Overplay It Right
The new year is in full swing, and I hope everyone’s diving head first into their creative and professional endeavors. I set a goal to write 2000 words a day (not counting Fuel blogs and sarcastic tweets), and so far, so good! But sometimes we need a mission that’s more than a numerical value. A daily word count is fine, but I needed a more abstract goal to work towards, a way to make sure my writing is actually improving. And I was recently given some inspiration from a very unlikely source.
I was reading an interview with John Mayer, who was talking about how he adapted his style of guitar playing when he joined the Grateful Dead. (Die-hard Daily Fuel fans, if such a person exists, might remember that I used to hate the band with the exception of one song, but I’ve recently come to appreciate them much more.) He was explaining that the complexity of their music was making him a better technical guitar player, when he said this:
“I know I overplay, and I’m still working on the overplaying right. It’s a lot easier to play more notes than fewer notes because you get this kinetic bounce. It’s like when you’re working out—when you just bounce back and forth you actually don’t get the muscle work because you’re springing back and forth. When you play a lot of notes, it’s kind of safer because your [bracketed] in all of the bopping. I’m working really hard on playing slower and being more vocal.”
Now I can’t do much more than spell the words “music theory,” and have no way of proving this, so I’ll have to take his word for it. But what he said made perfect sense to me. A better guitar player can make the same quality of music using fewer notes, but making them all matter. I realized that the same theory could be applied to my screenwriting.
I’ve always considered myself a relatively articulate person, but I do use quite a few words. I rarely send a text with less than one paragraph, and when I sit down at a computer, words just tend to flow and flow and flow. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, it’s just an expression of my personality. But when all of my characters start to speak that way, I suddenly have a problem. No matter how much I refine my writing style, the person behind the keyboard is still the Gilmore Girls-obsessed child who likes to speak in soliloquies. Trying to limit my words is a good creative goal for 2019, and will hopefully go a long way towards making my writing more poignant and realistic.
I’ll always be a wordy writer. I have no delusions about becoming a Hemingway or Chekhov overnight, nor would I want to. I’d hate to lose what makes me unique. But this exercise should make my work more balanced. And if it succeeds, I’ll owe it all to the man who sings “Your Body Is A Wonderland.” When we can’t find the motivation to pursue our goals, it often helps to get a spark of creativity from someone else’s unique perspective. So stay on the lookout, because you never know where you’ll find it.