I’m sitting in my dorm room, in one of those rare points in time when I had a dorm room, using my college’s T1 connection to do one of my favorite things in those days: watch movie trailers. In this case, it’s the trailer for The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
Without seeing the rhyme in my actions, I go and fetch other students to come and watch the trailer. I probably say something like, “Come see this” or “I found something!”
To say I was excited about the movie might not get it across. I designed a Jurassic Park roleplaying adventure game—survival horror with dinosaurs—after seeing the first film. I hand-drew maps of Isla Nublar and of sites not seen in the book or the movie. I printed out character sheets and game rules on a dot matrix printer. Some characters were spares so players could level-up characters after their first avatars were inevitably eaten by dinosaurs.
"Oooh, ahhh, that’s how all this starts. But later there’s running and then screaming."
The Lost World is a rather different movie than Jurassic Park, of course; good at different things. I rather like The Lost World, too, but that’s not the point. The point is that when the sun gets a certain way and the Midwest starts to heat up, I sometimes flash back to the drive through Illinois and Wisconsin to pick up friends and go to the movies to watch dinosaurs eat plutocrats (and hunters, and businessmen, and explorers, and scientists, and San Diego). Also, to watch Jeff Goldblum (and Julianne Moore, and Richard Schiff, and Pete Postlethwaite).
I was slowly derailing in those days, heading towards rock bottom for not the last time, and I didn’t know it. But I knew I dug Spielberg movies and I knew I dug dinosaurs and I knew I dug the girl I took to the movies that day. These days, looking back at us driving through the Midwestern sun to see dinosaurs? It looks okay.
This morning is one of those days. For some reason, my brain has tripped a wire that leads back to that summer again today. So I put on the Lost World soundtrack and spend a few minutes reminiscing. I married my date to the movies (we were wed by the mother of the friend who joined us that day) and today—this very day—I get to write a bit professionally about dinosaurs. Onward.
When the writing is tough, I doubt a lot of my words and think hard about whether I really know what I’m doing or not. Where do I get the nerve to try to be heard or read?
As David Simon once put it, who died and made me Storyteller?
Thinking back to some of the lessons I’ve learned as a writer and narrative designer, I think about all the hours I’ve logged — through doubt and confidence, pain…