Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Cat In The Drive-Through And The Man-Goat That Haunts Me

When I was in the first grade, I wrote a story entitled "The Cat." As you probably guessed, this story was about a cat. A talking cat that joined the circus, to be specific. It was pretty cute.

Well, it had the potential to be pretty cute. I had the setting, characters, and plot firmly established when I decided to make the feline protagonist leave the circus and abandon the main story arch. Instead of writing a interesting conclusion that made sense, I sent the talking cat on a mission to get some french fries. As a result, he spent an entire page (which turned out to be one third of the story) at a drive-through window. I think he sang his order to the tune of "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" and ended up getting a moldy cheeseburger. I'm not really sure.

I made some illustrations to go along with the story and took the whole works to school. I got some help making copies and sold one to one of my classmates for fifty cents. I was proud of myself.

Then I was forced to give the money back and make free copies of the story for everybody in class. I never really got over being bitter about that.

But I digress. The point is that I have had the same problem all my life: I come up with a good concept and then completely ruin it by running away on some weird tangent and losing sight of the original vision. I call this phenomenon "sending the cat through the drive-through." I guess it's my own personal version of "jumping the shark."

I've been overwhelmed with my "Goat Man" project lately. I've allowed myself to get stuck in the mud and become wrapped up in the idea that I have writer's block. I think the real problem is that I've allowed the project to mutate into something larger, weirder, and more daunting. In other words, there are cats going through the drive-through all over the script.

I was feeling reclusive yesterday when I got home from band practice and was beating myself up over having writer's block when there was a knock on my door. Not knowing who it was, I was reluctant to answer it. Though I absolutely love all of my neighbors here, I wasn't exactly in the mood for one of Lego Guy's philosophical rants or The Fonz playing the tambourine. I answered the door anyway and was glad I did. It was The Poet. He hadn't seen me at all that day and was just checking in on me.

This made me realize that I was spending too much time being stuck in my own head yet again, so I ventured into the kitchen to make tea. I discussed "Goat Man" with The Poet and came to the conclusion that I was letting the whole thing turn into something it wasn't intended to be. I've been getting too caught up in character dialogue, side gags, and the mechanics of writing for the stage that I've lost sight of my original intentions.

What was my original intention? Well, I wanted to write a rock opera about an individual that was half man, half goat. "An existential rock opera in the key of despair," to be exact. That was the original working subtitle. I got rid of it for awhile after one of my commune friends lectured me about my apparent misuse of the word "existential."

"Unless you've done shrooms and have spent five hours trying to figure out what is real and what isn't, you shouldn't use that word," he said. The title was a little too long anyway, so I dropped it. But I think I am going to reinstate the subtitle because I like the way it sounds. It also helps me return to my original vision for "Goat Man."

"Goat Man" is a comedy and a tragedy rolled into one. It's full of quirky characters and possibly thought-provoking situations. But mostly, "Goat Man" is about the music. "Goat Man" is something I want to see onstage, but it's also something I want to make an album out of. I've gradually lost sight of the fact that the music is the most important part in all of this.

So what am I going to do? Back up the car up, get the freaking cat out of the drive-through, close all of my Celtx documents, get out my notebook and a pen, and get all of the songs on the page. I'd like to believe that once all of the songs are in place, the rest will come.

After all, I'm in the best possible environment right now to create something like this. Everyday, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such encouraging and wonderful creative people. They are people that understand my insanity and believe in my crazy ideas more than I do sometimes.

I think my new favorite subplot is the strange friendship I have with the guy across the hall. You know, Mr. Merry Christmas Forever who stays up writing about mystical Omniverses all night and lives with a woman that never, ever talks. Anyway, he helped me carry my music equipment up the stairs after band practice last week and ever since then we've become email buddies. Yes, email. Yes, we live across the hall from each other. Yes, sometimes these email exchanges happen when we are both in our rooms.

And these emails aren't cute little one paragraph messages either. There's one in my inbox from him that I've been jokingly referring to as a 750 word essay. I was explaining this phenomenon to The Poet during one of our late night tea parties and he was baffled. "What on earth does he email you about?" he asked.

The answer? Music. Life in the commune. The story he's writing. Terrorism in the 1970s. Goat Man. Omniverses. Poetry. Aliens.

The Poet offered me fifty cents to be able to read the emails. But last time I fell into a trap like that, I had to return the money and make copies for everyone. So I refused the offer.

The other night I was washing my dishes at two in the morning and I ran into Mr. Merry Christmas Forever. "I have a disc for you!" he exclaimed. "I have a disc for you, too!" I replied. Our recent email conversation about music had resulted in burning music for each other. I handed him a mix of Amanda Palmer and he gave me a whole smorgasbord of Luke Haines. We then went into our separate rooms. A half an hour later, I get an email from him saying that the music I gave him was exactly the inspiration he needed for the scene he was writing.

I loaded the CD he gave me onto my laptop and it wasn't long until I was completely lost in the sounds of Baader Meinhoff and Black Box Recorder. I feel like I'm probably late to the party on knowing and loving this music, but it's been the only thing on my iPod for the past three days and I can't get enough of it. Weirdly enough, there are a few songs by Black Box Recorder that completely embody one of the characters I've been struggling with in "Goat Man," so it's been an inspirational listening experience.

Anyway, I am officially rambling here. I don't know if anyone will make it this far into this relatively mundane post. Congratulations if you have indeed made it this far. Gold star for you.

I'm off to the land of goats. I will close with a quote from one of Mr. Merry Christmas Forever's emails:

"...goats will be men and alien Empresses will be teenage hyperviruses and all will be right with the world... Call upon the strength of the man-goat that haunts you. Funny how even the dicier problems are easier to solve when you're admiring their complex, catastrophic beauty as you fix them."

That's all I've got for now. Hope everyone is having a great Wednesday!

P.S: Here is one of my favorite Black Box Recorder tracks if anyone is interested. Enjoy!

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the gold star. =]
    I know what it's like to have writer's block, but it's probably like you said; you're in the drive through. I hope you can pull out of it and finish up Goat Man soon. Just make sure that you're happy with it!
    Don't worry. My husband and I will exchange emails too, and we're only one room apart! Our motives are different though. No toddler needs to hear her parents talking dirty. =D

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  2. Allison - I love your blog. It is definitely not crap. :D

    Stephanie - Haha! That's funny about the emails. The messages I send the guy across the hall are much more innocent. :P

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  3. I'd never even heard of Black Box Recorder before, much to my shame.

    It was, as always, an education Lauren.

    Good luck getting back to basics. I think this sort of thing happens a lot, you know, when you can't see the wood for the trees. Stepping back and getting back to basics will do Goat Man a world of good, I'm sure.

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  4. Yeah, I thought Black Box Recorder was probably something everyone knew and I just missed out on, but I'm beginning to think they are something really obscure that only the guy across the hall from me listens to. Glad I could educate you on music that comes from your country. :P

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  5. Haha I love when you write a huge post and say "you probably didn't get this far"...umm OBV we did, it's always awesome :P
    But i'll take that gold star anyway lol :)

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