When I think about writing goals I dream of reaching a happy-ever-after like this:
1. Marketing person mum finds time to complete screenplay.
2. Script gets attention from a production company.
3. Screenplay is developed, it improves through several drafts.
4. Jo finds agent and gets TV work, possibly even… Jo beats the odds and her film is made. Jo is a full time screenwriter!
5. A feel-good scene sums up her happy life. Jo picks up her boy from school, and on a sunny walk home she chats about a fun day of story invention.
So looking at this simply.
My goal here is: Write script.
My goal fulfilled is: A satisfying creative career and family friendly self-employment.
Only this screenwriting goal is just surface stuff. I’ve been thinking about how ‘goals’ are different from ‘purpose’. If my goal is ‘sell script’ what’s my purpose in pursuing that? This has led to a more meaningful consideration of why I’m doing this at all.
There are clues in the way I describe my writing dream. If I look deeper at what I ‘really’ hope to achieve then maybe I’ll find screenwriting isn’t the only way to get there? Maybe I’ll find new opportunities that satisfy the same purpose? Maybe it will give me a more achievable route to the happy-ever-after scene I describe?
In a movie the character always has a goal. In James Bond the goal is usually a quest to defeat the bad guy. While in Toy Story 3 the toys goal is to escape Sunnyside Day Care and get home to Andy.
Movie’s always have a theme lurking beneath the goal. The real purpose of James Bond’s quest is to ensure justice is done. In Toy story 3 Woody hopes to find love and friendship. Film characters have clear goals – but also a fulfilling purpose. James Bond needs justice, so he defeats bad guys. Woody needs friendship, so he fights to get home to Andy. More often than not I have clear goals without even thinking about the ‘theme’ hiding behind my ambitions.
When I’m trying to sell a screenplay what’s my real purpose? It’s not fame, I get no buzz from thinking about crowds seeing my name on a big screen. It’s not money, I work on scripts after work – but my job pays well so I don’t need to do that. What satisfies me about creating scripts? I know the feeling of inspiration gives me a buzz. I love ideas, especially ideas that are new – that’s exciting. It’s quite satisfying working on ideas at home on my laptop… but that’s not the best bit. Sharing ideas matters too. The ultimate satisfaction is creating something new that serves a purpose.
So perhaps my real purpose could be described as, ‘creating something original that matters to other people.’
I feel embarrassed writing that. It’s such a big ambition – but it feels right. I think that is why I do what I do. I suppose it reveals why I write a blog and never a diary, I also see it show itself in my everyday work.
My favourite times at work involve coming up with ideas, then making them happen. This might be a poker promotion or a new way to do something. It’s not a story on the screen, but it feels just as good. I’ve known this for a long time, and it changes the way I work.
I’m now far less creative in my day job.
I know I enjoy creating new stuff, so I’m wary of going to work and having a good time! Work isn’t about me having fun, it’s a serious business. So I hold back. It would be great if my job was about making exciting new stuff happen (just occasionally it is) but more often than not it’s about repeating successful formulas, taking an idea that’s worked elsewhere then applying it to my business unit, or everyday management of projects that work just fine as they are. This is a drag, but it’s work. Who said work was supposed to be fun?
If I’m getting closer to defining my ‘life purpose’, does it help me achieve more or feel more fulfilled? I’m not sure.
I’m taking a broader, bigger picture look at where my life is headed. It means a few tough decisions. I’ve decided to put screenwriting on hold while I work on a project that might be a more practical way to reach point 5 above. It even involves my day job (could work become fun after all?)
Save the Cat is my favourite screenwriting book. In Blake Snyder’s system the ‘A story’ is the character’s goal, while the ‘B story’ is about theme and purpose. Characters in films don’t think much about the B stuff, but it always comes into play to create a story’s satisfying conclusion. So yeah. I’m working on my B story.
I always come back to bees and Bs… Why is that?
I think I know, it’s how I get my buzz.