What does a sixty watt bulb feel like when it’s illuminating a hall closet? It feels like the brightest bulb in the world. It feels like the king of light, the vanquisher of darkness, the torch of brilliance… But what does it feel like suspended in front of one of those searchlights small town car dealerships believe will drag you into their lots of gently used Chevrolets?
It feels like a penis coming fresh out of a swimming pool in February. It feels like a match trying to light a fart in a hurricane. It feels like a moderately-to-minimally creative person listening to Max Landis throw off unused ideas like sparks from a steam engine revving so high it’s tearing itself apart.
Max was going all hyperkinetic on a Nerdist podcast when he just tossed out a couple of prime ideas that he was throwing away because he literally sells too much to actually be able to work on it all. And my brain sort of melted down and then went to suck its thumb and cry in a corner.
The stuff he was throwing away wasn’t just genius, it was thinking outside the human condition. Anyone trying to bang out a genre screenplay within the studio system is very much like Mrs. R.R. Forman going up against Mozart when it comes to dealing with this guy on one of his bad days.
Listening to him casually word vomit sheer, jaw dropping genius over the course of an interview really did make me creatively impotent for a few days. The time would come, I would sit down at the keyboard, and his ideas for the best Bond movie ever and a stone cold stunner of an idea for a story told from Captain Hook’s point of view, would just shrink my balls down to ice cold peanuts.
It’s hard to type with ice cold peanuts between your legs.
But then I remembered a post from the legendary screenwriting blog of Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot. The guys who created the Pirates of the Caribbean series and wrote the best Zorro movie ever made have an excellent series of posts about making it as a writer in Hollywood on their site Wordplayer.com. And one of the posts, if I remember correctly (yes, I’m too lazy to look it up) is called, “Crap Plus One.”
Basically, it takes down the notion of setting out to write something better than the terrible stuff you see up on the screen. The conceit being that your goal should never be to write something slightly better than a Michael Bay movie, but should instead be to write the best thing you possibly can.
This post came back to me while I was covering myself in kerosene while looking for an ignition source (Goddammit why did I quit smoking?) and I realized that if I turned the idea around, I could go back to happily stretching the edges of my mediocre talent.
Do physicists give up their profession because they aren’t as smart as Einstein? Do sex symbols give up their careers because they’re not as strapping as Brad Pitt? Do the Kardashians abandon television because they have no discernable talent? No and no and, unfortunately, no.
So now I’m going to go back to my mildly innovative take on a YA novel secure in the knowledge that, while it’s not Max Landis genius, it’s also not crap plus one. But it is the best I can do.
But before I go, I want to Maxwell you with a true silver hammer of an idea much in the same way Max did to me on that podcast: Peak oil has come and gone. Oil as a lubricant is so rare it’s nearly impossible to get in large quantities. Giant robots are limping around with frozen joints and are willing to do anything for a few hundred barrels of the stuff. That’s right, it’s Transformers: Revenge of the WD40.