Category: ideas

Uh-oh

Me looking for anything else at all to get excited about.

Sunday night I couldn’t sleep. The day before I had read my novella out loud, making edits in preparation for next steps, and as I did that I kept returning to the same thought: This would really work as a screenplay.

The idea for the novella, sort of a Haruki Murakami-type story about two people exploring the weird crevices of their city, was originally meant as a noir screenplay. I first wrote it as a short story a few years ago, and then (having sort of given up on screenwriting), expanded it to a novella last year. I’ve revisited it from time-to-time since, always with an eye toward self-publishing, and it has always occurred to me that it might make a fun little indie film, but that’s not realistic. Movies are too big, too complex, too collaborative, and too expensive to just do. I spent nearly ten years learning that between Buffalo and DC.

Still, the simplicity of the dialogue-driven story. The rotating locations. The potential for actors to sink their teeth into these characters…

Sunday night I found myself fantasizing about self-funding the film, going home to Buffalo, gathering up the old crew, and shooting it. I lay in bed working out logistics, trying to figure out what sort of budget I’d need, thinking of locations, picturing the set-ups. It was bad. Really bad.

So, where I’m at is trying to adapt my own work. I’ve done this before, with my novel (which started as a screenplay), but I think it’s a bit easier to expand on ideas than the opposite.

This doesn’t change any of my short term plans surrounding the short story collection, or even self-publishing the novella. If, and it’s a big if, I were to seriously consider self-funding this film, it’d take a couple of years to get off the ground. It’s a lot of risk with very little chance of return. I’d really just be squandering away my family’s savings for a passion project that I’ve not demonstrated the talent to bring to fruition.

But there is something to be said about that giddy feeling of excitement I get when I think about it. I wish I felt that sort of passion about sitting in an office 8-10 hours per day.

So we’ll see.

Taradiddle and Profundity

Pictured: Me, an intellectual.

My coworker taught me a word that I worry may describe my writing: Taradiddle. Taradiddle has two definitions:

  1. a small lie; fib
  2. pretentious nonsense

You can probably guess which definition my work, and maybe my whole personality, falls under. I imagine someone picking up something I’ve written and saying, to use it in a sentence, “This story is a whole lot of taradiddle. This poor author’s perspective is all catawampus, bless his heart.” (Catawampus is another word taught to me by a coworker, which is how I know to say “bless your heart” afterward.)

See, I’ve got ideas, man, and those ideas feel big. Ideas about things as abstract as the nature of time and what justice is to an uncaring, ambivalent universe. And ideas about things as concrete as (in)equality of all kinds and the role government plays in our lives. Things I’ve studied and thought about and have questions that aren’t easily answered. But as I’m writing I always wonder why the fuck anyone would care about my thoughts on these things?

I’m a straight white guy. My perspective is that of a straight white guy. Is that perspective really one the world needs more of? I’m not an expert in anything in particular (at least, not anything of interest to anyone–even me), so even with the best research I’m capable of my approach to any specific topic isn’t likely to be the most informed.

But most authors aren’t necessarily writing about topics in which they’re experts. Stephen King and Chuck Wendig weren’t infectious disease experts when they wrote The Stand and Wanderers. J.K. Rowling didn’t practice magic as a young boy–she’s only slightly magical and has never been a young boy. Still, these authors wrote affecting, profound stories around these topics.

Maybe it comes down to having the confidence in your craft and ability to communicate some sort of truth even if the facts aren’t totally on point. Profundity isn’t necessarily complexity. It as much truth to say that being heartbroken is a painful shared experience as it is to explain the mechanics of orbital gravity and how that affects the tides. What matters, then, is the emotional connection author makes with reader and how those truths are communicated in a way that is felt. Perhaps it’s as much about relating to one another through story as it is about the explanation of ideas. In that sense, our A/S/L (those over college-age might get that) or expertise doesn’t matter so much.

Despite my worry of spewing taradiddle or coming off as pseudo-intellectual (which, let’s be honest, is probably exactly what I am), the aim is for a connection and not to be seen as an authority on anything specific. In fact, I think it’s dangerous to consider anyone an authority about anything they haven’t dedicated their lives to. That’s how we get appeals to false authority and experts in one field falling prey to the Dunning-Kruger effect when discussing another, perhaps related, field. That’s how misinformation spreads.

So I’ll continue to write potential taradiddle as I explore these ideas and try to answer the questions that vex me. The hope, then, is that my taradiddle connects with people on an emotional level, if not an intellectual one.

The Constant Search for Inspiration

That title is a bit misleading. I, personally, don’t typically search for inspiration. I have no real need to. I’m bombarded by ideas, most of which are shitty and I forget as soon as they happen, all the time. Inspiration is everywhere. The last idea I got that I was excited about what as I was driving through a foggy Pennsylvania after visiting home for Easter. My girlfriend was sleeping in the passenger seat of the car, the fog was the thickest I’ve ever seen, there were woods on either side of us, and we suddenly passed an overturned semi. That atmosphere and jarring image were all it took to shake something loose in my mind, and I wrote up a short treatment as soon as I got home.

Easter may seem like a long time ago. And it was. But ideas (really good ones, anyhow) are fairly rare. For a screenplay I’m happy with maybe two or three ideas that could be considered high-concept per year. Novels are even less than that (although sometimes there is a choice to be made between an idea being right for a screenplay or a novel). Short stories are a different beast. Ray Bradbury believed in writing one short story per week. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have the ability (right now) to be that prolific. However, I think short stories can deal with much more mundane material, perhaps with a twist, and still be engaging. I’m a fan of the slice-of-life and think that sort of thing suits itself well to flash fiction and even longer short stories, if done well.

I’ve run into a problem, though. Recently I’ve lacked some inspiration. I know the cause – my life has been boring. That’s not even completely accurate; you’re life can be boring and still give you fantastical ideas. But you need to seek them out by reading more, observing more, studying more. I haven’t taken the time to do that recently. My more intellectual pursuits have fallen by the wayside. It’s difficult to know if that will change anytime soon. My summer, as of right now, looks like it might be full of work and not much else.

I know what you’re thinking: Who wants to live that way? I should clarify what I mean by “work.” I mean my day job, of course, but I also mean writing work. Finishing scripts, new projects, that bane of my existence I call Manifest Destiny (one day I will break you, Manifest Destiny! One day!). It’s just that between those things and whatever social life I can cobble together in this strange city, there is the risk of enveloping myself in a bubble that doesn’t allow for new experiences or learning new things.

So here’s my point: Inspiration is, literally, everywhere. But you still have to take the time and put in the effort to look. It may be hiding in plain sight, but it’s still hiding.

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