we had was a pizza napkin with the phrases “internet gnomes” and “snorkel” scribbled hastily in tomato sauce.

We later expanded on this idea, but “really sneaky internet gnome oceanographers” still seemed like a subpar explanation.

Having failed at our initial attempt, we decided to do the next best thing: retrace our steps and copy them exactly.

After much sleuthing and step-tracing, we’ve compiled a handy, step-by-step guide that should allow us to achieve brilliance on a weekly basis. In our extreme beneficence, we’ve decided to share these trade secrets with you, the reader. This may be career suicide, but as enlightened members of the Internet Age, we realize that all information must be free and open for the good of humanity. So here, without further ado, is the secret to creating a killer blog post (maybe).

5 P.M. Step 1 (Russ): Prepare

Good. You’re starting early. This is gonna be a piece of cake. Sit down at your unnecessarily-powerful gaming computer, slap on your nerdy wrist guard that protects you from the dangers of typing, and pour yourself a little scotch to, you know, channel the Spirits of Hemingway. Here we go.

5:05 P.M. Step 2 (Russ): Procrastinate

You have more than enough time to write this bad boy. After all, you started early! You deserve a reward for your dedication. Maybe an episode of TV. Or two. Or three.

6:30 P.M. Step 3 (Russ): Guilt

I can’t believe you wasted all that time! What were you thinking? And you call yourself a writer. Writers write. They don’t sit around, you know, not writing.

7:00 P.M. Step 4 (Russ): Choose a Topic

Let’s see, what to write about? Your life’s been going on for a while now—something must have happened somewhere along the line. Something? Anything? Oh god. How could anyone ever care about what you have to say?

7:15 P.M. Step 5 (Russ): Admit Failure

Face it. You’ve never experienced a single real crisis or challenge or unique event (outside of that time you tripped and caught your ice cream scoop with its own cone). How could you possibly think you’d be able to produce quality writing inspired by your own life?

7:45 P.M. Step 6 (Russ): Beg

In the course of living amongst humanity, you’ve managed to spend a lot of your time around “people.” Maybe they can help! Go through your phone book and ask everyone you know if they have any brilliant ideas for your blog.

8:00 P.M. Step 1 (Sam): Receive the Signal

Instant message from Russ. Hello. Yes, you know what day it is. You’ll get done in about an hour probably. No you don’t have any idea about what to write about.

8:30 P.M. Step 7 (Russ): Resent Others

If they had truly been your friends, they would have dropped everything to figure out exactly what you should say to the people of the internet. Reminding you of the time you ate eight-month-old cream cheese isn’t enough!

9:00 P.M. Step 8 (Russ): Come to Terms with Reality (Not sure if this step has ever actually occurred)

Ok, it’s getting late. You need to have something written. After all, tomorrow’s a Tuesday, and you’ve made a group of strangers a promise for some reason.

9:45 P.M. Step 9 (Russ): Start a Draft

The time has come to actually put words onto virtual paper. Slap on some tunes, like the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack or the music of World of Warcraft. Pound a Rockstar or two and get in the zone. If you just start hitting keys, letters will appear, and perhaps they’ll form words, which will perhaps make sentences.

11:00 P.M.  Step 10 (Russ): Finish the Draft

Genius. This is pure gold. You’re really on a roll tonight.  You’re even starting to remember why you love writing.

11:10 P.M. Step 11 (Russ): Read the Draft.

Oh god, what were you thinking? Did you write those words? Those utterly despicable words. The caffeine must have given you hallucinations or something.

11:15 P.M. Step 2 (Sam): Finish Work at the Office

Holy cow, how did it get so late?

11:20 P.M. Step 12 (Russ): Freak Out

You clearly have no talent. Maybe this blog thing was a bad idea. But wait, blogging is all you’re qualified for. If not this, then what?!

11:30 P.M. Step 13 (Russ): Write Another Draft

Ok. There has to be something salvageable here. If you can just trim the bad parts, your junkyard of a draft should provide the materials to rebuild your post, stronger than it was before. You have the technology.

11:35 P.M. Step 3 (Sam): Go Home

Bike home in the dark. On the way, it’ll start to rain.  Keep an eye out for low-hanging branches which will whip you in the face, just to make sure you aren’t enjoying yourself too much.

12:15 A.M. Step 14 (Russ): Send It to Sam

Send the file to your co-blogger, hoping against hope that your words won’t cause his eyes to melt away in horror, like that time you accidentally looked into the Ark of the Covenant.

12:16 A.M. Step 4 (Sam): Ignore Draft

There’s a draft of something on your computer when you boot it back up. Lovely. You should read it, but you haven’t eaten in a while. Food will put you in a better mood, and you’re going to have to make it eventually anyway.

12:30 A.M. Step 5 (Sam): Finish Dinner

That was a good decision. Nothing like salami on pita bread to let you know you’re alive.

12:20 A.M. Step 15 (Russ): Worry

As Sam reads the draft, you’ll be unable to accomplish anything. Will this be the one that finally reveals your complete ineptitude? Will you alienate all your readers? Will they realize how unfunny you are? Oh god, why hasn’t Sam said anything? He’ll assure you it’s because he was making dinner, but you know the truth. He doesn’t know how to break the news to you.

12:30 A.M. Step 6 (Sam): Read and Edit Draft

Hm. This post makes very little sense and will probably insult a good many of your readers. How do you break the news to him? And how the hell does he expect you to draw a cow explaining ‘the concept of remorse’? Make some edits and hope the images won’t change in the rewrite.

1:00 A.M. Step 7 (Sam): Protect Russ’s Ego

Go back and add some positive feedback to your edits so Russ doesn’t think you hate it.

1:05 A.M. Step 16 (Russ): Rejoice

Sam says he likes it! Not only that, but he’s made a slew of edits and now it’s five times funnier. That guy’s the best!

1:15 A.M. Step 8 (Sam) Start Drawing

Well, you’d better get started—it’s not getting any earlier. Start with the one that seems like the easiest and least likely to be in the final draft. Make sure to save the most complicated one for last so that when you finally get to it you’re so tired that the thought of drawing it becomes an overwhelming chore!

It’s best to queue up all the latest episodes of The Colbert Report on the other monitor as you draw. Keeps the mind occupied.

After each drawing is finished, send it over to Russ. If it confuses him, you’ve done something wrong. Usually though, he’s absurdly excited about it to the point that you feel embarrassed. Then he’ll make a couple perfectly reasonable observations about how to improve them, and you will grudgingly grumble about having to make them even though he’s absolutely right.

1:20 A.M.  Step 17 (Russ): Rewrite Over and Over and Over Whilst Giving Feedback on Sam’s Drawings

You wonder how Sam will manage to bring your absurdly complicated whims to visual reality. Every half hour or so he’ll shoot you a draft of a drawing. How did he make that so good?! Once in a while though, you’ll need to step in and tell him that the hands he drew are too claw-like and terrifying. While he deals with this, do around 5 rewrites, making sure to work in some television, or, if you’re alone, something more risqué.

2:00 A.M. Step 9a (Sam): Enjoy Yourself

You’re making fairly good progress. See, this is fine. This is fun! Drawing is what you love to do, right? Why do you act like this is some sort of chore you have in addition to work? You just need to relax a bit!


2:10 A.M. Step 9b (Sam): Really Enjoy Yourself

Inhale or imbibe some relaxing substances. You’ll have a blast! This is going to be the best post ever.


3:45 A.M. Step 10 (Sam): Panic

Your masterpiece is complete! Adding that extra alien spaceship was totally worth it. And it’s only–how is it already 3:45?? There are still… 9 more pictures to draw??? How did this happen? You’ll briefly consider lying down and resting your eyes for just 10 minutes, but you know if you do that, there’s no waking up.

6:00 A.M. Step 11 (Sam): Rejoice

That’s the last drawing! Should you edit the text one last time? You could. But then again, it’s six in the morning.

“Can I go to bed now?”

The 30 seconds it takes Russ to respond will be the longest in the world.

6:00 and 30 seconds A.M. Step 18 (Russ): Let Sam Sleep

Sam never drinks as many Rockstars, so by the time he finishes the art, he’ll only be about 10% awake and will be very disgruntled by any requests for early morning companionship. If you try to ask him for input now, he’ll just start ranting, marveling at your ability to be so incredibly verbose without actually saying anything.

6:05 A.M. Step 12 (Sam): Sleep

Check Reddit one last time on your phone before collapsing in exhaustion.

6:30 A.M. Step 19 (Russ): Despair

You need to think of bonus jokes for all the images?! This last, dainty straw will be more than your caffeine-fueled, overclocked brain can bear. And you were so close to completing this week’s post without a mental breakdown!

6:40 A.M. Step 20 (Russ): Man Up

Just say the first thing that comes into your head. No one’s going to know. People probably don’t even read the mouseover text anyway.

7:00 A.M. Step 21 (Russ): Final Review

Read through it one last time. Too bad at this point you’ll no longer be able tell what’s funny and what’s gibbering inanity. Your ability to comprehend words will seem to have fled entirely. That’s the sign that you’ve finished the post!

7:15 A.M. Step 22 (Russ): Post It!

A great sense of accomplishment and release should wash over you as you stare at your fledgling post, all on its own out there in the dangerous world of the internet. It doesn’t know what it’s in for.

7:16 A.M. Step 23 (Russ): Refresh!

Time to go to the stats page and hit F5 until your fingers break. Has anyone seen it yet? What about now? Now? Any comments? I can’t wait to respond to comments!

7:45 A.M. Step 24 (Russ): Go to Sleep

When the sun is shining brightly in the rosy dawn and the birds begin their joyful song, delighted by another beautiful morning, you’ll know it’s time for bed. Shut down your computer, turn off the lights, and crawl under your covers, comforted by the fact that you’ve accomplished a bare minimum of productivity. You may not get paid, but at least it’s something.

8:00 A.M. Step 25 (Russ): Wait a Second!

As you drift off to sleep, your brain will drowsily mull over the post, which will inevitably lead to the realization that you should have referred to that evil taxi driver as a “toothless hobgoblin” instead of a “vehicle-dwelling night-lurker,” or something equally unimportant.

8:15 A.M. Step 26 (Russ): Boot Up the Computer and Make Changes

Leap out of bed and input the minor changes. As long as the computer’s already on, you might as well refresh the stats page. And if you wait just a few more minutes there are sure to be comments to respond to!…

——

And there you have it. As easy as stuffing a rabid weasel into a snake-filled gunnysack! And not nearly as much chance of infection! With these simple steps, you too can be on your way to making a mark in the blogging world. And if you’re nothing like us, perhaps you’ll manage to keep your psyche from shattering into tiny, unsalvageable parts along the way!

Note: If, in repeating these steps exactly, you find yourself able to write something that would gain Internet-wide mild approval and bemusement, we hope you’ll remember Reasonably Ludicrous as the blog that made it all possible. Good luck!

Bonus Step 27:

Add this step so that the title of your post can seem like a Hitchcock reference.

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