Having made a list of recent calamities which establish me as the odds-on favorite for Job of the Year (Job, as in the Bible) – auto accident, computer and printer failure, plumbing and electrical mishaps, credit card company deceit, work shortage, etc. – I turned in distress to "Screenwriting for Dummies."
Granted, it is a strange choice for moral support, but the impulse that lead me there was spot-on.
"At the beginning of Act III," I read on page 222, "your protagonist either faces the upward hike or the downward sprint to the most gripping moment in the script."
This was compelling stuff for a couple of reasons, and I didn’t need Harold Bloom to point out that my own situation is exactly that of the theoretical protagonist in "Dummies."
Before opening "Dummies," I read a passage in "God Calling" (see Tools on Home page) which says, in part, that as a man climbs a steep hill, he tends to focus on "the weakness of his stumbling feet" rather than "the view, the grandeur or even his upward progress."
That, of course, is exactly what I’ve been doing, and to find an allusion to a steep hike in two successive books is too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence, if you follow me.
Indeed, backtracking, I found that my situation fit neatly into the screenwriter’s paradigm. In Act I, I’m working at CNN.com, but know I should leave, that I have some other purpose. Plot Point One occurs when I am laid off. In Act II, I begin reinventing myself, taking up acting, modeling and producing. But it’s not enough; I’m not paying the bills.
Plot Point Two occurs when the events I’ve listed above put me on the ropes, financially. As Act III begins, I discover, one of several things happens to the sprinting protagonist. He/she:
• Loses hope and must be inspired to pick up the cause again
• Makes a breakthrough discovery
• Acquires a final, necessary skill
• Must face the villain in combat
• Overcomes an internal obstacle that enables him/her to fight an antagonist
Four days ago, I identified an internal obstacle that has been holding me back. I was having another of those days when my mind races endlessly, and yet physically I am a sailboat with sails hanging limply from the mast. I am getting nowhere, accomplishing nothing.
The devil of it is there is every reason for urgency. This experiment in passion and purpose is in danger of washing up on a rocky coastline, and the failure — the inability, really — to act is baffling and damnable. Worse, it seems to affirm my father’s contention when I was a kid that I was lazy.
I can’t say what made this day different than all the others, but something changed. Sorting through my memories, things began connecting, and at last I understood.
For reasons which go back to infancy, being passive was my ultimate survival mode. It lay at the very root of my being. Being absolutely still, willing myself to be invisible, was my only protection, and there were times when it wasn’t enough. Of course, it never was true security, but it set a pattern, a way of being in the world that has affected me ever since.
I did some release work that day, but I can’t say things have gotten better. I found out yesterday that my car needs a $300 repair and a high-paying job fell through on the eve of the shoot.
I’d have thought that releasing that old energy would have given me the strength to rip the doors off a Hummer. And while my energy level has improved some, I’m stilll more Clark Kent than Superman.
But it’s OK. If I’d gotten that job, I wouldn’t have discovered the internal obstacle, and instead of sprinting downward into Act III, I might still be laboring on the hike upward.
All in all, there’s some comfort in knowing that my situation fits into the screenwriting paradigm. It helps to know that this situation I’ve obsessed about for years can be reduced to 120 pages of impediments and obstacles, midpoints and plot points, and that the script still has 30 pages to go.
I wish I felt more certain of the outcome, but "Dummies" says: "It may be a reluctant choice, but it nevertheless pushes [the protagonist] to pursue one last chance for success."
So that’s where it stands: I’ve got one last chance. It’s up to me to make the best of it. But whatever the outcome, the good news is it’s not life-threatening. It’s just a movie.