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Wildly Exaggerated: Sketch Challenge, 4th & 5th Sets: It Is Done.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sketch Challenge, 4th & 5th Sets: It Is Done.





It's done. It's over. I'm finished. I literally cannot believe it.

When I first hatched this bright-ass idea, I thought it would be fun! Then I thought it would be educational! Then I thought it would be a great way to sharpen my writing skills!

...and then I thought, "If I drink enough tequila to drown a horse, I will feel better."

Luckily I managed to come back with a vengeance these last two weeks and I FINISHED. I don't know what suddenly motivated me to get off my ass (or rather, to get back on my ass in front of my computer), but I'm glad I did! The thing is, I usually start a challenging creative project, get about 80% done, and quit/give up/whatever you want to call it. When progress ground to a halt in the 4th set, I feared I had gone as far as I was gonna go. So now, even though the last two sets aren't my best work, they're done. And I'm pretty ridiculously pleased about that.

So did I achieve my goals? And while I'm thinking about it, what the hell were my goals? I'm WAY too lazy to reread the original posts, but I'm pretty sure I was trying to:
1. amuse myself
2. find out what it's like to be a comedy writer working to a deadline (which is why the deadlines were modeled on John Finnemore's for his sketch show)
3. become a better writer

We'll take them individually. Because it's MY blog. And I have achieved something for a change, so I will talk about it for as long as I damn well please.

1. Did I amuse myself? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. More often than not, I would walk away from a writing session saying something like "Mother of GOD I suck!" This was decidedly unamusing, and was also a large part of the reason my liver took such a massive hit in the middle few weeks. But there were also numerous times when I would reread something a few weeks after writing it and find myself actually laughing, pleasantly surprised at the quality of my work. So I was amused some of the time. I'll say this for the overall project: it was consistently 100% amusing to watch myself try to rationalize my failures and procrastinations. Hilarious. Five stars.

2. Do I now know what it's like to be a comedy writer working to a deadline? Again: yes and no. I definitely got a healthy dose of reality about it. I mean, I read a lot (like, A LOT) of interviews with/blogs maintained by people who write comedy (not just John Finnemore), and I had seen patterns emerge in their collective characterization of the process. But when people keep saying writing comedy is like pulling teeth...I guess I just couldn't grasp it. I mean, writing my master's thesis was like pulling teeth. Doing writing samples for job applications is like pulling teeth. But comedy? Something funny? How can that ever be work?
Now when I read those interviews/blogs, I can genuinely relate to what those people are saying. I know exactly what they mean. So in that respect, I "know what's like" now.

On the other hand, I still have no idea "what it's like" in terms of deadlines. It's fantastic that I finished today, but I was supposed to be done on August 27th. And that was after I gave myself a 2-week mental health break in the middle. I'm willing to give myself a little bit of leeway here, in that it was never possible for me to truly replicate Being a Full-Time Comedy Writer, since I'm already a Full-Time Something Else and a Part-Time Improv Actress. And then my Full-Time Something Else Employer went and staged a MAJOR acquisition right in the middle of my Sketch Challenge (the nerve!), which meant I ended up spending even more time and energy in that sphere than usual. So maybe it wasn't realistic to expect myself to meet the same deadlines as John Finnemore. On the other hand, he was doing sketch show stuff while doing Cabin Pressure stuff and becoming The Definitive Summarizer of the NOTW Scandal on The Now Show, so it's not like he was able to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on sketch writing either. That's why I'm not completely excused. Quit yer bitchin', Welsh! We all have other shit going on! (<-- 99% sure this is not how John Finnemore would talk.)

3. Did it make me a better writer? In all honesty, I think the quality went steadily downhill from the middle of the 3rd set onward. The dialogue got more stilted, the jokes (on the rare occasion when there were discernible jokes after the 3rd set) weren't any good and tended to be ill-timed...everything just felt clunkier. Maybe it was because I had run out of ideas. Or maybe it was because I had too much other stuff going on (see: Employer situation). Or maybe it was because I went on vacation and lost my mojo. Or maybe I got bored and stopped paying attention - I will readily admit that by the time I got to the last 3 pages, I would gladly have written my name over and over again just to fill the space and be DONE. I think I'll just postpone this assessment. If there's one thing blogging has taught me, it's that everything gets better when extensively edited. And right now I'm putting the sketches aside for 2 weeks so I can come back completely fresh and edit the living crap out of them in October. I'll tell you on 1 November whether I've learned anything as a writer.

For now, here are 10 things I have learned during the Sketch Challenge:
1. The more tired I am, the less likely I am to fall asleep.
2. I can't write with ambient music playing. I just need the same 10 songs (with lyrics) to play over and over and over while I work.
3. "Butter London" is a Seattle-based company. WTF?!?!?
4. I have a friend who can do TEN official Disney character autographs!
5. Yellow roses symbolize jealousy(?!?!)
6. This: "?!?!!" is called an "interrobang". You're welcome.
7. There is a statue of a man walking a gator on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.
In case anyone was confused as to the meaning of the term "baller"
8. I don't like eating doughnuts as much as I like thinking about eating doughnuts.
9. 97% of guys named Ben are hot. FACT.
10. The Scrivener project target bar really does turn green...eventually.

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