Before & After, A Writing Assignment

I’m in Galway, Ireland looking at a sculpture of a rooster that stands in the middle of the window to the backyard. I’m here, alongside the rooster, for the next six nights, to experience the Galway Film Fleadh. I’m nearing the end of a month in Ireland, a return to Scotland for six nights (and two days at the British Open), and a flight home to Toronto, after nearly three months away.

When I arrived in Scotland, on May 4th, I told people that I was here to explore and to “try to write.” Since meeting a man named Tom in Derry, Northern Ireland I’ve transitioned from saying, “trying to write” to “writing.” The transition happened partially because I’ve been writing more lately, but in truth, it happened because I finally gained the courage to embrace the idea of being a writer. I was in a pub in Listowel, Co. Kerry, Ireland the other night and I was introduced as “a writer from Canada.” I didn’t react bashfully or push the label away. I accepted it and it felt great.

I’m thrilled to be here right now and the last few months have been a gift. I’m also ready to come home. I’m ready to put myself into situations that might tempt me to lose my confidence, stop writing, and fall into my old patterns.

I’m also ready for a challenge. So, I’ve decided to give myself an assignment this week.

In my own way, I’m going to blog my way through the films that I see and the experiences that I have while at the Galway Film Fleadh. I’ve developed a structure for each of these posts because it gives me something to start and finish. It’s important to me that I finish some things (“I just want to see some books on the bookshelf,” I often say).

I’ve decided on a format that puts me at the centre. I decided to write this way for a practical reason; I assume that the majority of people who read these posts are friends and family who aren’t likely to watch the films that I’m writing about (or who won’t have seen them yet). As I’ve reflected on this choice, I also think that it challenges me to write from a place of honesty and feeling rather than a place of analysis. Sometimes I think and write in analysis. I analyze rather than notice what is happening before me eyes. Some of the best writers are people who hold the mirrors that reflect our lives back to us. We might think that they’re doing our analysis for us, but in the end, we’re the ones doing it. That’s a long way of saying that I’m not going to analyze these films, I’m going to write about how they impact and change me.

I’m going to call this little project Before & After. I’m going to write about what I’m experiencing, feeling, and thinking before each film and then I’m going to tell you the same things after it’s over. What happens in between, the film itself, is going to be my experience.

I’m going to keep it that way for three reasons:

  1. I love sitting in a dark theatre, especially on my own, and letting a film take me away. I can’t be writing my piece while I watch, I’ll ruin the immersion.
  2. I want you to wonder what happened to me. I want you to be compelled to seek out the films and let them do something to you.
  3. I don’t want to write movie reviews.

Here’s the format that I intend to follow (I practiced last night at a screening of The Deer Hunter the 1978 war-epic by director Michael Cimino; practice post in the works). You can expect me to tweak as I go, but my goal is to stay committed to a post after each film.

The Before

  • The Door to Lights Down: I will tell you what I notice, who I meet, what I talk about, what I overhear, and anything else that seems notable from the front door of the theatre until the lights go down to start commercials and previews.
  • Checking in with Adam: I will tell you how I’m feeling and thinking before the film begins.
  • What Brought Me Here: There’s always something drawing me to a particular film. I’ll tell you what it is!
  • Who Is With Me: I really like seeing movies on my own, but I also like to think about who, from my life, might enjoy what I’m seeing. I’ll tell you who and why! 

The After

  • Lights Up to the Door: I will tell you what I notice, who I meet, what I talk about, what I overhear, and anything else that seems notable from the time the lights come up until I get outside of the theatre.
  • Checking in with Adam: I will tell you how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking about after the film ends.
  • Where It Took Me: I have a tendency, when I’m rapidly trying to process something, to see a tangle of connections to a whole bunch of things in my head. I sometimes can’t spit them out fast enough. I’m going to list, in no particular order, the things that the movie is making me think about.
  • Who I’d Like to Watch This With: After watching the film, I’ll tell you who I’d like to watch it with and why.

So there you have it, the structure of my assignment for the next four-ish days. I hope that you’ll help me to keep it up.

If I can keep myself writing tonight (I have a blueberry sour beer in the fridge that will stop me from over-editing, but could also put me to sleep…it’s a fine balance with me) I’ll complete and post the practice session that I did last night at the Irish Film Institute screening of Deer Hunter. I’ve been talking about the movie all day (and not just because Robert De Niro was young once and Meryl Streep seems to still look the same) so there must be some worth in telling you about my before and after experience.

Update: Here is a log of all the posts in this series. 

3 responses to “Before & After, A Writing Assignment”

  1. I’m so proud to call you a friend and a mentor. I’m confident on your uniqueness and interest to support others to overcome challenges. Adam, your authentic feelings will defines all your actions.

    Wish you a great luck to your adventures and I look forward to the outcome of your journey in Ireland.

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