That’s The Sign Post Up Ahead

by Randy Murray on April 3, 2014

As a child, nothing terrified me as deliciously as watching the Twilight Zone, The Night Gallery, or The Outer Limits.

My bedroom was just off the family room where the big black and white Zenith TV console sat. If it was past my bedtime I could sneak out of bed and position myself behind the bedroom door and look out of the crack by the hinges. This made watching these frightening shows even more powerful. Horror glimpsed through a door is greatly magnified.

Rod Serling was a terrific writer and a visionary TV creator. That man knew how to tell stories. In an age when the censorship and control of TV and movies was extreme, that man still managed to scare the pants off viewers. Those shows still can get to me.

I sometimes think that the restrictions he faced, the censorship and high-level control, the tiny budgets, the limits of TV technology of the time, all added to his mix. They didn’t keep him from telling stories—they were the crucible in which he broke down stories to their basic elements and with them cleanly in hand made us cover our mouths and gasp in astonishment and fear.

You’re travelling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop, the Twilight Zone.

As a writer, especially one who spends a good part of most work days writing for businesses, I embrace limits. I ask for them, work with clients to better understand exactly what they want and need. And I use those limits to distill the requirements and start from scratch, looking beyond the accepted possible, trying to find my way into that wondrous land.

That’s where really interesting things happen. That’s when my clients say, “Wow, we never thought of it that way!”

That’s what makes doing the work fun. Blank pages are terrifying. A list of “you can’t do thats” are a direct challenge. OK, I can’t do that, but watch what I can do. That’s power. That’s interesting. That’s cool.

When I think of cool I don’t picture James Dean (tormented, not cool) or Elvis (way too screwed up). I think of Rod Serling, in a black suit, stepping into a scene, cigarette in hand (too bad those killed him). Go ahead, Mr. Serling. Show me something new.

That’s The Sign Post Up Ahead by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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