I clutch the steering wheel until my poor writer’s knuckles crackle. Glaring at the rental car’s GPS, I yell, “You’re insane. I can’t possibly go up there!” The moonlit mountain before me is so large, its peak exceeds my windshield’s visual capacity. I fervently repeat my latest mantra from Ralph Marston, “Excellence is not a skill. It’s an attitude.” The stubborn GPS counters with a mantra of its own, “Continue…continue…continue.” I recognize the simple wisdom in its command. If I want to achieve new heights in my screenwriting skills, I must follow this terrifyingly twisty road up the side of a mountain…in the dark. I double-check the seatbelt holding my laptop bag in the passenger seat and get back on the road.
Like all of history’s greatest gurus, the coveted Cinestory Writers’ Retreat in Idyllwilde, CA requires a pilgrimage cross-country, through the 405’s gauntlet of unforgiving drivers, and up a narrow mountain road that would make a goat tremble. Tracy King-Sanchez, a writer/director that I respect as a real warrior in film and life once told me if I want to master my screenwriting skills, I must “go cry on the mountain”. And cry I did, but that came later.