Writing may come with side effects

I went through a lot in the last few days and I started to slip into my zero-effort mode. Objects, tasks and emails started to pile up around me, unprocessed.

As I was lazily lying, surrounded by all this clutter, I noticed how it made me feel. It created a mist in my mind between me and whatever thought or goal I was aiming. Everything looked more confused because of all these invites to stop on the way, to multitask.

I realized I was not feeling that way this particular time, but any time I had been surrounded with clutter in the past. I just never had been aware of it. And when you get to that realization, you notice the subtle feeling it generates in your body, what it is made of and how it impacts you, whether or not you are aware of it.

It got me thinking, because this is a subject I have been giving a lot of attention to in the last weeks. I was writing a film, and you are regularly put in the same position when writing. Here are a few examples :

  • Costumes. Even a slight variation in a character’s costume will convey a totally different message. Think of a character, and give her a cap, a bracelet, …
  • Gestures. A character can express a very deep, unconscious feeling with just one seemingly trivial gesture. For example, avoiding to look in a mirror, looking around her even when she know she is alone, zipping her coat all the way up, …
  • General concepts. You can have two very different characters mirroring each other, each in his own way, or use a specific color, location, prop to convey a feeling, …

In each case, you don’t consciously perceive the meaning at first, but you definitely feel it. Ever been in the process of designing something, and distinctly felt the difference when modifying a color or shape, but not being able to express it ?

In a screenplay, these tools can be extremely useful to convey some extra information.

It might be beautiful and flattering to justify them all to yourself and your partners, but they should work without that intellectual phase. We sometimes see stories in which lots of scenes have a symbolic impact, but these second meanings can’t be instinctively felt. Anyone should be able to perceive them, without having to analyze your story to detect them. This is the beauty of the game.

Once you start paying attention to this subtle game, you can find it everywhere, even in your own life. I think spotting these triggers for unconscious feelings is also a healthy exercise. As I did, you can feel why clutter isn’t good for you. You can for example feel how the size, color, luminosity of a room impacts your mood. The goal is not to control all the parameters, but to be lucid about how all these parameters make hormones flow in your body. You can then put things in perspective, and minimize the grip these hormones have on you.

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