Earlier this month after my twenty-one year old car failed the smog check, and I realized it would cost more to fix it than it’s worth, I decided to “retire” it through a State of California program that basically pays you to get your piece of junk off the road. With some feelings of nostalgia for all my car and I have been through together over the past twenty-one years, I cleaned out the trunk and glove compartment and drove it to a demolition yard in Tujunga (outside L.A.) where I got in a line of other senior cars awaiting their fate. It felt like a slaughterhouse. When it was my car’s turn, I drove it up on a ramp where I kissed my car goodbye and walked away as an employee of the yard made chalk scribbles on the car door and drove it into the beyond — at least beyond where I could see. There, I imagined, everything salvageable would be removed to be reused, recycled and resold — tires, hubcaps, floor mats, seats, battery, and various innards whose value I can’t begin to appreciate. After all, my poor car wasn’t bad all over. It still had life in some of its parts.
At the same time that this was happening, I was also in the middle of re-writing a screenplay to present at a screenwriting group I’ve belonged to for about seven years. (After all, therapist writers don’t have to just write books. All kinds of writing projects can be enriched by what therapists can bring to them). I was struck by how similar a complete manuscript rewrite is to a car demolition. After I printed out my old script, I went through it and decided which chunks of it no longer worked and needed to be put on the chopping block. Then, hard as it is to eliminate days and weeks of previous work, I physically removed these sections, clipped the individual sections together, and put them in a pile (like the pile of squished cars in the picture!) After that, I went through all the scenes, lines of dialogue, and character descriptions that I’d salvaged and began to reconstruct a new script, even saving some of the bits for future scripts. The trick in both cases, of course, is to be willing to let go of what no longer works, salvage what you can, and move on. Hopefully my new car (when I get it) and my new script (when I finish it) will work better.