Ever had a peak experience?
Abraham Maslow described peak experiences as especially joyous and exciting moments in life. They involve sudden feelings of intense happiness and well-being… Wonder and awe — and possibly, involving an awareness of transcendental unity or knowledge of a higher truth. They usually come fast and furious — often inspired by deep meditation, intense feelings of love, exposure to great art or music, or the overwhelming beauty of nature.
Ever had one?
I get them while I write. Sure, I get them at other times but since I write a lot, I seem to experience most of my peak experiences while I’m writing. I often get the same peak experience when I finally come up with a concept that I want to write a screenplay around.
It just HITS me. SMACK!
I’ve been going crazy lately when it comes to theme… Trying to recapture the peak experience. Trying to figure out WHY I had a peak experience in the first place.
It keeps coming back to theme and has had a profound effect on me… I was of the opinion — like many of us are — that through the writing, I would locate, develop, and create the theme of my story.
And of course that worked. My screenplays have always contained some overall theme to them but wow… Such a long hard road to get there.
I truly do know what it means to bleed on the page… LOL.
But do I want to keep bleeding on the page?
I don’t think so. I think I’d rather have more peak experiences.
How does one achieve that?
Well I don’t claim to be an expert… On anything. I know what I know. But I will say that what immediately comes to mind is the old quote: KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.
The more knowledge you gain… And of course, experience adds to knowledge… The more you begin to write without thought.
Do you like flow? I sure as hell do.
How does one go from bleeding on the page to tapping into flow?
Who knows? For me, it’s knowledge and experience. Life certainly helps but I’m talking about knowledge of the craft and not simply reading an article but reading an article and then CONTEMPLATING its meaning and how it relates to you and your writing.
Too many writers open up the old screenwriting book, go to the workshop, seminar, read a screenplay… Whatever — in hopes that a microcosm of what they read is going to somehow be absorbed into their screenwriting bloodstream.
Never has for me… I have to go back over all my notes and then contemplate those notes. Compare those notes to either my current or past screenplays. That’s why I have this site. Every time I write about the craft and you are kind enough to provide comments — be they good, bad, or indifferent, it kicks up my knowledge and experience a couple of notches.
Thanks for that — much appreciated. I can only hope it has the same effect for you.
But back to knowledge, experience, and tapping into flow…
The problem for me is balance. How do you balance what you learn? When do you apply it? Do you apply it here or do you apply it there?
Maybe it’s all bullshit.
Hell, I only believe half of what I read anyway… That’s how I balance. Too many times have I heard writers tell other writers to stop wasting time reading and learning about the craft and start fucking writing.
Could work. Might work.
I now understand that when I tap into my theme, I go through sustained peak experience… Or what Maslow referred to as the plateau experience. He was of the opinion — if I understand correctly — that all one’s needs must be met in order to attain a peak experience. But I am of the opinion that rarely can one have all their needs met. Especially for any real length of time. Life is just too crazy for that. I mean hey… Everytime I start feeling like all my needs have been met, WHACK!
Murphy’s law, Baby. Every fuckin’ time.
So rather than attempting to have all our needs met like crossing off the groceries on your list as you toss them into your basket, I think there are those times when even though all our needs aren’t PHYSICALLY MET, we invoke or prod a FEELING that is commensurate with our needs being met and hence, experience a peak experience.
And if that’s true… How in the hell do we invoke or prod MORE of those feelings?
Knowledge and experience comes to mind again. I don’t see it being that different from any profession. You gain enough knowledge and experience and then one day, you go to work with a completely different mindset.
YOU KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW.
Do you know what you know?
If so, OUTSTANDING. I know what I know but I seem to have a leak… A leak that I keep having to plug and then add more knowledge and experience. However, the leaks are definitely coming along much more slowly than they used to be and I don’t have to crack nearly as many books, workshops, etc. as I used to. Now I can pretty much just pick any topic related to screenwriting and simply DISCUSS it and my knowledge and hence, experience grows exponentially. And when that happens, my confidence is restored… The feeling that most, if not all my needs have been met, are at least satisfied for the time being.
And then I write. Write like the wind. Tapping into that flow like nobody’s business.
For me, it just keeps coming back to theme. What my overall theme is. How all my characters deal with that theme. I also give all my characters THEIR VERY OWN THEME that drives them through their story. They obviously do not have to share my mindset with the story’s overall theme… In fact, that would be boring if they all did… Nope. Now I’m taking my characters and tweaking their backstory as it relates to not only my overall theme but their very own theme that drives them. I’m contemplating. I’m giving it thought. Analysis.
Some of the characters like the story’s theme. Some characters like THEIR THEME. Some fucking hate one or the other. Some hate both. Some are indifferent but it still affects them.
Knowledge and experience. Knowledge without thought.