I just started reading the novel "Indecision" by Benjamin Kunkel. For those of you who have never heard of it, here's the synopsis from Amazon.com (c/o Publisher's Weekly):Dwight Wilmerding, the vacillating, down-market prepster protagonist of Kunkel's debut novel, gets fired from his low-level job at Pfizer and, with the lease running out on his hive-like Chambers Street boys-club apartment, lights out for Quito, Ecuador, where high school flame Natasha is holed up. Before this momentous undertaking, Dwight has been afflicted with chronic postcollegiate indecision, particularly in relationships: should he pursue a life with his quasi-girlfriend, Vaneetha? Start up again with Natasha? And what about his weird thing for his sister, Alice? As luck would have it, one of his roommates is a med student who turns Dwight on to Abulinix, an experimental new treatment for chronic indecision, which makes his South American jaunt very eventful indeed. A subtheme on the post-politicality of post-9/11 20-somethings gives the book some bite and surfaces most conspicuously in the form of Brigid, the Euroactivist who, along with the drug, brings Dwight clarity, and even hope. Annoying but accomplished, this entertaining book has screenplay written all over it, from the hot Dutch Natasha to the shambling cute Dwight—not to mention Harvard-educated, New York– literati Kunkel himself.
I mention this for a couple of different reasons. First off, since I just started reading it, I have no idea how good the book is going to be or whether or not it's going to be worth reading in the end. At this point, I can only go off of initial impressions.
Those initial impressions, however, are what's making me focus an entry on the book. So far, I'm enjoying the book. As cliche as it may sound, I can relate to the main character and to his situation. There are several thoughts within the book that resonate with me. This fact makes me all the more curious to continue reading. There is a certain pleasure taken in reading thoughts that could have very easily been written by yourself. You gain a certain clarity in actually seeing them on the page in front of you. In a way, it makes me feel happy that thoughts that I've had could be used to create a novel that is being presented for mass consumption. It's almost as if it's a sort of transferred affirmation of my own thoughts and ideas - kind of like some sort of literary group therapy.
At the same time it also troubles me. For one thing, I'm troubled that I can relate to such a character in the first place. For that matter, I'm slightly troubled that I find myself relating to a fictional character at all. But on another level, it bothers me that I'm reading these very same thoughts and ideas that I've had being expressed by another person. This bothers me because it makes me realize two things: First, someone beat me to the punch. Secondly, even though I can relate to the thoughts and ideas being expressed and wish to express similar thoughts and ideas, my own self-doubt makes me realize that I could never express such thoughts and ideas nearly as well as the author.
Therein, lies a nice little bit of insight into my innerworkings. My brain for years has wrestled with this dichotomy. On one hand, I seek out things that are interesting to me in one way or another. I want to learn more about these things in order to apply them to my own works. Yet at the same time, I get easily discouraged when I feel that I will never be able to do as good of a job as has already been done by someone else. In the end, the result is that my list of things I want to write about continues to grow and I never really finish any of them.
I bring this up because for the last few years I have been working on a screenplay. It's something I've always wanted to do. I made every excuse in the world for not actually doing it though until a good friend called my bluff on the matter. We were talking about accomplishing goals and I stated that it was one of mine. She simply looked at me and said: "Well, why don't you just do it?" (I'm hoping that last statement won't cause me to have to fork over any royalties to the folks at Nike!) I had no answer to her simple question - at least not a good one. So, I started the writing process in earnest.
Fast-forward to now and the script is still in the "under-development" stage. Sure, it's long enough to be considered done. And, it actually has a coherent story that follows a logical progression. Technically, I guess, it could be considered done. However, if you've read this far, you most likely have come to the conclusion that it is no where near a finished product. As events in my life have unfolded that would fit into the structure of the story, I want to shoehorn them in. As a result, these insertions have altered the story. Now, I'm considering a complete reworking to better capture my current ideas. So instead of being done, the screenplay is really back to square one.
Which brings me back to the initial crux of this entry. As I read this book and as I see plot points in movies and TV shows that I feel capture something similar to an idea I have for my script, I once again am faced with the double-sided coin presented above. On one hand, these similar ideas provide me with more inspiration and encouragement to place my own spin on them. Yet on the other, I feel the pangs of self-doubt creep in telling me that either I can't do as good of a job expressing that particular idea or that it doesn't even matter because it's not original anyway.
Either way, I'm left with a stalemate of indecision and underproductivity. One of these days, I'm just going to say "To hell with it" and just sit down and do it. That's what I did in the first place. So why not just do it again? (Great, more royalties to Nike!)