Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest Post: Confessions of a Closeted-Writer Jock

The wait is over. For the first time in Challenging the Gnome's brief but illustrious history, we get to hear from a very rare breed of guest poster: a dude. Here he is, my brother, Mike Langer.

For the past year and a half I have been a part of the screenwriting program at the University of Utah and also the Writing Academy in Los Angeles. These are two very different screenwriting systems with Utah’s program being run by an independently-rooted Paul Larsen and the LA program being run by the studio-driven Max Adams (Excess Baggage, Nicholl’s Fellowship).

In Utah you write to shoot, in LA you write to sell. In Utah, if you can’t make it happen yourself, you don’t write it in a script. In LA, if you can actually make it happen, you better think of something else or it won’t be interesting enough to sell. The point of this little recap is to demonstrate . . . I am conflicted. I write as one suffering from a multiple personality disorder. Tearing down my own grandiose ideas for lack of funding while at the same time pumping up my simpler ideas for the sake of being interesting. Really, I’m screwed.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in my screenwriting class here at the University of Utah. We are a tight-knit group. Like a family of brothers and sisters who, like real families, spend a decent amount of time bickering and being annoyed with one another while maintaining a healthy amount of love. Each Thursday I sit for four hours amongst my peers, some of which have mentored me, others of which I have mentored. Our ages range from 32 to 18.

On this particular night, for the first time (ironically), the question was posed “Why Do You Write?” Now just to preface this, I am someone who becomes extremely uncomfortable and awkward in moments of self-declaration of purpose or belief. I am not void of purpose and belief, but I am deeply cynical, and I feel any form of declaration of self should be reserved for that special time consisting of you and a mirror. Any vocalization of purpose to others, in my opinion, usually just ends up reflecting just how “in denial” somebody truly is. If you truly believe you have found your purpose, I imagine it really doesn’t matter if everybody else hears it too. Anyways, cynical tangent over. I also love puppies, so I am not all cold-hearted.

On this particular night, which quickly turned into the liberal Salt Lake City version of a testimony meeting, emotions began to run high. As we went around the room discussing the various passions and motivations for writing screenplays (in this crowd, most of them drug- related) I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into my chair as my eyes grew increasingly fatigued from the constant rolling. Somewhere in the depths of my discomfort and the endless variations of “I write because I have something to say,” I heard my name. Paul, our Jedi Master, had noticed my unusual silence (I tend to be a very loud presence in most situations) and took this to mean I was deep in thought about my own purpose.

Being one of the two Mormon kids in the writing family alongside the fact my feature script is a retelling of the Old Testament, I imagine most thought I would have plenty to say on why I write. But truly, in this moment, I had an epiphany . . . as all eyes centered on me I realized I have never thought of myself as a writer. I sincerely could not answer the question . . . I had no idea why it is that I write. Oops.

As I got home that night, I sat down in front of my computer. You see, I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Most of it was closeted. Growing up a jock, in a group of jocks, you can imagine that having a secret stash of poetry instead of Playboys was kind of a secret. A secret that I desperately overcompensated for.

I needed to figure out why it is I write. How could I spend so much time doing something yet have never even stopped to think . . . why?

This is the point where I’d like to recount some epic moment self-discovery. Like some angel of writing came down in a vision and revealed the truths in my soul. That would be nice. But . . . didn’t happen. I clicked on a file I have entitled “Back in the day” in which I store all of my stuff written as a youth. The first file listed is one started back in high school in which I would type random thoughts I had had throughout the day. As I opened the file, I found my answer sitting right at the top:

“I’ve decided that I am constantly scribbling down words because I am not capable of comprehending a single thought I have in my head. My word throw-up is my thoughts wanting to get out.”

There it was. Written when I was 16 years old. My answer. While incredibly non-poetic, my “word throw-up” a.k.a. my body of written work, was my way of understanding. Understanding the world around me and understanding myself. Everything I have ever written, fictional or not, has been an attempt at interpreting my own life and how I view the world.

I write to understand.

There it is. Both my answer, and my hypocritical statement of purpose.

I’ve spent my life writing, throwing up my words on paper because I am not capable of understanding anything without it. The super cynic has uncovered a passion and is for the first time declaring this to the world. I am out of the closet. I am a writer and I do it because I can’t understand life without it.

Just don’t tell any of my jock friends. I am closeted after all.

Here is to all of us who seek to take that which is indefinable in the world around us and translate that into words on a piece of paper.

Without us, we writers, the world is void of a mirror in which to view itself.


Janiel Miller said...

Mike, thanks so much for posting today. I love how introspective your post is, and how you take us through your process of discovery. I think you're not alone. In fact, I think understanding has to be the end result of creating, if we want what we create to mean anything to anyone. Discovery infuses our writing or creating, thus making it relatable.

I wonder if you understand your thoughts better than you think you do, but the writing fleshes them out and allows you to take them further.

In any case, cool.

I am looking forward to the movies that come out of your screenplays.

You're the man.

No. You really are. You're the only man who's posted on here. (so far)


Charles Blog said...

The best part of this entire post is the picture associated with it. I applaud my sister for capturing me so perfectly in cartoon form.

Maegan Langer said...

Ha ha! You figured out how to comment already - I'm so proud. And what the crud, how come I didn't know you had your own blog??

scott.densley said...

Nice to have a dude on my fave blog!

Ari2525 said...

Interesting to have a guy post, this was really, really cool, I understand the part with not realiing you are what you are, okay that probably made so sense because I'm stressed with work, but I understood what you were saying. I also need this post.

MANDY said...

Wow...I am really impressed. You have said it so very well. I totally agree, for it is one reason that I too write (even though mine is mostly for me and it is a recently found love). I am a new follower from the I Love My Online Friends Monday blog hop. I will definitely be back. Come and visit me at www.mandysescape.blogspot.com

Heavenly Savings said...

Cute Blog! I’m a new follower Happy Monday!! I would love for you to stop and take a look at my blog as well! Thanks!

mmbear said...

I am a new follower on the I Love My Online Friends Monday Hop and I am now following you thru GFC. I have someone working on my blog today and when you go on it as I just did it is still in process but you can GFC me and just leave a comment in any of the past articles. Hopefully, by tomorrow, I will have all my buttons back up. Thanks for the follow back.

Mary @ http://mmbearcupoftea.blogspot.com

mymy said...

cool! well said.

thanks for visiting and following! following back... :)

Susanmeep said...

I found your blog on a blog hop... I follow you via gfc could you follow me back? http://susansdisneyfamily.blogspot.com/

jjsundevil said...

I remember the blog entry Miss Maegan did on her bro in a zombie movie

Nice to hear his thoughts there
poignant & stuff.

Kirsten said...

Very well-said!
Following you from the hop. Come visit me at random-utterances.com. See you soon!

scott.densley said...

My wife wont shut up about this guest blogger thing. & I haffta agree. Nice to have a males perspective.

Russo said...

This post was incredible for many reasons. I love the idea of writing down why some someone writes. I am so doing that tonight. Thanks for the inspiration and thanks also for a great guest post!