Last week’s The Business of Screenwriting post — Flavor-Of-The-Week — sparked some interesting comments. I want to feature one of them here for reasons that will become apparent when you read it. From GITS reader The Bark Bites Back:
My real world came crashing down in 2009. Lost my job because the government shut the project I had working on, the only job out of college, down. I lost my house because this was in Las Vegas and that puppy lost 75% of its original purchase price. I’ve essentially lost everything I worked for over the last 11 years.
I guess that’s why they say life happens to you when you’re too busy making plans. Fortunately I had been writing for a number of years prior to that.
It may have taken me a while, bit by bit, but by the end of 2009, the three scripts I had been working off and on for quite some time all received considers through ScriptShark. Two scripts won 1st place in contests while all three were multiple finalists, semi-finalists, etc.
Since then, I’ve crammed about as much into my brain as I think I can stand. I probably know ten story theories too many, but everything I’ve learned goes back into rewriting.
Now I see myself writing with a certain desperation. Several months ago when I had figured I just blew several hundred dollars traveling for a job interview, I sat down and wrote a script. A farce. Something 180 degrees opposite of what I had been writing.
It’s like I was standing outside of my body, pointing a gun at my head telling me to lighten up and have fun. Life is absurd. Stop worrying. In short, I seriously needed to make myself laugh. And I did that – in spades. I wake up laughing in the middle of the night thinking of something I wrote from that script… something I wrote for myself, not because I wanted to. Because I needed to.
So that would be my advice. Write when you can, but write with desperation and as if your life depended on it. Don’t write because you want to. Write because you need to.
Material things are just that: things that you can, for the most part, always get back. Time isn’t. There’s 24 hours in everybody’s day so it really comes down to how you choose to invest it.
Most importantly, don’t squander time worrying about how long it may take or fearing failure. If you have to worry about something at all, worry about what it would be like years from now, looking back at yourself and wishing you would have made the time to follow your heart – and let that be your motivator [emphasis added].
There are numerous touch points in TBBB’s comments: Stop worrying, write because you need to, write something for yourself. But that last paragraph speaks directly to me… because it says something powerful about all of you.
GITS is an ongoing conversation with writers. Some of that interaction takes place in comment threads here on the blog and some of it on Twitter, both open to the public eye. But much of it occurs via email… lots and lots of email, writers choosing to ask questions or share their feelings through privacy of electronic notes to me.
In effect I have a daily interaction with people who have followed their heart, who are following their heart. Most of you are pursuing writing in your spare time while holding down a gig that pays your bills. You don’t have to do that. No one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to write. No, this is a conscious choice you have made to commit time, energy and resources staring at a blank computer monitor until inspiration seeps from your brain and forms magic on the printed page.
In other words what TBBB has said — don’t put yourself in a position where years from now, you will be “wishing you would have made the time to follow your heart” — you have already confronted that possibility. You have pondered that future and you know you will not be satisfied unless you give yourself a shot to become a professional writer.
I respect that. I admire that. I understand that.
Because that is precisely the choice I made after I had gotten my Master’s from Yale graduate school: After seven long years of school pursuing an academic career, instead I chose to follow my heart and my creative aspirations.
So again… I respect that. I admire that. I understand that.
What makes it all the more remarkable is the writers who frequent this site know I’m not selling a pipe dream. I regularly remind us of the long odds against success, even after someone breaks into the business as a screenwriter. In fact, I’m prepping a new TBOS post about those odds and it’s not a pretty picture. But I do not believe I would be doing my job if I failed to paint an accurate picture of the extremely competitive nature of the screenwriting trade.
And yet in the face of those long odds, you persist. You keep your feet on the ground… and your head in the clouds.
Yes, the odds are long. But it seems like every month, we learn about a new writer, a total outsider, a first-timer who beats those odds. In fact, this happened last week to Tyler Marceca.
So I applaud you. I do so with absolute sincerity. I know what it’s like to pursue a dream, to follow one’s heart, and to put everything on the line and bust one’s ass in that pursuit.
Every day through this blog, I interface with writers who have stared down their fears, honestly confronted the possibility of failure, and continue to practice the craft of writing. And honestly, it is an inspiring experience.
“Wishing you would have made the time to follow your heart?” My friends, even if you do not make one damn dime from your writing, you are wealthier for the experience… because you have followed your bliss.