Sunday, February 1, 2009


Never show your creative writing to those you live with.

It's a simple rule, elegant, concise; writers don't want constructive criticism, they want validation. Unless the person you live with absolutely adores what you've written, as a writer you'll believe the worst. Giving the person you live with your writing to review is a low-gain, high-risk proposition.

It's like when your girlfriend asks you if the jeans she's wearing make her look fat, anyway you answer, you're probably screwed. Tell her she looks wonderful, and she'll think you are patronizing her, tell her she looks heavy, you're in the dog house. Duck the question and explain you like her other jeans better, and now you are offending her sense of taste.

Everyone would be better off if the question was never asked.

This week I'm dusting off an old script, based off an idea John Maniha shot me years ago. What if God and the Devil were trying to stop Armageddon by meeting in a coffee shop for one last talk?

I wrote a 15 page mini-script entitled, "The Last Temptation of Coffee", logged it with the Writer's Guild, but nothing ever came of it. Recently I met Paul, a short film maker who asked to see it.

I'm reading over it when my roommate walks in, curious. Although Christopher and I are friends, I have never asked him to review my work. This time however I hand him the script on a whim.

Mistake. Broke my own rule.

Christopher reads it, mouth drawn tight, eyes focused, silent. It drives me crazy, I have to go into the other room and print out a second copy. Rumor has it that my script is purported to be funny, but Christopher neither laughs nor chuckles, giggles or snickers, not one smirk, not one smile, not one shake of the head. He's superman as he peers through my script with X-Ray vision, eyes afire with an intensity worthy of Sidney Poitier.

He finishes, hands back my script.

I break the silence first. "So what did you think?"

"When did you write this?"

"About four years ago."

"Did you do any research?"

"It's a fifteen page mini-script about God and Satan in a coffee shop. I didn't think to check out the Bible for research material."

"Well there are a couple of things that don't make any sense, like the Devil wanting to be called Lucifer. That means "light of heaven." I don't think he would want to be called light of heaven."

"Maybe he's being ironic?"

"I don't think so."

"Christopher, if I was screening this to a group of theologians, I'd be worried."

"You really should do more research."

"Well who do I call about the "end of the days"? Latter Day Saints or Al Queda?"

Christopher frowns. "It's just that we've seen this all before. God as an old man, the Devil as a joker. It's not particularly original."

I had played with the idea of making God a child, but then tossed it because who wants to work with a child actor? "That's not how most people see God," I respond, defensive. "I have to appeal to an audience and convince a film maker to produce it. I'm working in mythology based on thousands of years of tradition."

Christopher shrugs.

"Was there anything you did like about it."

"I liked the coffee shop."

Irritated, I head out to see Phil. He's a fellow writer, so he'll understand. I explain what happened, but he just laughs and smiles. "You didn't want criticism, Brian, you wanted validation."

"But his first comment was that it needed more research! It's about God and the Devil in a coffee shop? How much research does that require? That's like writing a story about a monster under my bed and being told it required more research."

Phil nods. "You're right, it's an irrelevant criticism and reflects more on Christopher, but you need to let it go. I've met writers who have criticized me for not doing enough research, and I've always found that those are people who aren't being creative themselves. They use research as an excuse to stop creating and getting started on their own project."

I'm still mad about it an hour later, Phil leans over at the bar. "Let it go. Would you have preferred he had patronized you? Told you how funny you were?"


"Move on, show the script to Paul. The best validation isn't a critic, it's seeing your work on screen and having people like it."

A few days later Paul calls.

He wants to make the film.

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