I’m stuck. Which should come as no surprise.
After spending ten years working as a creative professional (AAA, Orlando Sentinel, and Visit Orlando among the highlights, which also includes producing television commercials for a local automotive group) a furlough that started in April, 2020 eventually became a permanent layoff in December.
The writing had been on the wall, but I didn’t start applying for new jobs until late summer -- not that it would have mattered a whole hell of a lot if I had started a month or two earlier. As of today, I’ve applied for 93 jobs and had (multiple) interviews (or next steps) at six of those jobs.
I am, as some might describe, the proverbial barn burner.
When the world ground to a halt last year, I first used the opportunity to deep-dive into my own creative process. I made a mess of videos, uploading regularly to my youtube channel, and found myself drawn to short story writing. I’ve always been a writer (I pumped out a handful of screenplays in my twenties that later became the basis of later published work) and with this newfound lack of distraction, it seemed like an opportune time to spin some yarns.
In the back half of 2020, I wrote a decent chunk of short stories, adapted (and updated) one of those screenplays from my twenties, and in December I landed my crowning achievement: a gig writing a feature-length screenplay for a small indie film shooting overseas. The assignment had a deadline of March, 2021, which I thought was patently ridiculous. In four weeks, I delivered four drafts of a treatment that spanned 23 to 70 pages, a two-page outline/logline/treatment, and a final first draft screenplay clocking in at 103-pages.
I don’t particularly like to print things, but 103-pages of heft is something you just have to feel.
As my love for screenwriting (and Final Draft software!) reignited with a fury, I quickly outlined a second feature idea and started jotting down notes and ideas. I also finished outlining my long-form “Punched, Drunk, and All Out F*cks!” novella (that’s currently sporting a very solid five chapters plus a prologue over on Wattpad).
Then, with the second impeachment trial playing in the background, I turned my attention back to short stories and knocked out a 3,500-word epic that had been percolating since last October. This new story is about a fourteen-year-old girl surviving alone in the Florida wilderness and -- as she’s staring down the barrel of a potential hurricane -- how she comes face-to-face with an angry momma gator and Florida’s own Sasquatch, the Skunk Ape.
While I had outlined “Florida Girls” months ago, the final story poured out in a single day. Again, the satisfaction of holding those fourteen printed pages were immensely satisfying.
Which brings me to now.
The thrill of finishing cannot be understated. And even though I know I can crank out a feature screenplay in a month’s time -- what the hell is supposed to come after that? For all intents and purposes, my screenplays end up being first drafts of a story in another format -- a novella waiting to be finished or (in the case of “Caffeine”) a movie so independent it’s produced entirely by one person.
What I do know is that story is important. Having a library or repository of stories to pull from is valuable.
What I don’t know is how fully realized those stories need to be. I can capture the DNA of a story in a short piece of fiction (“#TextMe” is both a concept for a novel as well as a feature film). The short story format is also great for self-publishing, immediately getting my work out into the world.
A kind of creative instant gratification, as it were.
Fourteen pages, however, pales in comparison to the 103-page screenplay.
I’m sure there’s a balance to be struck -- maybe something along the lines of writing a weekly short story in between chipping away at the long-form material. It’s not like I don’t have the time or availability to experiment with different approaches.
I don’t know where I’m going next. I don’t know if I’ll finally land a job tomorrow, next month, or next year. I don’t know if I should be focusing on long or short-form stories.
But I do know I have stories to tell.
So let’s at least make them good ones.
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