Monday, January 7, 2008

Hollywood Update #24: Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose

February 9, 2006

First of all, thank you to everyone who a) didn’t ask when they were going to hear from me again, and b) asked when they were going to hear from me again, but made it sound like my updates were the only thing keeping them afloat in times of trouble and woe.

Two weeks ago, just when I had relaxed into seven-hour days of fussing around in my office, writing emails, taking naps, and Googling everything from naked yoga to the Wannabes, we were summoned back into The Room and the cycle of brain-pounding began anew. Then I was assigned to write episode 18, “I Am God” with Diane, and surrendered my free time to drinking coffee, staying up all night, and typing like a NASCAR driver.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the main advantage to being on script is that no one expects me to show up at the office: as long as the drafts appear when they are supposed to, and I dial in for any conference calls, I can sit on my bathroom floor and write on toilet paper with a Sharpie if I feel like it. But I don’t. I write at home because:

What it means to be “writing” varies from writer to writer. I don’t have the emotional energy to defend my idiosyncrasies. I tend to multi-task: I have the script, the internet, two letters, a haiku, and a load of laundry going on at the same time. I write for 15 minutes, get up and have coffee, pet the cat, write for another twenty minutes, write some emails, and then work on the script for awhile. I’m fidgety and may seem unfocused. Writing at home means I can write in 20 minute stretches. Writing at home means I don’t have to explain how making the bed and scooping the cat box help me channel Logan Echolls.

I get to wear my writing uniform. Don’t get me wrong, the VMHQ dress code is something like “as long as it hasn’t been slept in more than once and the vomit is scraped off,” but I still enjoy being able to sit around in the Red Raider Wrestling sweatpants I bought for a dollar at a garage sale, and my I MAKE STUFF UP t-shirt. Plus, I don’t have to shower or brush my teeth. Bad personal hygiene doesn’t make me a better writer, but it does save time.

VMHQ is not conducive to writing. There are the ongoing dart tournaments, for one thing (the Tet Offensive Invitational Open just concluded—and yes, it was an “invitational open”…open to anyone who was invited). Also, Rob just purchased “for the office” (i.e. for the men) a video game in which players sit at their computers in their respective offices and hunt each other…kind of “Most Dangerous Game” but much louder and without study guide questions at the end. Each player has a pseudonym (Phil drew the short straw and is known as Phil The Prancing Tit), is armed with a cartoon arsenal, and attempts to kill the other players in the imaginary realm, screaming loudly from office to office things like “You asshole!” and “ARGH!” and “%$#@^^&!” None of this fits in my script.

Also, “break time” at VMHQ now includes rounds of Guitar Hero, another video game that involves players strapping on miniature guitars and strumming along to classic rock tunes as they appear on the screen. YOU try writing something that’s going to entertain an audience of millions while someone is mangling “You Got Another Thing Comin’” or “Smoke on the Water” in the background.

At home, I can take restorative naps and yoga poses. The nap really only has one form, but yoga offers a number of postures that are helpful for writers. “Savasana,” or dead body pose, can easily be confused with a nap, except that in savasana, the eyes are open and you try to still your mind and slow you’re breathing. I find it very soothing, but something tells me the other writers wouldn’t understand. Same goes for half-tortoise pose, or Ardha Kurmasana, which, besides being a posture that “cures indigestion, constipation and flatulence,” is also good for increasing blood flow to the brain. Not a bad thing when you're writng.

I get more research done at home. This includes watching old episodes of VM to get the voices right, reading my own writing and trying to remember that I can actually write something that doesn’t score a 10 on the suckometer, and calling friends who know stuff about egg-drop physics experimentation and Stanford admissions. Also, I can wander around the neighborhood and write in different spots—the sushi restaurant downstairs, the non-independent-grossly-corporate chain bookstore on the ground floor, the coffee shop on the corner.

It’s fun. And I don’t mean in a watch-TV-order-pizza-drink-beer kind of way. I mean that writing is fun and it makes me happy. At VMHQ, however, expressing joy of this sort violates office protocol, which requires that writers-on-script appear to be hovering at the brink of suicide in front of their peers. Said writers are expected to sequester themselves in their offices with their earplugs and their angst, emerging only every other hour looking tormented and muttering, “I suck. I want to die. I’m going to kill myself.” But I don’t believe I suck, I don’t want to die, and I’m not going to kill myself. The etiquette is to appear humble and tortured, not giddy because you just wrote the funniest scene in the history of television or finally finished an act or thought up the line “It’s not me, it’s Wu.” At home, I can do my happy dance. And many times I do. In fact, I’m doing it right now.

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