What I Gained From This Pixar Film (Besides Existential Dread)
In the winter of 2020, Pixar released the soul-crushingly existential movie, “Soul.” Beyond potentially traumatizing an entire generation of children into having life-long, crippling death anxiety, the movie also gets credit for pushing me back towards writing. In the movie, there’s a theme of wasted potential as a jazz musician “prematurely” dies before he makes it big. During his journey through the hereafter the musician ventures through the spiritual realm, he’s shown a place called “the zone.”
Credit: from Pixar's "Soul"
You know how when you humans are really into something, it feels like you’re in another place? You feel like you’re in the zone, right? Well this is the zone. It's the space between the physical and the spiritual.”
A touchingly beautiful concept half-assed explained by an old soul giving the protagonist a lazy tour.
This “in the zone” feeling, the zen of losing yourself in your craft, was something I hadn't realized I missed desperately. During a year of quarantining and getting back into reading, my passion for written fiction resurfaced after a decade and a half of associating reading with studiousness (something I am very much not; I’m awful at studying). After a lifetime of passionately writing random blog posts and lyrics/raps that’ll never be sung or rapped, I somehow came to the conclusion that writing is my craft.
At first, I went through the stages of grief with this epiphany. For a hot minute, I was convinced that music should be my craft. I was in band all throughout school, and having gone to dozens of music festivals, I inexplicably thought I was destined for musical greatness. So this realization that I’m focusing on the wrong creative outlet was profound, but devastating.
I didn’t write a fiction story for at least another year though. My Kindle library filled up with books about writing and my physical bookshelf filled up with fiction books, specifically non-Star Wars fiction books. I felt like I needed to research more before I could write anything worthwhile – especially after I read Dune which really checked my ego.
After a year or so of researching, I still found myself trepid. Perfectionism debilitated my start. I didn’t want to be bad at writing--my craft, this newly rediscovered gateway to the spiritual realm. Then I received my final push towards putting pen to paper whenever I tore a tendon in my right leg in a season of biking and 5k training. My running and biking habits came to a full halt at a time that both consumed most of my freetime.
So I found myself in a knee-high boot with nowhere to go. And remarkably, the transition from using physical activity as a coping mechanism to using fiction writing as a coping mechanism happened unintentionally. Starting to daydream as I sat outside in the Texas heat one day, I jotted down some ideas about a potential fictional universe--world-building for the sake of world-building.
That universe eventually became The Polsix System. And after researching how to plot a story, I sat down and ambitiously plotted out a 300-page space opera for my first written story in almost a decade.
I wrote 5000 words of this sci-fi epic before I got distracted by a short story and song analysis series planned with my older brother. After putting the space opera on hold entirely while I wrote a breakdown of a Solange song and accompanying short story about a noir cat detective who’s searching for the first murderer in the kingdom. After I finished writing that, I shelved the book I’d plotted out in the Polsix System and shifted my focus to short stories set in the universe I’d built earlier that year. (OCT Meltdown and Missing Persons on Sister Ark out now lol.)
Anyways, all of that to say that I’ve rediscovered my “in the zone”-type craft, and it’s changed everything for me. Finding writing incredibly fullfilling, I’m glad I wasn’t discouraged by my own ambitious, misguided first step of starting out too big. Now that I’ve actually found my footing by practicing small steps, I see myself sticking with this habit for the rest of my life.
Thanks for reading. Follow this space for more of my writing journey, flash fictions, announcements, and who knows what else!
Running Out of Time - Lil Yatchy.
Read my song review of this one!
Running Out of Time - Paramore.
An early favorite from the new album.
(Sidenote: I'm just now noticing the coincidence that my two currrent favorite songs have the same titles.)
Perhaps the best video game adaption ever? Haven't seen the most recent episode, but I'm glad Episode 4 regained momentum after the extended side story in Episode 3.