Lance, Oscar, Tigers, and Character

Before our wedding, my wife and I took a class through the American Jewish University called “Making Marriage Work.”  While I can’t say this course provided us with any shocking revelations or insights into our relationship, it did provide a nice context to discuss the big picture stuff of married life before we tied the knot (usually in the car driving to and from the class).  Invariably, each class would simply confirm for us that we were indeed on the same page about most issues.  Good news.

If there was one thing that stuck with me from those sessions, it was something the instructor said on the first day: “The things you love most about your spouse are the very things that will drive you crazy.”  Good one, huh?  Ain’t it the truth?  In my case, I love that my wife is a smart, tenacious, Type-A, go getter.  But these same qualities also drive me crazy because they means she is sometimes stubborn and relentless at times when I wish she wouldn’t be.  Now think about the people closest to you.  Do the things you love about them also drive you crazy?  I’ll bet they do.

I’ve been thinking about this idea today and how it relates to our notion of character.  What set me off on this line of thinking was reading the news about Olympic star Oscar Pistorius who is currently being charged with murdering his girlfriend.  Now, I don’t know too much about this guy beyond the NBC mini-documentaries of the Olympics, but if I had to speculate, I’d guess that the fire inside him that drove him to athletic success is not completely unrelated to the hot headedness that drove him to murder his girlfriend.  It was all in the same soup.

A far clearer example (and in the same vein) is Lance Armstrong.  What did we love about him?  His amazing competitive drive.  This drive is what empowered him to win seven consecutive Tour De France titles.  It was his spirit, his grit, his unrelenting determination.  But these are the same exact qualities that led to his downfall.  That same competitive drive we once applauded was what drove him to cheat and lie.  Two sides of the same coin.

My wife’s family has a saying that reflects this phenomenon: “When you have a tiger, you have tiger problems.”  You can restate this adage with any noun as the object.  When you have  huge breasts, you have huge breast problems.  When you have a beautiful white rug, you have beautiful white rug problems.  In my wife’s case, when you are married to a writer, you have writer problems.

Well this writer thinks this notion of duality is a real useful way to think about writing good characters.  Think about how many superb characters of stage and screen  have a driving force that is both a strength and a weakness.  In Tootsie, Michael Dorsey’s weakness is that he is a stubborn perfectionist who doesn’t suffer fools–even when his career depends on it.  It is this same quality, however, that makes him brilliant as Dorothy Michaels.  Now think about the mind of Hamlet.  Think about the thoughtfulness and empathy that empowers him to be a phenomenal tactician; they also cripple him with indecision.

Our strengths can be our weaknesses…and our weaknesses, our strengths.

The Video Bill Would Want You To See

This is Bill’s wife. First off, I’d like to thank everyone for your support during this trying time.  I know that Bill would want me to post this video on his blog for all to see, so here it is:

Draft #3 is done!

Still longer than I’d like, but I’m feeling good about this draft.  Finished last night at 10:45, registered with the Writer’s Guild 10 minutes later.  Tonight, I print many copies.  Very exciting.

Back to school … and hand therapy

I went back to school yesterday, after two weeks without teaching.  It’s been a productive little break for me.  While the third draft of my screenplay is not totally polished, it’s almost there.  The only mystery is how, after hoping to make this draft 3-5 pages shorter, I’ve managed to make it five pages longer.  On Sunday, I chopped that +5 down to a +4, but I still need more trimming before I’ll consider this one finished.  Then it’s off to my next batch of readers.  Once I hear from them, I’ll decide how much more work it needs before the agent search begins.

So goes the thrill-a-minute writer’s life …


I’ve also started hand therapy.  In case you’ve been wondering why I don’t post more frequently, a big reason is this:  I hate typing.  I hate typing because typing hurts.  For the last four years, I’ve been dealing with tendonitis in my fingers, and, in the last year, it’s gotten real bad.  At my worst, I’m unable to type more than a couple sentences without experiencing discomfort.  This is–as you might imagine–a real bitch of a problem if you are a writer.  It’s also why I haven’t been returning e-mails promptly these days.  Sorry about that.

Over the years, I’ve spent lots of money improving my ergonomic situation, and I even use the profoundly frustrating (and frequently comedic) iListen dictation software to help me type less when I’m at home.  Still, my problem persists.  Off to hand therapy I go!

So far, so good.  My tendonitis is pretty serious, so this is going to be a long process, but I’m optimistic I may finally be on the right track.  I’m doing lots of new stretches, I’m trying to be hyper-aware of my posture at all times, and (most importantly) I am icing my paw like a crazy person.

Previous doctors/therapists have told me to use heat on my hands, and this has been a major part of my daily routine to this point.  Heat before typing, heat while typing, heat after typing.  It feels good to heat, but it turns out it may not be good for me.  Brian, my new therapist, says this constant heat is probably encouraging an endless cycle of inflamation, preventing me from healing.  So now I’ve said “no” to heat (except in the morning).  Now I ice my hands a few times a day–and always after typing.  While icing is painful, unpleasant, and inconvenient, I must confess, it does make my hands feel better (once the numbness subsides, that is).

The final change in my routine (aside from my twice weekly therapy visits) is that I have had to temporarily stop all upper-body exercises.  Until these hands are better, it’s abs, cardio, and swimming only.  While this will undoubtedly lead to some scrawnification of my physique, I’m happy that it should also make for shorter gym visits — a good thing, now that my day job is once again squeezing in on my writing time.

Will all this help my hurtin’ hands?  Let’s hope so.  At this point, I’m willing to do almost anything to turn this problem around.  So I’ll keep my fingers crossed.  That is to say: I’ll keep them uncrossed, limber, and frequently on the rocks.