I thought that the thing writers hated the most was writing.
I was wrong.
I hate talking about writing – way, way, WAY more than writing.
If someone doesn’t understand where you’re coming from, you explain it to them. If you can’t get them to understand you, there’s a disconnect. It’s frustration in its most infuriating form – you fail at getting someone to see and comprehend your perspective. Which, essentially is what writers do: communicate. Share a perspective, get someone else to understand, relate.
Where shall I begin?
I realized recently that I bring my guard up when people ask detailed questions regarding my pursuits as a writer: what is it that I like to write about? What is my ideal job? I feel somewhat ill at ease when friends tell other people that I’m a writer, or introducing me as such; I don’t currently make my living as a writer: it is my passion, the only genuine thing in my life I’ve ever felt compelled to pursue.
I’m still navigating my way through it; maybe that’s the reason behind my protectiveness.
Since it is my passion, some haughty naysayers might call it a hobby (way to crush my hopes and dreams, people!). Nevertheless, it is what I pursue with such intensity and heart that it’s terrifying how unbelievably important it is to me. Perhaps only other writers can relate. Correction: perhaps only other Hollywood writers can relate. It is an endeavor that is dripping with incredible ambition and desire but not without a bit of desperation and turmoil.
But when you’re pursuing a passion for a talent that has not yet been vetted, you haven’t been affirmed by society if your work has any merit; there’s a fair amount of fear and insecurity laced into a talent which has not yet been validated.
I don’t like talking about writing if it extends beyond a casual mention. Inquire in specific areas and I’m bound to get antsy – it feels particularly invasive with someone I’ve just met. Why do I get anxious? How much time do you have? How interested in the answer are you, really?
WHY IS TALKING ABOUT WRITING SO PERSONAL, THEN?
Writing is a deeply intimate and personal undertaking, as other artists may attest. When you write, you communicate in the way that you – and only you – can.
Being a working writer is my dream. I have been working hard to develop my skills as a writer, to make that dream a reality. But, until then, it’s still a dream for me – and I want it so unbelievably badly that I try not to think about it most of the time. Because, underlying that dream, there are fears: the possibility that my dream, by definition, may not be couched in reality. It weighs so heavily upon me; I’ve never wanted something so badly as much as I want this. It’s maybe so personal to me that I only feel safe talking about it freely on this blog.
So, if I do I talk to you about my dream of being a comedy writer – I’m sharing somewhat of a fantasy, which hasn’t been realized yet – and I HATE to be one of those people – you know, the racists. Just kidding. Look – I just hate the talkers; I love the walkers (not ‘a la The Walking Dead walkers, but the ones that walk the walk). Anyone can talk a big game, but few can sit down and churn out the work to back it up. I don’t want to be one of those who relentlessly talk about “trying to be a writer”, ; I’d rather BE a writer who writes and not always have other people hear me wax about it.
SO WHAT’S THE HARM IN TALKING ABOUT IT, HMM? WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? WHAT’S MY PROBLEM, ANYWAY?
Say you did get past the first couple rounds and I opened up to you about the nitty gritty of whatever project I’m working on: feature, play, TV pilot, online sketches, what have you.
When you share a story with someone, you open the door to feedback – suggestions and opinions, but also judgement and criticism. And sure – it may help you. And it may not. Writing is like food and fashion: regardless of professional background, everyone’s a critic. Everyone eats food. Everyone wears and picks out clothes. Everyone reads/watches movies/television/web series/etc. Naturally, people weigh in. Sometimes I have to remember to point out what I’m seeking: if it’s in a casual, impromptu conversation/small talk, it is most likely NOT criticism I’m after. Ok. I get it. I’ll tell you first thing: “Hey, I’m not looking for advice. I’m just sharing. Let’s take it slow, people.”
You have to be cautious with talking with other writers, too: there’s the danger of intellectual property being stolen, things shared in utmost confidence, misguided advice, and then there’s the big whole chunk of WASTED TIME, which is the most egregious wrongdoing of all.
(Fact is, I’m not interested in meeting other writers for professional purposes unless I’m in a committed writing relationship to partner with another writer and collaborate on projects together – complete with deadlines, mission statement, and production calendar.)
Throw in the landscape of LA and several years of hustling in the biz, and you’ve got notches in the belt from unsuccessful writer groups that never progressed, online sketch videos and Youtube channels that never got off the ground, wasted money spent on coffee and wasted TIME (my heart aches to think back on this) with fellow writers and actors that resulted in a whole lot of TALK about writing, but not really much writing or producing at all. There’s that flakiness of LA that you can’t escape; there’s the ensuing wave of jaded realism.
WHAT DOES LA HAVE TO DO WITH BEING JADED?
Ask anyone in the industry who lives in LA and hails from somewhere else – if you’re lucky, someone who isn’t a writer.
I’m an introvert; I don’t even like talking much. And even when I am talking, I feel like I should be cutting back: talking (and writing) should happen when I have something to say. Ideally.
Maybe that’s why I enjoy stand-up comedy so much. Comics are writers: they spend time writing jokes, sharing a perspective, words are carefully chosen, from tone and timing to delivery, nerves stricken, to characters – they practice their craft, hitting the club circuit, refining a joke, tailoring it to the audience, identifying, daring to be personal and self-deprecating or even a little embarrassing. Comics have something to say.
No, I’m not going to send it to you. Because you’re not going to read it. I’ve already sent my script to a ton of you guys over the years, all of whom said you’d read it, sounded really excited about it, promised you’d read it – but you never did.
So – NO, I’m not going to send you my script. I’m not going to send you my hopes and dreams that I’ve spent countless hours researching, writing, editing; toiling and torturing myself over getting the characters and the dialogue just right; moved three thousand miles away from all the family and friends I’ve ever known to seriously pursue; and, of late, missed out on many a dinner and coffee and movie and party and shopping dates for – just so you can let it sit in your inbox, never respond to me, and eventually delete it and forget about it.
Will I remember that that happened? Oh, yes. Yes, I will. When I run into you at a party years later – I’ll remember. I’ll stay calm, though, not to fret. It won’t be like that time I lost my shit in Prague.
Even accredited screenwriters admit to sharing their work with a select handful (if even that many) of trusted readers whom they’ve known personally for years – before unveiling it to the world.
And now, I’m only comfortable divulging the intimate details of my drafts to my very closest of friends. And even then, it’s of the time-controlled-capsule-release variety.
So – instead of talking about writing, I’d rather go home and write.
This is not the end.