“Wishing you would have made the time to follow your heart…”

February 25th, 2012 by

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.

9 thoughts on ““Wishing you would have made the time to follow your heart…”

  1. Dw says:

    It’s great things are turning for Tyler but I’m a little surprised the Hollywoodwiretap article neglected to mention anything about Scriptshadow in their piece.

    1. Dw says:

      Correction, meant to say “things are turning out great for Tyler”

    2. Scott says:

      Yeah, even I mentioned SS in the TBOS post where I noted Tyler’s deal and I’m just a blogger, not a journalist.

      BTW swapped emails with Tyler. He’s a GITS fan, too.

  2. Posts of this nature feel like finding water in the desert knowing it’s not a mirage. Thanks, Scott.

  3. Zyxpsilon says:

    All we will ever see behind clouds is a shining light so bright it pumps energy of a blinding heart impervious to rain or fire.
    It’s a magnet. Always there. Persistent. Challenging us to dare watching and to just close our eyes to feel the heat in every step we take. Far away and closer by the minutes if we so choose to reach it.

  4. Annika says:

    Try reading that post sitting in front of a big glass window on a gray day in small town coffee shop with “The Winner Is” from The Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack playing thru your headphones. Whoa. What a movie moment. I felt my life changing.

    1. It’s funny you should mention that, Annika. Little Miss Sunshine was one of the inspirations for sitting down and writing my farce.

      Everybody in that movie is pretty much dealing with issues revolving around identity and failure. Feeling personally backed into that particular corner, that’s the road I decided to go down literally with the story’s theme.

      I never thought too much about how we define ourselves beforehand, of how much our profession plays a role into our identity (if we let it). Second perhaps only to our name is the question “what do you do?” that often gets asked by strangers.

      I’ve learned to just smile as a response. A, it keeps them guessing and it’s fun to hear them make assumptions, and b, it’s what I’m usually doing anyway when I’m writing. :)

      1. Scott says:

        What is failure and what is success, those two are central themes in LMS. I’ve read just about everything out there about the movie’s screenwriter Michael Arndt and he talks extensively about that precise point. In my view LMS has a central character, Olive whose goal of performing in the LMS pageant, is what provides the backbone to the story’s plot, and three Protagonists, the lead one Richard, and two others Frank and Duane. Each of those three is directly dealing with issues of failure and success, Richard most overtly because he actually preaches self-help crap with those very concepts as core principles. The catharsis of the entire family joining Olive on stage, dancing with her, supporting her, amidst what the world would consider a colossal failure, is one of the most wonderful movie moments I’ve seen in the last decade.

        1. I laughed pretty hard at that scene when I saw it in the theaters. All this build up and dread, then… the song. But it was the family joining in that really elevated that scene: it’s what they ALL needed.

          I know when I wrote my scene, I thought of it as my “LMS” moment… but instead of dancing, it’s karaoke and all the principle characters are dealing with identity crises, trying to be things they’re not when what they really need is to accept themselves.

          I make no qualms when I say I was trying to top that scene and aim for a piece of my own little magic. I remember telling a friend, if going through all the stuff I’ve had to do meant being able to write that scene, then it was worth it. The bliss of reading it over and listening to the music still hasn’t worn off for me.

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