Friday, November 11, 2011

Pick a different thing.

As many of you may know, teaching is still a part of my life. I'm still a TA, and though the circumstances are very different, I'm finding many of the experiences to be very similar.

For instance, I still occasionally have opportunities to talk with students one-on-one, usually about the class, but sometimes not. One of my students came to my "office hour" (I do not have an office) to go over some of her ideas for the next essay. She's interested in becoming a screenwriter, so she's thinking about focusing on certain aspects of that career's development alongside technology for her essay. I told her I think that's a great topic. 

I also told her that screenwriting is an excruciatingly difficult career choice. Let's think about it. You don't get paid unless you're very good, have great connections, and get lucky. No one is ever going to tell you how and when and what to do, so all of your hard work has to be completely self-motivated. In order to get to the point where you're any good at all, you have to bleed your life away at the keyboard, and somehow re-construct yourself into someone who cares more about writing than almost anything else. I should also mention that screenwriting is, quite possibly, the most grueling kind of writing to do well, or even correctly. And since so few people know how or even care to read screenplays, the best stuff you do will be almost totally unappreciated.

But don't worry, because for the first several years of painstaking sacrifice, everything you actually manage to finish will be total crap.

My advice? Pick a different thing. 

If you can't -- if you can't -- then you'd better start in on it now. The sooner you reconstitute your life around a core of daily, substantial writing, the better shot you'll have. 

The good news is, I don't know of many people who sacrifice hours writing every day for the better part of their lives and don't wind up with some degree of success. So the real question is, are you willing to make the offering that the craft demands?

In short, this mantra:

Write away, right away!


  1. Why do filmmakers insist on telling aspiring filmmakers to do something else? That was my least favorite thing to hear at forums at BYU. Yes, tell us it's hard, yes, make sure we know that dedication is required (as you did), but stop saying do something else. Let people determine whether or not something is for them. Let's not play politics.

  2. Because the dedication required is partly, and importantly, vetted by its unwillingness to back down even when so advised.

    Maybe you hated to be told to pick something else, but I'll bet it only strengthened your resolve to do what you were passionate about doing.

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  4. Being told you can't is different than being told you shouldn't. The world will always say you can't, dream killers say get out when you can; people of passion say do it but do it right.

  5. Ok, as Jordan's artist mom, I was less than thrilled when he chose to do something arty for a career--and I'm telling anyone who's considering the arts as a living that everything he said is right. It's ridiculously difficult to support yourself w/any art form as a career. In the book Of Human Bondage, the same advice was given--"IF you CAN do anything else, DO IT." Why? Because even if you succeed, it holds little to none of the romance most people imagine in such a life. 35 years of painting murals for a living meant falling off of ladders and screwing up in public, spilling paint repeatedly, freezing or over-heating for outdoor work, and always, always, dealing with a bi-polar, feast or famine income. But, there are also moments of sheer magic, very real joy, and unbelievable satisfaction in producing something beautiful or fun and seeing it light up another person's face. It's fabulous! But, I did it because I really couldn't seem to do anything else (and hopefully I can teach, bc. that's what I'm doing back in college). So I whole heartedly support all the would-be creators out there, including Jordan. But KNOW that if you're going to succeed at all, your craft has to monopolize the largest percentage of your life and you'll probably feel lonely and cut off from others on a regular basis. While everyone feels that way, when you do something that most people aren't doing, you can feel lonelier than most as well. どうぞどうぞがんばってね? Just remember that dreams need sweat equity to be realized--lots of it!

  6. Very good points. For the last 5 years I have lived solely off of income from my career as a filmmaker; it has been tough, it has been eye opening, it has been the best work experience I have ever had. I love that I can support my wife and child with this work. I cannot imagine doing anything else despite the stressful moments when I try and convince myself that it is not worth it. I agree that you should test the water before you dive in the pool but I will continue to encourage anyone who wants to do it to UNDERSTAND it and to DO IT RIGHT, to do their best and not regret the outcome, be it success or failure. I will never tell someone who seems sincere to "do something else." My point is just to say, let them make an honest effort to do what they love; if they are really honest, they will figure out how to make it a success, even if it's not terribly lucrative.


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