Monday, 1 December 2008

saving private scrimger

They say that war is vast stretches of boredom punctuated by short periods of intense fear. Nothing happens, nothing happens, and then suddenly EVERYTHING is happening and maybe you don't even survive to the next bit where nothing happens. Sounds about right to me. I imagine firefighting to be something like that. And police work. Stacks of forms to fill out, months of practicing, and then maybe an hour when it's all on the line. Makes for good drama, whether you focus on the build up or the action, because the audience knows that at any given point the characters could be involved in a life-or-death struggle.
The stakes are high for doctors and lawyers too -- if they make a mistake, people die or go to jail. And these profesionals live intensely collegial lives, fighting and bonding with each other in the workplace. The human drama unfolds from nine to five. Again, good theater.
Writing is different. For all the romance associated with the arts, the daily life of the artist makes lousy viewing. I've been busy as hell for the last few days, but it occurs to me that nothing about my working life could be used in a story. What did I do? you ask. Well, I tapped away on this keyboard. That's what I do when I'm writing. When the work is going well, I am tapping away at the keyboard, muttering phrases out loud and nodding to myself. When it's going badly, I am tapping a little more slowly, muttering profanities, and getting up from the keyboard to make another cup of coffee. In between times, when I'm not tapping away, I am staring into space.
That's it. And that's all of it. I mean, I don't even talk to anyone. No wonder that Ridley Scott is not out there with a writing life movie. (Tap! Stare! Yawn!) Yes, that is a Jane Austen action figure in the picture. It is marketed ironically.
The only way you can sell a creative biopic is to set the story away from the typewriter or the easel. It helps if the artist has a surprising and deeply engaging personal life -- fighting hard, loving disastrously, keeping crocodiles in the bath tub. Sadly for you, reading this, my extra-curricular life is only marginally more interesting than my working life.
The best I can hope for is a spot in someone else's story. If a fire breaks out at my place, I could get a supporting role in some firefighter's triumph and/or tragedy. If a war breaks out at my place, I could become the object of a mission. Saving Scrimger. I like it.
OK, now I have to get back to work. Don't bother looking -- there's nothing to see here.


Marilyn said...

You just need the right director and he/she could make a fascinating film about you writing. It could
be all facial expressions, or focus on the coffee.
One day you could be out of coffee and go on a killing spree, or maybe you start seeing someone else's life through your glasses.

Richard Scrimger said...

A film of facial expressions? Maybe we could sell it to Andy Warhol. I don't see it as a Christmas blockbuster.

Anonymous said...

Ahh . . . Mr. Scrimger -- oops sorry. I forgot that was your father. Actually I believe I am allowed to call you Richard since I am an adult.
You underestimate the "character" you are. I took a class of Grade 7 students to see you at the Legends Centre in the 'Swa last week and let me tell you -- you made quite on impression! They were buzzing with excitement and they were able to articulate what you had to say to them that day. We held a very lively discussion on writing back at school. It was honestly one of the most thought-provoking educational experiences I've ever had with the kids!
I have had many a firefighter, police officer, dentist, veterinarian, wildlife activist, even the Mayor come to speak to my students with NONE of the same long lasting effects.
So while you feel that your existence is somewhat boring and wouldn't make for a great main character, please accept my thanks for the sparks that you have started in these young minds. Maybe your character could be an arc welder -- igniting synapses in children's brains -- perfect -- Sci Fi.
Even my own unconventional and irresponsible daughter who does NOT like to read is now caught up in a reading frenzy with Norbert and Alan's adventures.
So take it from those of us who have had the pleasure to see you speak, you ARE a "main character"!

Richard Scrimger said...

Gosh, I don't know what to say (and isn't that ironic!)except that you have charming students whose minds were clean and ready for welding. And that the welder had fun at work that day.

Anonymous said...

What if the subject of the biopic, the firefighter, say, was an aspiring novelist who, with adventure stories racing through his mind was judged so boring the director went home? Would the firefighter bent over his notebook lost in his fictional world notice they'd gone?

Kind of a tree falling in forest thing?

Or Seinfeld story-about-nothing?

Or Still Life podcast, written by a stay-at-home dad who pretends to be boring but is wicked funny...I mean sick. Sorry, just got finished with the flu at the clinic episode. Good stuff.