It’s time for another retrospective.
In May of 2005, I was twenty-three years old. My girlfriend and I had broken up for the last time and it was as pleasant as you could expect. I was sitting in a movie theatre, with my brother who’d already seen the film, watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. My disillusionment with the Prequels had been growing for some time: from the three-hour commercial of The Phantom Menace to the atrocity that was Attack of the Clones. I wasn’t even pretending to like them anymore because they were Star Wars. It had gotten to the point where I spoiled myself on what happened in Sith because, frankly, I was just so tired of the entire ordeal.
After much anger, sadness, disappointment, and bitterness — and all the other stages of grief — I had to accept that this would be my final Star Wars cinematic experience: surrounded by ashes and a haze of post-adolescent hate. In fact, The Clone Wars not withstanding, I was almost relieved that it was finally over and I would have time to ruminate on what could, or should, have been.
Ten years later, in December of 2015, I am sitting in another theatre. This time I am there with my girlfriend. I don’t really know what to expect when we’re both sitting there waiting for the film to start. I’d heard good things, but I also know about the power of hype. The mere fact that George Lucas was no longer involved with Star Wars was enough, but I didn’t want to raise my expectations.
But when that introduction, followed by the logo and the scrawling opening narrative somehow, despite the passage of time and adult cynicism, that I was seeing a Star Wars movie again: in the cinema, in good company, and that there is at least the hope of it only getting better from there. The fact that Revenge of the Sith was not my last Star Wars experience and that The Force Awakens is the first of the new, was a gift in and of itself.
And then there is the second notable geeky thing that I undertook this year. A week ago, I finished Ty Templeton’s Comic Book Bootcamp Writing Classes. What can I say? I learned more about writing in four months than I did for years. It was intense. Between Ty’s engaging and witty lectures, spontaneous collaborations with my classmates, and writing assignments on the spot, I felt as though I were Luke Skywalker getting a crash course in Jedi training.
Seriously, I’d studied writing and novels before. I had even created some of my own comics scripts from what I could piece together from scholarly and professional books. But if there is one thing Luke could tell you is that it’s one thing to glean information from books and Holocrons, and the occasional visit from from a Jedi Master’s Force ghost but it is a whole other to have an actual interactive teacher: someone who passes on lore and knowledge but also knows how to create exercises to challenge you, and to encourage you to share what you have learned.
One of the main lessons I take away from Ty’s class, if anything else, is the following. Perfectionism is death. If you spend so much time trying to think of something perfect, it will never happen. You have to just keep going. Just take some time, have an idea, and run with it. You will be surprised at what you might create.
I found that the ultimate challenge for me was our final assignment. The idea was that at the end of our course, we were going to send Ty a script for either a television show or a comic book. I chose to make a comics script for a twenty-two page comic. My plan was to take one of the pitches I made for the course and flesh it out into a crude outline. Then I was going to sit down and use the script format Ty taught us and give him an actual script.
What really ended up happening was that I left it for too long. I was on a creative streak and then life happened. My aunt passed away towards the end of the course. Obviously, I had great difficulty concentrating on anything afterwards and I almost gave up completely. And I could have. There were no marks riding on this final assignment. No money. I was already working on another project and it would have just been easy to let it go and sleep.
But something … wouldn’t let me. Part of it was the encouragement from my peers and loved ones. But another part of it was that I knew that this was what Ty had been talking about. While in the professional world it might not have been acceptable to hand in something so skeletal, or even miss a deadline for life reasons, I thought about what was important. In this case, it was to tell a story.
So I sat down and typed out a comics outline. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever written, but I think it got the point across. The truth is, the most important thing about the final assignment of writing course was that if we met the deadline, Ty himself would provide “copious notes” — suggestions, critiques, and insights — to what we had given him. And feedback from a professional in the field is utterly invaluable. I just couldn’t turn that down: even if what I wrote was not much to work on.
Still. I did that.
It’s funny though that, even now, I am getting new ideas for the series that I came up with in Ty’s course. That this course and its assignments gave me that much is another well-earned gift. But finishing that final assignment, even with such a basic and most likely flawed outline, was an achievement. Four months before this course, I was filled with almost nothing but stress and frustration at where my life was not going despite everything I was putting into it. Four months later, I feel like I truly graduated from Ty Templeton’s Writing Bootcamp: and that is something for which I am definitely proud.
And this is how I want to end the last post of this year: not in anger, or disappointment, but in the promise of something new. There is plenty of time for sarcasm and hellfire, but right now my batteries feel recharged. And perhaps there might yet be room inside me: for more wonder.
Oh and, one more thing. Please consider taking some of Ty’s Comic Book Bootcamp classes. They are completely and utterly worth it. Happy New Year, my friends.