Friday, September 11, 2009

Master your art

There is probably no more famous teacher of writing screenplays than Robert McKee. If you are not sure who he is, maybe you saw him portrayed in the brilliant movie Adaptation.

In his book Story, McKee says this near the front: Story is about thoroughness, not shortcuts. It is about mastering the art. You can see when people have short-circuited the process, have gone for the easy fix.

Is it possible to do that in real life? Aren't there times when we just need to take the shortcut at work because of deadlines and the every-day minutia that beats you down? Aren't there times when we should just go for the easy fix because the alternative means pain and a long haul?

The hard answer is is no, there is no good time to go for the shortcut. Even in deadlines, there should be a struggle, there should be sweat, blood, and tears to give it the best; and then work hard to understand how it can be better next time. It is what separates great companies from the pack, your favorite products from the has-beens, the best friends from the acquaintances, the growing parents from the oh-well ones. And the great movies from that fourth installment just trying to make money.

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