Knowing when to just. Shut. Up.

I just ranted in one of my essays for Feminism class. We were supposed to argue for a writer’s point, and I think I wound up focusing a bit too much on my own. It was about women consistently being put in their place, and in trying to get into the spirit of the whole thing so I could write a proper essay and get a good grade, I went off on the whole thing.

It was about the state of women in filmmaking, and how while strides are being made, there are still people who’re arguing about whether or not Kathyrn Bigelow should’ve gotten the Oscar for The Hurt Locker. I cringe every time I pass a conversation like this, and have to resist the all consuming urge to whap the opposition upside the head. Especially when I hear that, “Well, you know she just got it because she’s a woman.”.

There’ve been strides by female filmmakers. Patty Jenkins is taking on Thor 2, for God’s sake. (Although how much of a stride is in that is entirely a matter of perspective, I’ll grant you.) But there’s still those voices whispering away that having a vagina means you’re just not up to the task.

And really, if you look at the ever lengthening list of names popping up these days (Nicole Holofcener, Sofia Coppola, Penny Marshall, Julie Taymor, Mira Nair, and on and on and on and on…), its a waste of time and brain cells to try to make that argument. Let’s focus on getting the good stories told.

Now see, there it is. I’ve gone three paragraphs on the situation, and if I let myself, I could devote a whole post to it. But I didn’t, so help me. And as a writer who tends to operate entirely on how fast my hands are able to lay down what my brain is sending out, it truly is a matter of self control.

Knowing when to shut up, whether it be in a story or otherwise, would be half the art of writing as far as I can see. Just like Gaiman tells us. And it’s something you have to perfect, when to let the details flow, and when to pull back.

When I did Here and Now for the Libboo Bounty contest (I will not link, I will not link…), I thought stemming the flow of details was the best possible option. Granted, this was only half a thought. I wrote the story quickly, not wanting to lose any sense of momentum just in case the ideas would stop coming. And it all laid itself out pretty easily.

But that was the general idea; like Jackson, Gaiman, or King, build it slow. Details will come in time, the picture will form, and when the twist hits at the end, make it good. I hoped I did that (though I’m sure as hell not as good as the aforementioned) and it seems like I have. People really like the story, though my sister E didn’t quite get the point of the beginning at first, and my mother’s friend D said that he felt the ending took away from the rest of it.

Still, about 97% of the response has been good. Although I do wish I could get more actual reviews on the site, but people don’t like that they’d have to get an account to do it. But anyway.

When it felt like it was right to stop, I stopped. I didn’t want to string things along any more than I had to. There was, at least to me, just enough at the beginning and end. But I had second thoughts, and continued to even now. Naturally, it’s published, and I can’t edit the thing. To do so, I’d have to delete and start over again, and that’s sure as hell not going to happen with two weeks to go and counting.

And since it’s true that the internet’s written in ink, not pencil, it wouldn’t make much of a difference anyway. I did what I did, and that’s all that I did. Same goes with the essay, which was sent in as is, with bits and pieces shaved off from the original.

But I know that particular talent, that innate knowledge of where the words should end and silence should begin, is one that I badly need to get on refining. My past screenwriting teachers always loved my work, but the prime complaint was that it was ‘too wordy’. In fact, at the beginning of the semester, the first question one of them’d asked me was if I’d been writing fiction before this. And when I told him I had, he started laughing and told me “Yeah, I thought so.”.

Too wordy, not wordy enough. Maybe it’s a battle I’ll be waging as long as I keep at this, an eternal fight for balance. As if I don’t do that to myself often enough already.

Oh, that’s a painful thought.


~ by Sara on October 31, 2011.

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