(Week 7: February 10-16)
Until very recently, my morning writing routine has been pretty simple: get up at 6:30am; make coffee; write until 7:30am; then get the kids ready for school while getting myself ready for work.
Unfortunately, the Elderbeast is now at a high school which, inconveniently, is somewhat further than a walk down the road away. This means I have to have him out of bed by about 7:15am to have any hope of him getting out of the house for 7:45am. Also, because he is apparently a high-functioning buffoon, I have to spend that entire half hour constantly reminding him of what he needs to do next in order to finish getting ready.
To further complicate matters, I’ve started using my cross trainer in the mornings. I’m only doing 5-10 minutes each day (my goal here is for it to become a habit; not for me to immediately do my 20 minutes a day). If you’ve done your calculations right, you’ll realise that this now leaves me with about 10-15 minutes of quality writing time.
The obvious answer—other than to give up on everything!!—is to start getting up earlier. Accordingly, I’ve started moving my alarms forward by 5 mins to ease me into an earlier start (I have three morning alarms, set at various intervals … though I typically get up on the first one). I’m currently managing a reasonable 20-25 minute writing session, but I am craving the return of my old 45 minute window. In promising news, I’m finding that I’m starting to wake up naturally just before 6am.
The struggle continues.
At the Elderbeast’s request we took in a rewatch of Edge Of Tomorrow at the weekend. I really like this film: it’s comfortably settled into the Good Fun category for me, but I’m always pleasantly surprised to remember that it also belongs in the Really Good Film category. On this rewatch, I ended up paying closer attention to Tom Cruise’s performance, and the way his character basically evolves from arsehole to hero. I can easily buy him as both/either, but the way Cruise manages to convincingly transition from one to the other is one of the reasons I find myself giving him a lot more credit these days than I would a few decades ago.
At the weekend, thanks to the dubious magic of Foxtel, I was able to catch the end of The Matrix and the beginning of a second film that looked like the Matrix, had a lot of the same characters and actors in, but can’t have been a Matrix film because it was terrible.
All joking aside, the catastrophic cliff-drop in storytelling competence between The Matrix and its two sequels is one of those things that will endlessly fascinate me. It’s (probably) what happens when you get carte blanche to do whatever you want and no one is prepared to tell you otherwise. With The Matrix, the Wachowskis had no choice but to hone the script to perfection in order to sell it. Then, it becomes a huge hit and they’re given all the money they want by the studio to make, well, more money (a.k.a sequels). Thing is, when you’re not challenged as a storyteller, you get lazy: you take shortcuts and you forget that the rules are typically there because they work.
I’ve always figured this is what happened with George Lucas. With A New Hope he faced an uphill battle to get the film made at all. With Empire, he still had to prove that he could sustain a franchise. By the time the prequels came around he had a licence to print money, and no one was going to say no to any of his terrible scripts or dubious ideas.
Anyway, I’ll park this discussion with two links for you. The first offers up Syd Field, screenwriting guru, explaining why he likes the script for The Matrix so much. The second is written by Carson Reeves, accidental script guru, and gives ten basic storytelling errors that The Matrix Reloaded makes (and which help explain why it’s such an unsatisfying film).
This week I started a new audiobook: a full-cast adaptation of Dracula. I was mostly drawn by the overwhelmingly positive reviews, but it also slotted in nicely alongside my rewatching of the Hammer Dracula films. Obviously this is a very different beast.
I’ve read the novel of Dracula precisely once, which is about the right number for the majority of novels, but seems a bit on the low side for something as noteworthy as Dracula. Either way, this is already proving a pretty good way to revisit the novel. At this point I’m spending most of my time in Castle Dracula with Jonathan Harker (performed by my new favourite narrator: Simon Vance). Despite the epistolary format of the novel, Vance also takes the opportunity to perform as Dracula (in scenes where Harker is recounting his encounters with the Count … sorry). Vance gives Dracula a voice reminiscent of the classic Trahn-sill-vahy-nyan Draculas gone by but also manages to reflect the fact that at this point in the story the Count is an old man. It’s a performance that enlivens an already engrossing listen no end.
This one is 15 hours long, so we’ll be on this journey for a few weeks yet. Sure, I know the story, but it’s good to rediscover it all over again.