What would you do differently?

During the time I was doing screenwriting — on the job, for a short while — there is something I learned from a colleague, who has now become a friend. If you don’t like it, rewrite it.

Wait! It’s not what you’re thinking.

Over many evenings, outside a rather stuffy office in Anna Nagar, this friend and I would talk about popular, highly successful or critically acclaimed films that he didn’t like. I’d ask him why he didn’t like it. He’d explain it to me.

I’d also ask him, “what would you have done differently?” Sometimes, he’ll rewrite parts of the film and narrate it to me. 

I’d come back home and secretly tried to rewrite films that I didn’t like. Giving women more agency. Giving the men more sensitivity. Making some parts less coincidental. Making some motives more real. You know, things that typically bothered me. In this process, I learned a whole lot about why films are the way they are, and how much more work it is to actually write better.

The critic’s way towards creating something is as legit as an amateur’s way. Pick any piece of writing you dislike — a novel, a short story, a film, a rude email, a Christmas wish, a love letter you yourself wrote badly. Rewrite it. What would you do differently?