Writing is a lot like making coffee.
See, I’m the last of eight kids.
Growing up in a big family I realized that my Mom learned how to manage a large brew of children quite effectively.
For example, instead of trying to figure out foods that each kid would like, she simply prepared the same basic meals every week (Pasta on Monday, Chicken on Tuesday, Burgers on Wednesday, etc.).
We didn’t have a lot of money and we couldn’t afford a lot of extras, so desserts were a special treat. To make it more special my Mom would add a spoon to our place setting to let us know that a dessert was on the menu that evening.
And each morning, before the sun would rise, before any children were awake, my Mom would find time for herself and prepare her mandatory morning coffee in an old metal percolator that gurgled and moaned until her smooth mocha goodness was hot and ready.
I’d wake up each morning to the sound of the percolator and the smell of coffee. I’d awaken to find my Mother sipping her coffee on the living room couch, in the dark, enjoying the peace and quiet.
I am often reminded of that percolator when working on new film and television ideas. Each writer has their own process and, for me, things simmer in the old brain pan for a while, collecting complexity and depth and momentum.
At some point all of that simmering and percolating will cause such creative pressure that I’ll have to start writing and let the story flow out of me.
The past few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of percolating about a possible television series called Gabby Wells.
My creative juices have been gurgling and boiling as I work my way through a season’s worth of story lines and character arcs.
Randomly, it seems, I will spew out a new idea about the series to my daughter Dorothea, who often collaborates with me in the idea stage of our projects. It could be at dinner, on the drive to school, while sitting on our front porch… could happen anywhere at any time.
“I think the Dad should run a small hardware store. And the murder weapon would be bought at his store.”
The ideas percolate to the surface and I feel I am forced to verbalize them, somehow giving them validity.
“I think Gabby needs an arch enemy. The person should become her enemy by the mid-point of the first season. The stronger the villain, the stronger the hero.”
My daughter will patiently listen to the latest idea, offer up some suggestions or inquire as to the reasons behind it. She will challenge me and force me to flesh things out by asking annoyingly accurate detailed questions that I haven’t figured out yet.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if Tiffany from Nikki & Babs was in one episode as a woman who has amnesia?”
Each idea is like a small cup of coffee in an overall pot of complex and intertwining story paths.
For Gabby Wells, this pot holds thirteen cups… thirteen episodes of mystery and humor and faith and friendship.
Like my Mother, I sit in the dark at night, on my couch, enjoying the peace and quiet, listening to my thoughts percolate while the aroma of creativity floats through my mind.
The pressure is building and I look forward to the time when the first season of Gabby Wells is finished brewing.
Then I can finally sip from the cup of inspiration and enjoy the smooth mocha goodness I call screenwriting.