As the seven lucky writers who participated in the 2016 Black List Feature Writers Lab made their way home this weekend, Franklin Leonard sent them each an email. Normally what he wrote is something he would communicate to the lab writers on our final night together, but this year Franklin had the misfortune of being felled by a nasty stomach virus, and missed our celebratory farewell meal. So instead, he committed his thoughts to writing. And while I’m certainly sympathetic to Franklin for having gotten sick, I’m glad we now have his reflections in writing. Between his recuperation and handling a spate of meetings, what Franklin dashed off represents a deeply insightful take on the writer’s life. I asked Franklin if I could excerpt his comments and he agreed. Here they are:
So much of what happens from here has everything to do with what you choose to write, how you choose to write it, and how you choose to handle the slings and arrows that come with making a life as a professional writer. That includes the big ones – terrible producers, lost jobs, agents who quit the business – and the small ones – meetings that go poorly, bad notes, just not getting your way on something you really hoped would go your way.
None of it is easy. None of it is fair. It shouldn’t be the former, and it will never be the latter. And because of that, it’s critically important that you find another reason to keep writing what you choose to write.
It can be the money, but ask anyone in this business who’s making a lot of money: That never ends up being enough.
It can be the celebrity, but as I’m sure you’ve heard from your mentors: There’s not much of that to be had for writers.
The writers I know who have found the most success – and find the most fulfillment in that success, which is arguably more important – seem to do it for two reasons: 1. The community of people who their writing attracts and 2. The sake of writing the stories they want to tell…
I’ve always thought there was something special about the fact that every Friday night, millions of people around the world go into dark rooms to watch stories about what it means to be human with a bunch of people they don’t know.
It’s a cultural ritual, one that mirrors the religious rituals anyone can see on a weekly basis at churches, temples, mosques, and most other religious institutions.
As writers, you’re the ones who will commit to word the texts that teach millions of people (literally millions if not tens or hundreds of millions) how to see the world, how to treat each other, and what might be possible in this crazy (and increasingly crazier) world in which we live.
All this is to say that on some level, your work as writers is sacred. Treat it as such, and with your talent, the rest might just take care of itself (and we’ll do what we can to help bridge the other gaps.)
I have been hosting this blog for over eight years and have attempted to convey much the same sentiments. Leave it to Franklin to knock it out of the park in one dashed-off email.
My advice: Print it out. Post at your desk. Consult as necessary as you confront the vicissitudes of your own writer’s life.
Twitter: @FranklinLeonard, @theblcklst.