I used to do a lot of writing for myself, and to express my fandom in the way it seemed best suited to it: I wrote online reviews for the TV show Smallville on the fansite KryptonSite.com. I did one for Spartacus’ first season, find that over here, written before star Andy Whitfield’s death.
I didn’t get paid and I got next to nothing material out of the bargain, but still I found it rewarding in many ways.
I initially started to write them because someone in a screenwriting group I was in at the time said writing reviews can be good experience for writing screenplays later. He was probably thinking of Francois Truffaut. The famed director started out as a film critic for Cahiers du Cinèma in the fifties. It was as a critic he originally formulated the Auteur Theory for film. (He posited that the director is the ‘author’ of a movie since he has more of an impact on the final product than anyone else, even the writers or actors.)
When Truffaut started to direct films later, through which he probably had become one of the best examples of his theory of directors being the authors of their films, he transcended his beginnings. He wasn’t just an unforgiving and scathing critic of other people’s films, he become probably one of the best filmmakers ever.
Now, I had honestly never envisioned a career like that in front of me (Francois Truffaut is probably one-in-a-million), but the underlying concept is sound: if you write critically about a medium you want to learn more about; doing a post mortem on it, as it were, you learn about the thing you’re examining in ways that would be hard to do otherwise.
My writing the reviews for Smallville was probably largely an academic exercise since I doubted that I would ever really get a career out of my writing based on that alone. Yet, in my goal to improve my writing and my understanding of storytelling, it did me a lot of good.
While I’m not writing award-winning scripts, I am making a living (at least in part) writing. I’m writing process documents, Better Business Bureau complaint responses, and long-ass emails that few people actually read, but I’m more confident in my writing ability and can usually make my point and do it pretty well. That ability was, in part, honed in writing online reviews.
I learned a lot writing those reviews and I enjoyed it, even got nice notes from some of Smallville’s producers and crew from time to time (like the terrific Glen Winter, who sent me the signed script above) but I hadn’t thought I would do that ever again. It was very time-consuming and I hadn’t really found a show that I was ‘fannish’ enough about to write reviews for. Maybe if someone paid me it would be worth taking the time, but how likely is that?
No, I never thought I’d do that again, at least not for the reasons I had before. Yet, now I feel the need to write online reviews for other reasons.
Almost nine years ago, in the spring of 2006, I was diagnosed with MS. People might be surprised by that since I never talk about it, but that’s not because I’m ashamed. I’m just wary of appearing too needy. The last thing I would want to do is make myself a pity case. It seems that’s why some people put their medical conditions OUT THERE in the world, it’s in order to garner some sympathy and get a pass on things.
I’m not looking to take advantage of people’s empathy by saying that, but I mention it because it’s partly behind my decision to write reviews again. MS affects your cognitive abilities over time, as well as your motor skills, and I recently read an article that recommended keeping a daily journal since it helped people stay alert longer. I think that article was more intended for people wishing to avoid dementia, but it probably is good advice for MS patients too…
I’m not sure I’m really up for writing a journal, at least not a daily one anyway, but as an intellectual exercise, there’s probably nothing better than writing reviews. Without a platform like KryptonSite to write for, I started this blog to give me a place to put out my thoughts on things. To start with I will write about Outlander, but I may branch out to write about other things as time goes on.
We’ll just have to see how this goes, so stay tuned…