April Barbe

To me, creative writing is something that is personal. Sitting down in front of a blank page and pouring out your ideas, emotions, believes, fantasies, fears, hopes and dreams ... it comes from somewhere deep within.

So, when a friend of mine asked me to collaborate on a feature-length screenplay with him, I was a little hesitant. He seemed confident in my writing abilities, though, so I agreed.

Now, we are nearing the 50-page mark in less than two weeks.

What a difference two creative brains make on one project!

Writing that much by myself would have taken a month, but together we are going at twice the normal speed! Thanks to a writing program called WriterDuet, my friend and I are able to both work on the same script from different towns.

I've been screenwriting for the past 14 years, on and off, and I've found that writing by yourself is hard. It takes an extreme amount of discipline and focus. I have been somewhat successful in completing some projects, but it has been much more fun working with my friend.

After I've written a few pages, he offers tips on style and story. And I've been correcting typos here and there to what he has added.

We seem to be balancing out, and the story is coming together nicely.

But the first time I clicked into his script, I felt like I was doing something I shouldn't be! I felt like I was eavesdropping on his brain. It still felt personal.

Although it's a work of fiction, it is a new creation ... an extension of someone else's thoughts.

As writer William Faulkner once said “If a story is in you, it has got to come out.”

I'm not sure I could trust someone to pop into my scripts and add to them. The difference here though is that the script is based off a book written by my friend. So, there is a blueprint. I can't stray too far off the beaten path.

For inspiration, I decided to look up Academy Award winning screenplays (and nominees) by multiple writers. Guess what I found? Many of the scripts were written by at least two people, if not four!

From “Sunset Boulevard” in 1950 (three writers) to “Good Will Hunting” in 1997 by the duo Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, creative minds have been joining forces for many years.

Writers don't have to sit in a dark corner and spill out their words, alone, onto a page trying to make sense of them. It's OK to collaborate with other writers.

I've actually been pretty good at working with others. I have a writing partner whom I've worked on scripts and books with for at least a decade. I have a filmmaking partner with whom I bounce ideas off of and share story ideas. And I, of course, have a co-writer on this column, Chance Gibbs!

Therefore, I think my most successful writing ventures have been those with other people.

It's good to have someone else to connect with what you're trying to create. This can only be a good attribute that will help you connect with your audience, as well.

For the first seven years of my screenwriting career, I sat in front of a computer, alone. I avoided many social outings and often stayed to myself entire weekends just writing.

Then one day, I suddenly realized that I was lonely! I also wondered what good was it to write all of these stories by myself and have them sit in a folder on my computer never to be read.

So, I began making short films. This was fun for a few years, but I still felt the urge to write.

Once a writer, always a writer! However, I'm glad I've learned that socializing and collaborating with others is beneficial to my writing.

If you are a creative type, I hope you will show your work to others, and ask for help on projects, when needed! Let's all help each other succeed.

April Barbe is the editor of the Progress; however, she is also a part-time screenwriter. She has written and directed three short films and served as a casting director. April has also worked as a production assistant, co-producer and publicist on feature films in Texas.