I was entirely covered, as I invariably am on those atypical occasions when I submit myself to a risk. Before I begin what I am concerned will be a calamitous undertaking, I like to have a ready litany of excuses…um, explanations… for why I fell short. This makes for a softer landing. (“Of course I failed. Look what I was up against!”)
Having not quite enough stress in my life – Read: Virtually none whatsoever – I decided to inject some pressure of my own by volunteering to upgrade a scene from a Major Dad episode written twenty-five years ago. Doesn’t everybody do that?
(SHAKESPEARE: “Not me. I get it right the first time. Whoever I am.”)
But first, as is my way of things, I protectively leveraged my bet.
Before I dove into the rewrite, I had determined that I would write a follow-up post mortem, rationalizing why the experiment had been an anti-climactical stink bomb, and exonerating myself from as much responsibility as possible.
That title you see up there? I had already thought of it. Hence the word “dubious” before “experiment”, rather than say, “triumphant” (which I had considerable doubts it would be.)
Explanation Number One: I had not written in this (the sitcom) format for ten years, a reminder that a man using a near seventy year-old brain who was I was a decade-long stranger to “Writing on Demand” – was also demonstrably rusty.
Explanation Number Two: I was engaging in an archaic form of sitcom writing, whose predictable rhythms made it easily dismissible.
Explanation Number Three: The scene’s subject matter – spanking – was inherently unfunny, rendering the most competent version of the scene problematic as a “laugh inducer.”
Explanation Number Four: The scene concerned an unbalanced controversy, as today – and most likely in 1989 when the scene was originally written as well – it is challenging to say the least to produce a sympathetic argument favoring spanking.
To those four excuses, I mean “explanations”, in order to make myself courageous enough to take a shot, I appended a correspondingly insulating rationale: “What did I have to lose?” My rewritten scene would not appear on network TV. Or even on YouTube. Only here. Making the risk akin to what Bill Cosby once explained when he asked me to read a part during a Cosby Show “Table Reading”, and I said, “What if I mess it up?”:
“Bases loaded. Two outs. Bottom of the ‘First.’”
Having satisfied myself that I had stacked up enough self-justificatory mattresses to sufficiently break my ignominious fall, I took a deep breath and I intrepidly dove in. (Though not, I must report, without feeling the accompanying gnawing brick in my abdomen I inevitably experience before leaping into the literary void. This does not happens with blog writing. But it did yesterday, because I wasn’t writing a blog post; I was rewriting a scene.)
The actual effort, which I had sidestepped for three days, writing what I at the time insisted were necessary preambles and preliminarities…well, when I finally got down to it, it turns out it was the proverbial “riding a bicycle.” After all these years, I had not forgotten how to do it.
Yes, it was difficult getting started. But that wasn’t “cobwebs.” It was always difficult getting started.
But after the predictable rocky beginning, it was smooth sailing straight to the “Finish Line.” (It was difficult finding an ending. Which was also predictable. It was always difficult finding an ending.)
I could feel myself having fun, tapping away in a format I sincerely believed I would never revisit. I was “Back in the saddle again.” I sensed the jangly excitement of creativity. But underneath, it was all “rocking chair and slippers” – warmingly familiar and eminently doable.
My unexpected “peak moment”?
When writing these posts, I do not rewrite directly onto the screen. (Unless I have no access to a printer, in which case I do.) Instead, I print up the draft, and I rewrite on paper. I guess that’s an “age” thing. I am unable to establish a “flow” when I am reading off a screen.
So I finish my First Draft of the scene, I press “Save”, and then press “Print.” To my startled surprise, as I see the completed pages rolling out of the printer, I find myself breaking – spontaneously – into my most delighted (work related) smile of the post-millennial era.
There it is! Pages emerging from the printer in the recognizable sitcom format of yesteryear – the “double spacing” between the character and the dialogue, the “double-spacing” within the dialogue, the “single-spacing-All-Caps” of the stage directions.
It was “Turn Back The Clock Day” on the old blogeroo – a celebratory “Retro Party” on unlined paper. And it gave me a thrill.
(Blogger’s Note: For some reason beyond my technological understanding – and, “Full Disclosure”, what isn’t? – I was unable to reproduce that format when I published the scene on the blog, the blog’s format insisting on a “single-spacing” of the dialogue or it splattered the words unintelligibly across the page. I am truly sorry about that. Paraphrasing that cheap suit emporium, you would have liked the way it looked.)
My unbiased evaluation of my rewrite?
You know what?
It’s summer. Go outside.
And I will tell you about that on Monday.
Keep busy. It will mitigate the suspense.
Keep busy. It will mitigate the suspense.