Two months ago my son, Sawyer, purchased a copy of “Fifty Science Fiction Classics.” As I described in an earlier column, this collection included such treasures as “Egah!” and “Santa Clause Conquers the Martians.” Once Sawyer understood he had come home with a kind of rogue’s gallery of bad cinema, he devised a plan: We would watch them all, he and I, one a night, and when we were done we would celebrate. He called this plan The Journey. I am happy to report we finished our journey last week. As a kind of test of our endurance, I learned two things. First, I learned that you must try to enjoy yourself. Early on, we made a game of criticizing and complaining about each movie. There was a lot to complain about. Why is the narrator describing exactly what we’re seeing? Why don’t any of the characters have personalities? Why isn’t anything happening?
These were perfectly reasonable questions, but asking them and asking them became fatiguing because no one could answer them. The movies had been made and there was nothing we could do about it. Better, it turns out, to find something redeeming in each film. Better to find some shred of a plot, some thread of a question you want answering. How will Santa Claus conquer the Martians? Let’s find out.
Second, it’s critical to remember you chose to be on the journey. How tempting in the middle of a particularly story-less effort to cry out to the universe for clemency. Boredom, after all, is torturous in its way. Yet there was no torturer in the room. There was only us. We chose to watch every movie, and could have stopped at anytime.
We had to remind ourselves of this lesson almost every night. If we were suffering, we were doing so by choice. Oddly, once we remembered we had chosen The Journey, the suffering faded. Now we could settle back, father and son goofing around for a couple hours, waiting to see what Santa Claus would do next.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.