Thursday, August 7, 2014

Revision - Every Writer's Best Frenemy

The World's Greatest Cat Is Far Too Busy For Endless Revisions

Let's face it – if you're a writer, then the revision process is your frenemy. It can turn a lousy piece of writing great, but it can also be tedious and time consuming. No wonder professional writers are so passionate about their work. They have to be in order to put up with all the revisions their job requires.

Students of mine at Post University are currently reading about the revision process and seem fascinated by the fact that revising one's work really wasn't a big part of writing until the 20th century. They're right to be fascinated by that fact, too.

Shakespeare, after all, was said to not revise at all (though I find that a bit of a stretch). Ernest Hemingway, on the other hand, claimed he rewrote the amazingly simplistic ending to “A Farewell To Arms” over thirty times before he was satisfied with it.

The point? That the writing process inevitably changes with time.

This is true on a personal as well as on a societal level. When I was young and hungry, I would spend untold amounts of time revising a single sheet or two of writing. I remember literally laying on a floor, looking up at the work in my hands over and over again. Six or seven revisions for three to six hundred words was nothing out of the ordinary for me.

What's more, when I wrote a screenplay about Joan of Arc, it took me two and a half years before I was ready to send it out. Why? Because it took me close to a year and a half to complete a single battle scene to my personal satisfaction.

Looking back, I think perhaps it was my experience screenwriting that tempered my view of the revision process altogether (I once worked on draft after draft of a script for a production company). Maybe it was becoming a boxing writer, though, that made me change my opinion (there's no time to dilly dally when a fight has just ended).

Whatever the reason, my views regarding the revision process have changed. I still firmly believe that work needs to be revised, oh, close to one hundred percent of the time. Yet I also believe there comes a point when the writer just has to let his or her work go.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that he felt he could sometimes actually do better than his best. Believe it or not, I get what he was saying, but I also believe it's wrong for us to try to extend ourselves beyond our abilities on a regular basis. I like to tell my students that my job isn't to read masterworks but to help them become better writers. In short, I want them to know it's actually okay to screw up, so long as they're trying.

Heck, even Shakespeare and Hemingway made mistakes.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Is Stephen Colbert Offensive? Does The Very Question Offend You?

Some of us are just too chillaxed to be easily offended.

So now we want to “Cancel Colbert.”

In case you haven't heard, Stephen Colbert has offended lots of people by mocking someone he himself seems to find offensive. Yup. The comic accuser now stands accused and things have finally come full circle here in Offended America.

A short summary of events: Colbert was mocking the owner of the Washington Redskins for a willingness to offend people. In doing so, however, Colbert pretended to be offensive himself. Well, lots of people didn't get the joke and now they're outraged at the beloved faux conservative.

There's a new rule, we're being told, via Twitter. And that rule contends that you cannot accuse a person or group of being offensive through the use of satire. What's more, if you have the audacity not to comply with this rule, you will subsequently stand accused of the same high crime of offensiveness you're highlighting.

What this all means, of course, is that sometimes you just have to sit back and watch the insanity unfold. For, after devouring every bloody fish in the shark tank, members of the offended class now seem to be turning on each other. Let's face it, Colbert has never had a problem using his comedy to toss red meat out to the easily offended. In a sense, then, this all seems to be a just dessert of sorts.

Thing is, though, Colbert might not be hurt by this. Not really. He may stand accused of being a privileged white liberal at the moment - but other privileged white liberals are rushing to his defense. Yes, it's true. Esteemed white libs are now arguing that Colbert's words were taken out of context on Twitter. If only everyone, they seem to be saying, would be as mature and nuanced as they themselves are.

The point here is that there may be yet another rule to adhere to. And that rule says that certain educated, well-off Caucasians of a particular leaning simply cannot be accused of offending someone. Which, of course, is pretty offensive in and of itself.

But why get mad at this point? At least Colbert won't lose his job over something ridiculous. That sort of thing is saved for the type of people Colbert mocks on his show, after all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

If You Disagree With Me About This, You're A Bad Person

The World's Greatest Cat is completely bowled over by the arrogance of some people. 

Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, recently stated in no uncertain terms that if you don't share his personal ideology, you should get rid of any Apple stocks you own.  He then proceeded to sit in a corner and suck his thumb.

Okay, that last part isn't true, but the rest of the paragraph is. Someone should have asked Tim if those who disagree with his personal ideology should stop buying Apple products, too. The truth is, he may well have said yes. Why? Because we now live in a world where there is no other side to an argument. There is only your side and the opinions of idiots and bad people.

Employees over at CNN and the Los Angeles Times, for example, have clearly indicated they have no patience for people known as "climate change deniers." If  "climate change deniers" sounds like a ominous and scary name it's because those who utter it truly believe it pertains to ominous, scary people.

Need more proof of rampant self-righteousness? Over at Harvard a student named Sandra Korn recently argued that there should be no more academic freedom, just academic justice. Academic justice, of course, is something that's defined by Ms. Korn and those who think like her.

You may agree with this sort of nonsense, but if you do, you're in some nefarious company. Look, people like Mr. Cook and Ms. Korn are nowhere near the likes of Hitler and Stalin. They're not even close. Yet a mindset which screams "if you don't agree with me you have to shut up or go away" is perfectly in keeping with the mindsets of Communist Russia and the Third Reich.That's just the truth.

Again, neither Mr. Cook nor Ms. Korn are mass murdering despots. They're taking the country in the wrong direction, though, and that's a scary thing. There's certain truths all sane Americans agree on, like the fact that slavery was evil. When we apply that same self-assurance to other beliefs, however, we basically begin being intolerant. And that's how Mr. Cook and Ms. Korn are acting - intolerant.

Kinda un-American, don't you think?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How They May Have Finally Killed Star Wars

The Force is strong with the World's Greatest Cat.

It finally may have happened, friends. They may have finally killed Star Wars. If the rumors are true, a film is in the works about Boba Fett, the onetime mysterious and super-cool bounty hunter. Way to turn Star Wars into X-Men, people.

What everyone in the industry seems to be forgetting is that one of Star Wars' great strengths was that it didn't show and explain everything. Remember the original trilogy? We heard about the senate. We heard about the clone wars. We heard about a lot of things. But we didn't see them.

And that's part of the reason the first three flicks were so insanely successful. Big as they were, they always left you with a feeling that they were only part of a larger picture. Important names and places were tossed off – but we never got to know a lot about them. That sense of mystery added weight to the whole affair. It gave movies that were aimed for young people an intelligent edge.

Say good-bye to intelligence. Truth is, we should all have been saying good-bye to it fifteen years ago, when it became clear the prequels were going to show and explain everything to us. Everything. Add that to the fact that they were often geared towards young children instead of pre-teens, like the original three films were, and you can understand why those prequels were a failure.

Look, I know it seems silly griping endlessly about Star Wars. It's a movie franchise, after all, not a way of life. For some of us, however, Star Wars symbolizes the era of our youth. And that's important. No one wants their past trampled on, at least not the good parts of that past.

So yeah, it's a shame they're taking the narrative strength out of the Star Wars universe. I really have no problem – well, not MUCH of a problem – with the series continuing. I'm not anti-capitalist, after all, and these flicks can make a lot of money. Good for those who can cash in on them.

Still, only the most heartless among us can applaud the death of art for the sake of cheap commerce. To do that , my friends, is to go over to the dark side.