chasing butterflies

My high school biology teacher, Mr. Nystrom, said that in college he would study like a banshee for a test, then for the hour before-hand would grab his butterfly net and go run around outside, chasing butterflies to clear away the jitters.

I don't have a butterfly net, but I do have a keyboard.

It's 8:03 on Thursday morning, which means that in fifty-seven(ish) minutes, the guy from the Atlanta Film Festival's supposed to call and ask me a bunch of questions. I'm going to answer using everything I've learned in five years of hiring tree planters and four years studying screenwriting and wearing out keyboards.

At the end of the interview I'll say goodbye (awkwardly, I'm guessing), hang up, and wait until tomorrow to hear if the stars, my parents' prayers, and the interviewer's and my personalities aligned, and I get to be one of the three screenwriters who'll attend a screenwriting workshop at the Atlanta Film Festival.

I'll find out if I'm a winner, or a loser.

For so many reasons, I don't like this. I don't like the red-in-tooth-and-claw nature of the way the world works, and I especially don't like the way that nature gets played out in the arts. After all, I spent four years as a high school art teacher trying to get kids to believe that their work was inherently valuable, just because they made it.

I was right, of course.

But that doesn't mean the world at large works that way, and it's frustrating to have to throw myself at the mercy of a system of valuation that doesn't care about people half as much as it cares about results. It's frustrating to know that for me to be a winner on this one, five of the other finalists have to be losers - five people who, for all I know, might need this far more than I.

I'd like to win, and I'd love to go to this workshop. One of their mentors last year was James Ponsoldt, director of THE SPECTACULAR NOW, which was one of my favorite films of 2013. I don't know who they'll have this year, but it bodes well, and that well-boding makes me nervous.

I should probably be using this time right now to work on my novel, but I don't want to get caught up in that and have to stop. I'm not sure if blogging about it is a good idea (I'm twenty minutes in already, and I still have to edit), but it's thirty-three degrees Fahrenheit outside right now, so I'm thinking my butterfly options are fairly limited.

My Junior year of high school, Mr. Nystrom assigned his class insect collections and made them worth half our semester grade, so we spent a lot of time collecting. Late at night you'd often find me shimmying up an Amazonian light-pole with a syringe full of formaldehyde in my teeth, eyes on some entomological prize. I caught and killed a lot of beetles on those light poles, but mostly I caught and killed moths.

That's a bit what this feels like.

Not chasing butterflies across a meadow with a net, but shimmying up a light pole in the darkness, collecting splinters on my arms and inner thighs - assassinating moths.

Still, I've killed a half an hour, now, and you're still reading, so it can't be all bad. I might be sweating from my armpits and my throat might be dry and I might be wondering why in the world I thought this would be a good idea...

...but I'm still climbing.

- - -

UPDATE: Climbing, but apparently not this particular mountain. The Atlanta Film Festival Dude finally did call me, we had our interview, and it went well. But he just got back to me to say that my script had not been chosen as one of the three winners. Ah, well. Back to the 'ol scribble-board.


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