That Creative Spark.
As artists, writers, and creative thinkers, we have one of the greatest gifts in the world: the power to tell stories. Personal stories can indeed change the world. In fact, it seems that “we make progress by telling our personal stories.”
Those are just a few of the words Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (MILK) closes with in his latest video for Academy Originals, in which he takes us through the ills and joys of being a storyteller– of his own creative writing process.
For Black at least, writing is as much a passion as it is a laborious task. From relentless researching to laying out scenes written on hundreds of itty bitty index cards, Black, like any old 9-5er, makes an effort to rise with the morning sun everyday to begin a rigid ‘pre-writing’ routine that he sets himself up for. His research process often takes up to a year, and it isn’t until Black succeeds in getting through his story a few times without getting ‘bored’ that he actually begins to pen his first draft– a.k.a. the “vomit” draft.
“I love and hate what I do,” he says with a small smile. “It’s like an addiction. I want to solve the problems, I want to make it work. I write because I don’t think I’m done.”
Well, I think that just really says it all. Why do we write? Why do we create? Why do we choose to tell stories? These fairly simple questions can be answered in a myriad of ways, but for the most part, it all comes down to this: We make art in an attempt to change the world, to change the culture, and as Black puts it, to “move the needle”– we make art because we feel that there’s always something more to life than just this. We all have many things to say, and many of us, myself included, often go about using alternative ways to express all the thoughts, feelings and emotions we are too afraid to shout out loud.
Creative processes can be as diverse as the artists and writers who labor through them. And Black’s uniquely organized and extremely thorough process of maintaining ‘closets’ full of research may not be for all (even the obsessively-compulsed perfectionist in me). But it really is inspiring to see the time and patience he puts into crafting specificity into his stories, in creating unique and truly interesting characters that are not just ‘relatable,’ but distinct and individual. Because it is only with such not-so-stereptypcial stories that audiences can begin to see things in a different light, to begin stepping towards better days and better ways. It is only with this immense amount of care and eye for detail that films, and all art in general, can (and should) be made.
Let’s just say this will definitely calm my nerves down just a little bit more the next time I’m stuck in an artistic rut or with a horrendous state of writer’s block. We. Can. Get. Through. This. I can get through this. It’s all in the creative process.